Why did the Tea Party take down a doctrinaire conservative?
The holy crusade that movement conservatives undertook against Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst concluded with Tuesday’s Senate runoff, producing his once-unlikely defeat at the hands of his much-celebrated Tea Party challenger, former state solicitor general Ted Cruz.* What makes the election so interesting is that Dewhurst, who has been denounced from one end of the conservative blogosphere to the other as a “RINO” and as “Dewcrist,” can’t really be accused of any specific ideological heresies. Unlike Indiana’s Dick Lugar, he hasn’t supported any arms control treaties or gun control measures or “earmarks.” Unlike many of 2010’s Tea Party targets, he can’t be accused of social-issues moderation; he was staunchly supported by Texas’ main anti-abortion groups. And unlike Orrin Hatch of Utah, he hasn’t thumbed his nose at ultra-conservatives; he calls himself a “constitutional conservative,” says he supported Tea Party policies before there was a Tea Party, and heavily identifies himself with his most important backer, Gov. Rick Perry, who can snarl and rant at godless liberals with the best of them.
This did not keep Cruz’s backers from calling Dewhurst names, of course. But when challenged, they always seemed to find some objection to Dewhurst that did not involve any actual issues. RedState’s Erick Erickson scoffed at the very idea that Dewhurst was a real conservative, but relied mainly on the two candidates’ lists of supporters to establish some distinction between them. National Review’s editors focused on Dewhurst’s negative ads against Cruz, another non-ideological factor.