Even with nine candidates in the Republican primary to replace United States Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, just about everybody bet on Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst to win outright.
Instead, he is in a runoff against Ted Cruz, the former state solicitor general, an energetic opponent who tapped into the anti-establishment vein in the Texas Republican Party. Dewhurst is still the front-runner, but he is no longer the inevitability presented throughout the spring.
And now the spotlight is brighter. Dewhurst and Cruz don’t have to compete for attention with a presidential race or contests in other states. National political reporters looking for things to cover are more likely than normal to be planning visits to the Texas barbecue trail. They — like the people they cover — are trying to connect the dots this election year, to figure out whether there is any theme or trend in the results.
Did six-term Sen. Dick Lugar, R-Ind., lose his seat because of some conservative uprising, or did he just fall out of sync with the state that elected him? Was that a result of the Tea Party’s support of Richard Mourdock, or was it about some idea that the guy representing the state ought to have a house there?