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Cruz content to ignore Sadler in Texas senate race

By by WILL WEISSERT Associated Press
Oct. 7, 2012 at 11 p.m.


AUSTIN - U.S. Senate candidate and tea party firebrand Ted Cruz is fond of saying there's only two ways to campaign: scared or unopposed - and that he is not running unopposed. Lately, though, he's sure acting like he's the only one in the race.

The former Texas solicitor general is thought to have a commanding lead against ex-Democratic state Rep. Paul Sadler. Cruz has largely ignored his opponent to concentrate on fundraising and mending fences with a Texas GOP establishment he spent months attacking during the fiercely contested Republican senatorial primary.

"It's almost like the actual election is an afterthought," said Mark P. Jones, a political science professor at Rice University in Houston. "But to the extent to which it's not, Cruz doesn't want to do anything to raise Sadler's profile."

Six months ago, Cruz lambasted primary opponent and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst for using the same strategy against him.

How times have changed. This past week, Cruz held a Houston fundraiser with Dewhurst, and he was at a Dallas event more recently with the woman he's vying to replace, retiring U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison - who has been a staunch defender of federal spending for the state's military bases, the kind of protectionist politics tea party activists usually despise.

At an Austin fundraiser for Cruz on Thursday, Gov. Rick Perry was among the attendees, even though he appeared in past campaign ads for Dewhurst. Perry had angrily accused Cruz of putting the interests of out-of-state tea partiers - including South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin - ahead of Texans.

Making nice with those he once bashed is part of Cruz's transformation from insurgent to a would-be senator who has his home state behind him.

A poll released this week by nonpartisan Texas Lyceum showed Cruz leading Sadler 50 percent to 24 percent.

Jones said Cruz learned from Dewhurst not to increase the name recognition of a little-known opponent. "His best option is to ignore Sadler," he said.

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