Oh my: Ted Cruz now leads Dewhurst by five points in Texas senate primary

The campaigns’ internal polls are, unsurprisingly, contradictory. Dewhurst’s has him up eight points, Cruz’s has him up nine. We need an impartial pollster (impartial as regards this race, at least) to settle this.

Advantage: Cruz.

This race is one of the most stark examples of the Tea Party movement propelling a candidate that we’ve seen to date. 40% of voters identify themselves as members of that movement and Cruz has a 71-26 advantage with them. Dewhurst leads 57-34 with non-Tea Partiers, and they are 50% of the electorate, but it’s not nearly enough to drown out Cruz’s advantage with that group.

Texas is also an exceptionally rare state where Hispanic voters might be the difference maker in a Republican primary. Cruz has a 78-19 advantage with them…

The large name recognition advantage Dewhurst has enjoyed throughout the campaign has pretty much disappeared. 85% of runoff voters have an opinion about him, and Cruz is not far behind at 81%. We frequently found in our earlier polling that Cruz was winning with voters who knew him, but that he was losing overall because of the name recognition gap. That’s not a problem anymore. Cruz’s net favorability of +31 (56/25) is better than Dewhurst’s +19 (52/33). Since our final pre primary poll Cruz’s net fav has improved by 25 points, while Dewhurst’s has declined by 17.

Weigel makes a good point that Cruz has benefited tremendously from the shifting timetable of the election. Look again at the parity in those name-recognition numbers. If the primary had been held four and a half months ago, as was originally scheduled, the gap would have been huge and Cruz probably would have been dead in the water. As it is, behold the key data point:

That’s a lot of enthusiasm. His support among Hispanic Republicans is remarkable too, so much so that I’d bet if he pulls the upset and eventually moves on to the Senate, the media’s new favorite storyline will be “Is Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio the great Latino hope for Republicans?” That’s unfair to both of them, but if the press wants to run free ads for the GOP about two terrifically charismatic young conservative pols who happen to belong to an increasingly coveted demographic, I ain’t going to stop ’em.

Exit question: If Cruz wins, is this the biggest tea-party victory yet? Arguably Mike Lee’s and Richard Mourdock’s wins are bigger because each came at the expense of a longtime Senate incumbent, but Cruz defeating the preferred candidate of Rick Perry and the Texas GOP establishment in the most famously conservative state in America would be epic.

Update: And here comes the Club for Growth with a $1.5 million ad buy attacking Dewhurst three weeks out from election day.

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