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Supporters of Ted Cruz and Chick-fil-A Break News

A Commentary by Michael Barone

Monday, August 06, 2012

Americans keep behaving in ways that baffle the liberal mainstream media. Two examples figured prominently -- or should have -- in last week's news.

One is the runoff primary for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate in Texas. Former state Solicitor General Ted Cruz thumped incumbent Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, 57 to 43 percent.

Cruz won even though the Texas Republican establishment, from Gov. Rick Perry on down, endorsed Dewhurst. So did the Austin lobbying community, since Dewhurst as lieutenant governor has run the state Senate for the last 10 years (and, having lost this race, will do so for at least the next two).

Dewhurst has had a generally conservative record and had no problem getting elected and re-elected statewide four times. And he spent liberally from the fortune he made in the private sector.

To be fair, some MSM outlets did run stories on Cruz's rise in the polls since he ran behind Dewhurst by a 45 to 34 percent margin in the May 29 primary. And it's not uncommon for a second-place finisher to overcome the primary winner in a runoff.

But there's a pattern here that the big liberal press has been reluctant to recognize: Candidates from the GOP establishment are getting knocked off by challengers with less name recognition, far less money and the support of the tea party movement. The tea party was supposed to be dead and gone, you know.

There were two such victories in May, when six-term Sen. Richard Lugar was upset by state Treasurer Richard Mourdock in Indiana and when state Sen. Deb Fischer beat two well-known contenders for the open seat nomination in Nebraska.

Cruz, who is the odds-on favorite in November, has the credentials and policy positions to be a figure of national importance for many years. At 41, he could represent the second-largest state in the Senate for decades.

And there's a tradition of Texas senators taking the lead in public policy, from the days of Tom Connally and Lyndon Johnson and including John Tower, Lloyd Bentsen and Phil Gramm.

Cruz has a fine legal pedigree. He was a law clerk for Chief Justice William Rehnquist and argued nine cases (and won five) in the U.S. Supreme Court representing Texas. As a teenager, he memorized and gave lectures on the Constitution, and on the stump he emphasized the founding document's limits on the power of government.

The big media has assumed that tea partiers are potentially violent despite the lack of evidence of any violent behavior. That's why ABC's Brian Ross mentioned on-air an Aurora, Colo., tea partier with the same name as the movie theater murderer, although it's a common name and Aurora has 325,000 people.

In contrast, the MSM has been happy to celebrate the much smaller and often violent Occupy movement and characterize it as "mostly nonviolent."

Texas showed once again that many voters are eager to turn out and vote for tea party-backed candidates. Cruz won by about 2 to 1 in fast-growing exurban counties in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and metro Houston.

The MSM could hardly avoid reporting Cruz's victory Tuesday. But many news outlets ignored Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day Wednesday.

There were big crowds, long drive-up lines and record sales at the chain's stores, in response to the declarations by the mayors of Chicago, Boston and Washington that they would keep the restaurant out because of its owners' opposition to same-sex marriage.

That's not "Chicago values," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel, although there are many Chicagoans on both sides of this issue, just as many are on both sides, in varying proportions, throughout the country. But even many supporters of same-sex marriage like me were appalled at the spectacle of public officials barring businesses because of the religious or political beliefs of their owners.

In Huntsville, Ala., YouTube celebrity Antoine Dodson, who is openly gay, dined at Chick-fil-A on Wednesday. "That's what freedom is. We don't all have to believe in the same things," he told a Huntsville Times reporter.

"We all have our different beliefs and can still come together and still be friends and be cool with each other," he said. "So I'm here to be in support of the employees, and I'm also coming to get that spicy chicken sandwich."

Michael Barone, senior political analyst for The Washington Examiner, is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, a Fox News Channel contributor and a co-author of The Almanac of American Politics.

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