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The race to replace retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is already shaping up in Texas. On a call with conservative bloggers Wednesday morning, former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz announced he would seek the GOP nomination for the seat.
Cruz told the bloggers he was letting them hear his plans first because they will be at the "frontier" of this race.
Though already shaping up to be a crowded primary field, Cruz is considered a top-tier candidate for the GOP nomination to be decided in March of 2012. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who is largely seen as a moderate who can self-fund his campaign, and Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, a charismatic African-American who is known for his bow ties and is popular among conservatives, are among his major competitors.
Cruz and Williams will fight it out for conservative support. Leading conservatives like Sen. Jim DeMint (who backed Williams' Senate bid in 2009) and RedState's Erick Erickson have signaled they would wait to see who is most viable before weighing in. But the danger, of course, is that a turf battle would allow the more moderate and establishment Dewhurst to win the nomination.
During the conference call, Cruz referred to President Obama as "the most radical president ever to occupy the White House," and said the election is about "which candidate is best prepared to stand up and fight to stop the Obama agenda."
When I asked Cruz about the fact that he has never held elected office (he was appointed solicitor general in 2003), Cruz said it was "both a challenge and an advantage." The challenge, of course, is obvious (Williams, for example, has won state-wide election three times), but the advantage is that Cruz can cast himself as an outsider.
Cruz also noted that he ran a vigorous statewide campaign for Texas attorney general in 2009, raising more than a million dollars. He ultimately dropped out of the race, though, because the incumbent Republican -- a Cruz friend and mentor -- decided at the last minute to seek re-election.
When asked about the imminent struggle with Williams for conservative support, Cruz took some oblique shots at his likely opponent, calling Williams a "friend and a tremendous communicator" but then adding, "It's easy for candidates to tell voters what they want to hear."
Cruz's implication throughout the call was that Williams is a great talker, but does not have the record of conservative accomplishments -- or the ability to raise enough money to defeat the deep-pocketed Dewhurst.
Williams is expected to announce his resignation from the Texas Railroad Commission -- a move signaling he is gearing-up to run for Senate -- on Wednesday. This could get fun.
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