Just when the mainstream media had written its obituary for the Tea Party movement, activists scored a major victory Tuesday when Tea Party challenger Richard Mourdock unseated incumbent Senator Dick Lugar in the Indiana Republican primary for Senate.
Lugar had an anemic pro-life record, having voted to confirm pro-abortion Supreme Court justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan and in favor of embryonic stem cell research.
The attention of conservative activists now focuses on the upcoming Senate primary in Texas where the pro-life movement stands poised to pick up an ally no matter the outcome.
The Senate seat in play is that of retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican who generally voted pro-life but stands by the Roe vs. Wade decision and supports embryonic stem cell research. The entire field of Republican candidates to replace her is strongly pro-life. Every candidate vows to appoint strict constructionist judges to the Supreme Court and to vote in favor of pro-life legislation, including the repeal of Obamacare. That is already a victory for the pro-life movement.
Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst leads the pack with a double-digit lead over his closest opponent. Dewhurst has the backing of Governor Rick Perry, Texas Right to Life, Texas Alliance for Life and former Governor Mike Huckabee. In a campaign ad released this week, Huckabee appears on Dewhurst’s behalf touting his pro-life record of advancing pro-life legislation in Texas.
Dr. Joseph Graham, President of Texas Right to Life, said, “Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst has consistently championed the rights of the unborn and the disabled, and has promoted the sanctity of innocent human life from fertilization until natural death at every opportunity.”
Many Tea Party activists are pinning their hopes on former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz, who yesterday picked up the backing of former Gov. Sarah Palin and her husband Todd. Gov. Palin wrote in her endorsement letter to Cruz, “We’re proud to join conservatives in Texas and throughout the nation in supporting your campaign to become the next Senator from the Lone Star State.”
“Your conservative principles, passionate defense of our Constitution and our free market system come at a time when these cornerstones of our freedom and prosperity are under attack,” Gov. Palin added. “Our shared goal isn’t just to change the majority in control of the Senate, but to assure principled conservatives like you are there to fight for us.”
Cruz campaign manager John Drogin says the Palin endorsement “has added huge buzz to our campaign.” Drogin wrote in an email to Yahoo! News, “Phones are ringing, online contributions are pouring in, and supporters are more excited than ever on our social networks.” He added that he’s seen a “flood” of donations but has yet to tally them.
Sen. Jim DeMint, Sen. Rand Paul, Family Research Council PAC and Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, also back Cruz. In his endorsement announcement, Dr. Dobson wrote, “I’m pleased to endorse Ted Cruz for U.S. Senate because he’s exactly the kind of candidate we need to turn this country around. Religious freedom is under assault every day. We need leaders with the courage to stand strong for conservative values in this battle. Ted Cruz is such a leader—one who will not only vote his convictions in the Senate, but will also lead the fight to defend life…”
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A distant third in the race is former Dallas mayor Tom Leppert. On his campaign website, Leppert articulates his pro-life position saying, “I am proudly pro-life. This is first and foremost a faith issue to me and my beliefs are dictated by the Word. Throughout both my public and private sector experiences, I have boldly stood for life. Life is sacred, and I believe abortion is the wrong choice. I will consistently fight to defend innocent life and will vote against any taxpayer funding for organizations that provide abortions. The Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade should be overturned.”
Polls show the race tightening between Dewhurst and Cruz. Between the excitement among conservative activists generated by the toppling of Sen. Lugar in Indiana and the coveted Palin endorsement, it appears Cruz may have the momentum at this point. But it remains to be seen whether the current enthusiasm for his campaign will be enough to put him over the edge.
The latest poll from Public Policy Polling conducted at the end of April shows Cruz gaining on Dewhurst. In the poll, Dewhurst leads 38% to 26% over Cruz with 8% for Leppert. All three hold double digit leads over the Democratic candidates for the general election.