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Texas Senate race pits GOP establishment vs. tea party


The following ran in the May 26, 2012, edition of the Houston Chronicle. Political Scientist Cal Jillson provided expertise for this story.

June 1, 2012

LUBBOCK — The rock 'em, sock 'em rhetoric in the race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate does not impress Ruth Schiermeyer, the sort of woman who will freely share her opinions but not her age.
"We don't just need talk. We need action," said Schiermeyer, an insurance agent and farmer who likes Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst's experience.
Schiermeyer sniffed at national tea party favorite Ted Cruz, who is second to Dewhurst in the polls and trying to force him into a runoff: "All I've heard him do is criticize Dewhurst for things I know are unwarranted."
Days earlier and nearly 300 miles away in Stephenville, retired teacher Addie Ratliff tossed a verbal grenade at Dewhurst.
"He's trash," said Ratliff, 74. "I just don't like him. I think he's a RINO," a Republican-in-name-only.
Their views encapsulate a battle playing out for a national audience eager to see if another candidate blessed by the traditional GOP establishment will fall to a conservative insurgent backed by the likes of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
"The Republican race is turning into a fairly classic example of what's been going on nationwide, with an incumbent challenged by an opponent who claims the incumbent is too moderate," said political scientist Jerry Polinard of the University of Texas-Pan American....

The idea of a longtime state officeholder "being knocked off by a tea party candidate is unsettling to them both," said Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson....