Despite being outspent more than 3-to-1, having never run for office and being tasked with penetrating the Lone Star State’s 20 media markets with virtually zero name recognition, Cruz is well positioned to upset Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst Tuesday. It’s a scenario that would send shockwaves through the political elite and embolden the thousands of conservatives from across the country who have descended here to help push him over the finish line.

It’s one thing for a tea party candidate to swipe away an individual House seat or dominate a party convention in a small state, but a statewide win in supersize Texas would be a new high-water mark.

“Dewhurst had every advantage you can have. What Cruz has done to this point was once unthinkable and is now remarkable. He will be an overnight star if he wins, which he is favored to do right now,” said Austin-based GOP consultant Matt Mackowiak, a Cruz supporter and former press secretary to retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.

The two most recent public polls have shown Cruz ahead. And a Dewhurst ally with knowledge of an internal survey separate from the campaigns told POLITICO his preferred candidate was trailing by high single digits heading into the weekend.

“I think [Dewhurst’s] done,” said the Republican who shared the information in exchange for anonymity. “It’s Nebraska, Indiana. You just smell it. He’s toast.”

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Mr. Dewhurst is an undistinguished, go-along/get-along creature of the GOP leadership’s seniority-oriented model of politics. He is a student of the school of thought that rallied party operatives behind Indiana’s too-long-lived Richard Lugar when a credible conservative alternative was available in the person of Richard Mourdock. His views — though perhaps not his temperament — would make him an ideal candidate to represent a state such as Maine, where the only other option would be a Democrat to his left. But a strong conservative can win in Texas, and we have one in Ted Cruz…

Mr. Cruz’s personal credentials are sterling: An authentic conservative intellectual, he was a star at Princeton and Harvard law, winning the admiration of thinkers as politically opposed as Robert P. George and Alan Dershowitz. He clerked on the Supreme Court under William Rehnquist and is an unwavering defender of our constitutional order. Having a great deal of experience before the Supreme Court, he would be invaluable when it comes time for the Senate to vet appointments to the highest courts in the land — under both Democratic and Republican presidents. And as the Houston-raised son of a Cuban immigrant, he is proof positive that the American dream is very much alive and well — if in desperate need of defenders within the political system. Mr. Cruz can provide that defense in a way that Mr. Dewhurst simply is not equipped to do.

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A Cruz win would not only be a major rebuke of the well-known (and VERY well financed) Dewhurst, but it would also arguably be the most significant statewide upset of the 2012 cycle to date. (Yes, we’re talking about the same cycle in which a sitting senator was dislodged in Indiana and a little-known state legislator won the GOP Senate nomination in Nebraska.)…

A Cruz victory would suggest that Republican voters aren’t just rejecting inadequately conservative candidates and longtime incumbents. The sufficiently conservative who are tied the establishment — a word becoming more and more toxic in politics — are also at risk.

A Tuesday win by Cruz would mean just about every candidate left in a GOP primary who is challenging a frontrunner tied in ANY way to the establishment will do everything they can to compare their candidacy to Cruz’s.

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As Republicans prepare for yet another show vote on abortion Tuesday, Speaker John Boehner and his leadership team are facing a rising tide of from Republican moderates angry over the rightward tack the conference has taken under his leadership…

“I have to say that I’m frustrated by how much we — I mean the Republican Party — are willing to give deferential treatment to our extremes in this moment in history,” [Rep. Richard] Hanna told the Post-Standard.

According to Republicans, moderate members of the House GOP conference feel that Boehner, who has struggled with an often raucous and openly defiant right wing, has forced them to go along with conservative demands but has provided them little in return.

One Republican familiar with the dynamics within the GOP argued part of the difficulty for Boehner has been the fact that conservatives — and not moderates — have been the “squeaky wheel” within the conference, which has forced him to focus on them for much of the 112th Congress.

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Sarah Palin is leaping to the assistance of a fellow “mama grizzly” in Missouri.

Sarah Steelman, who has enjoyed the backing of Tea Partiers in Missouri’s three-way Republican Senate primary, received Palin’s endorsement earlier this month. Now, Palin is appearing in a TV ad for Steelman in the race’s closing stretch.