Ted Cruz is on a roll and there's only one man left who can stop him: Ted Cruz.
A new poll from Public Policy Polling shows Cruz leading Dewhurst 49-44 in the runoff election. A separate poll, conducted by the Citizens United Political Victory fund – yes, the schmucks who brought us Citizens United – shows Cruz ahead by ten points, 48-38. These are the first polls from outside groups showing Cruz ahead – the Cruz campaign released a shocking internal poll that showed their candidate 9 points ahead.
The numbers are themselves obviously a sign of Cruz's strength, but they don't tell the whole story. As BOR's Joe Deshotel explained yesterday, Cruz is also benefitting from more enthusiastic supporters than Dewhurst's. “Cruz's lead expands to a whooping 59-36 margin over Dewhurst among voters who describe themselves as 'very excited' about voting in the election,” Public Policy Polling found. Additionally, in a year when some GOP candidates are inching away from the “Tea Party” label, Cruz seems to be benefitting from it. He leads 71-26 with Tea Party voters.
But there's trouble in the water for Cruz. On his latest ethics disclosures released Thursday, Cruz was forced to reveal that he provided legal services to developer Robert Mericle, who was in the middle of a scandal called “kids for cash.” Mericle pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2009 of bribing judges to give delinquent children harsh sentences so they could fill up Mericle's detention facilities. That's right, throw up. The two judges who received the payments are spending years in federal prison, and Mericle has had to pay millions out in civil rights cases.
Suddenly, Cruz's control doesn't seem so steady. At a moment when those polls should giving Cruz a palpable glow, he's given his opponent a perfect opportunity to associate him with a uniquely horrifying form of child abuse. “Ted Cruz should be ashamed of the choice he made to represent Robert Mericle, an exploiter of children for profit,” Dewhurst campaign spokesman Matt Hirsch said. “It brings into question the integrity and judgment of Ted Cruz, who's running to represent the interest of Texans in the U.S. Senate.”
Both candidates have new ads out. In his dark and foreboding ad, Cruz slams Dewhurst for supporting a payroll tax and cuts debate clips to make him look like uneasy and untrustworthy. Dewhurst chooses to do a self-promotion spot highlighting his business background, but we can expect some new ads next week, especially with the Mericle news.