Ted Cruz was still “Houston lawyer R. Ted Cruz” when he asked a friend if he should run for U.S. Senate.
“I told him, ‘Ted, you have no name ID,’” Plano lawyer Kelly Shackelford remembered Tuesday.
David Dewhurst, then lieutenant governor, sat on $20 million. Shackelford, co-counsel with Cruz on religious freedom cases, told him: “Your chances to win are minuscule.”
Shackelford, influential among evangelicals, may have been better-known than Cruz as chairman of his state campaign team.
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“He did a tremendous job and had some good fortune,” Shackelford said. (Say, a 12-week legal delay.)
“Lots of people speak conservatives’ language, and some believe it, but not many have made the sacrifices,” Shackelford said.
Former U.S. Attorney General Ed Meese and national evangelical leaders helped lift Cruz, the son of a firebrand evangelist, into the Senate spotlight.
Along the way, his supporters included U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, now his leading rival as movement conservatives split going into the 2016 presidential primary.
Shackelford called Paul “more libertarian and not as hawkish on foreign policy.” Cruz? “Really solid.”
State Rep. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, was elected with Paul’s help.
“I think the conservatives are all going to attack the moderates, not each other,” Stickland said.
At Southern Methodist University, political science professor Matthew Wilson called the choice a wash for conservatives.
“Paul’s positions on drug legalization and non-interventionist foreign policy will alienate some stalwarts,” he wrote by email, but Cruz lacks Paul’s “special appeal to younger voters.”
But even if Texan Jeb Bush and former Gov. Rick Perry join the race, Cruz’s backers will swear by him.
They know him now.
Bud Kennedy’s column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays.