Cruz, a Cuban-American lawyer who served as state solicitor general, along with seven additional Republicans competing in the Senate primary, held Dewhurst to 447 percent of the vote with 100 percent of precincts reporting. That meant Dewhurst was 7 points shy of the majority required to avoid a July 31 runoff. Cruz placed second with 34 percent to secure his runoff spot.
The showing by Cruz, who was endorsed by the Tea Party Express, FreedomWorks, Sarah Palin and others connected to the tea party, marks the latest in a string of U.S. Senate victories for the movement. First, tea party challenger Dan Liljenquist forced Sen. Orrin Hatch to a primary in Utah, then Richard Mourdock defeated Sen. Dick Lugar in Indiana, and most recently, state Sen. Deb Fischer won her party's nomination in Nebraska.Dallas Morning News senior political writer Wayne Slater predicts the Cruz-Dewhurst runoff will be a fierce fight over few voters.
Cruz and his supporters argued Dewhurst was too moderate and had lied in recent days by claiming Cruz backs amnesty for illegal immigrants.
"Dewhurst failed to get a majority because he failed to fight for conservative principles. His false attacks backfired," Sen. Jim DeMint, a Cruz supporter, tweeted Tuesday night.
Cruz' backers hope to build on new momentum ahead of the runoff, believing Dewhurst's establishment-backed candidacy has topped out with regard to support.