When Ted Cruz and David Dewhurst faced off in a recent debate, the two Republican candidates vying to represent Texas in the U.S. Senate took the stage wearing similar dark suits and nearly matching blue ties over white dress shirts.
The wardrobe similarities symbolized the common ground they share on most issues: They both support repealing Obamacare, getting tougher on illegal immigration, passing balanced budgets, and abolishing certain federal agencies like the Department of Education. They are pro-life, favor term limits and lower taxes, and oppose the DREAM Act.
But that has not stopped the two candidates from going after one another ahead of a July 31 runoff election to decide which of the two will be the Republican nominee to replace retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. With voter turnout expected to be low, both candidates likely will ramp up their attacks in the campaign's final weeks.
Cruz, a former Texas Solicitor General with endorsements from Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum, argues that Dewhurst is tied too closely to the Texas political establishment. "Everyone who has business in front of the state legislature, 100 percent of them, are with David Dewhurst, and they have to be," Cruz said.
Dewhurst, the sitting lieutenant governor of Texas for the past nine years, paints Cruz as beholden to Washington-based special interest groups. "We've always had an independent streak here in Texas," Dewhurst said. "We're ornery, we're tough, and we've never been very good at taking orders from Washington."
Campaign finance records seem to back up both assertions: Cruz has taken in nearly $4 million from conservative groups around the nation. Meanwhile, registered Texas lobbyists have given 26 times more money to Dewhurst than to Cruz.
The two campaigns and outside groups combined have already spent more than $25 million in a race that's likely to determine the new senator, since a Democrat hasn't won a statewide election in Texas since 1994.
Dewhurst, who has received Gov. Rick Perry's endorsement, said during the Dallas debate in late June that he has "never compromised my conservative principles once" and that he has the experience necessary to pass legislation. "We're the fastest growing job creator in the entire country," Dewhurst said of Texas, "and I want to take those skills to Washington and get our country back to work."
Cruz is casting himself as a conservative outsider who needs support from grassroots activists to send him to Washington. There, he pledges, he would ally himself with the bloc of Tea Party lawmakers that Cruz said are needed to keep moderate Republicans in check. "Now is not the time for conciliation and moderation," Cruz said at a recent event north of Dallas. "Now is the time to draw a line in the sand."