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Ted Cruz: Time Was on His Side

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The nine week gap between the primary and runoff elections is the longest for any U.S. Senate run-off in Texas history

tedcruz10.jpgAlthough both Democrats and Republicans will have runoff elections on Tuesday to determine who will square off in the state's U.S. Senate race this November, it is the GOP contest that is getting all the attention.

Former Texas Solicitor General and Tea Party-backed candidate Ted Cruz first made waves at the end of May when he forced a runoff by helping to hold Lieutenant Governor and establishment candidate David Dewhurst to 44.6 percent of the vote.

Cruz received 34.2 percent in second place.

And now, in the closing days before Tuesday's runoff, a survey by Public Policy Polling shows Cruz now up on Dewhurst by a 10-point margin, 52 to 42 percent.

It is not unusual for the second place finisher in Texas U.S. Senate primaries to come back and win the runoff.

In fact, it has happened in eight out of the 14 such runoff contests for Democrats and Republicans dating back to the direct election of U.S. Senators nearly a century ago.

The runner-up in the primary won the runoff race in 1916 (Democrat Charles Culberson), 1928 (Democrat Tom Connally), 1948 (Democrat Lyndon Johnson), 1972 (Democrat Barefoot Sanders), 1984 (Democrat Lloyd Doggett), 1988 (Republican Beau Boulter), 1994 (Democrat Richard Fisher), and 2002 (Democrat Ron Kirk).

But what is unusual, and what appears to have helped sustain Cruz's momentum coming out of the May primary, is the length of time between the primary and the runoff.

A Smart Politics review of Texas U.S. Senate election data finds that the gap between the 2012 primary and runoff elections is twice as long as the historical average across the 14 previous instances of run-offs for the nation's upper legislative chamber.

Ted Cruz enjoyed a nine-week gap between the May 29th primary and the July 31st runoff to give him the time (and much free publicity in the media) to try to convince Republican voters in the Lone Star State that he was a viable and the preferred candidate to send to Washington, at a time when his opponent was trouncing him in the fundraising war.

Through mid-July, Dewhurst had raised more than $24.5 million compared to just $9 million for Cruz.

The longest previous gap between the two elections during cycles in which Texas U.S. Senate contests went to a runoff was just five weeks - most recently in 1988, 1994, and 2006.

During several cycles the length of time between the two elections was as short as four weeks, such as in 1996, 2000, and 2002.

Overall, the 63-day window between the primary and the runoff in 2012 is twice as long as the 31.5-day average over the last 14 cycles in which the race was forced into a runoff.

Of course, turnout is always a big question mark in elections such as this - will voters be motivated to go to the polls for the second time in nine weeks, and, if so, to back which candidate?

Turnout has historically declined 34 percent in Texas U.S. Senate runoff races from the primary over the last century, including a 45 percent drop in the five such contests since the 1990s.

On the Democratic side, primary plurality winner and former state representative Paul Sadler will square off against second place finisher Grady Yarbrough.

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    Remains of the Data

    No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

    Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

    Political Crumbs

    Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

    Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


    An Idaho Six Pack

    Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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