Tea Party hope Cruz edges ahead in Texas U.S. Senate race - poll
AUSTIN, Texas, July 12 |
AUSTIN, Texas, July 12 (Reuters) - A new poll on a U.S. Senate race in Texas shows Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz leading Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst for the first time in the Republican primary runoff.
The poll released Thursday by Democratic survey group Public Policy Polling shows Cruz, a Houston lawyer, leading Dewhurst 49 percent to 44 percent in advance of the July 31 runoff. Previous polls made public since the first round of the primary in May had Dewhurst in the lead.
Dewhurst, 66, has chipped in more than $10 million to his campaign and has the endorsement of Governor Rick Perry. He has been the front-runner in the race for the seat that Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison is leaving open.
But national groups emboldened by two victories by insurgent conservatives over traditional Republicans this year in Indiana and Nebraska have focused their energy and money on Cruz. A Tea Party-backed candidate upended U.S. Senator Richard Lugar in Indiana and first-time statewide candidate Deb Fischer beat a veteran attorney general in Nebraska.
On Thursday, for example, the national conservative group Club for Growth announced a new $1.5 million TV and radio ad campaign to help Cruz.
"This race is one of the most stark examples of the Tea Party movement propelling a candidate that we've seen to date," Public Policy Polling said on its website on Thursday.
Cruz, 41, whose father came to the United States from Cuba, has a 71 percent to 26 percent advantage among the 40 percent of voters who identify themselves as members of the Tea Party, the poll said. And Cruz leads 59 percent to 36 percent among voters who say they are "very excited" about voting in the runoff, when turnout is expected to be low.
The poll was an automated telephone survey on July 10 and 11 of 468 likely Republican runoff voters. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.
In the May primary election, Dewhurst got 45 percent of the vote - more than any other candidate in a crowded field, but not enough to win outright - and Cruz got 34 percent. The Republican primary is key because Texas has not elected a Democrat to statewide office since 1994.
A spokesman for the Dewhurst campaign declined to comment on the poll.
James Bernsen, a spokesman for the Cruz campaign, said: "Texans have rejected the millions of dollars in false personal attack ads and are uniting behind Ted because they want a committed conservative who will fight to shrink the federal government and defend the Constitution."
Cruz and Dewhurst face off in a televised debate on Tuesday. (Reporting By Corrie MacLaggan; Editing by Eric Walsh)
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