The easy victory of Houston lawyer Ted Cruz in the Republican U.S. Senate runoff in Texas shows the tea party movement remains a potent force in American politics.
It also highlights an anti-establishment frustration among voters, especially grass-roots conservative activists, which could influence national elections in November.
Cruz, a tea party favorite, defeated Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst by 13 points Tuesday, even though most of the Texas GOP establishment — including Gov. Rick Perry — backed Dewhurst.
Cruz, 41, a former state solicitor general and son of a Cuban immigrant father, faces Democratic state Rep. Paul Sadler in November's general election to replace retiring Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
But Texas hasn't elected a Democrat to statewide office in nearly two decades, and it's widely assumed Cruz will win.
President Barack Obama campaigned Wednesday in Ohio, with stops planned in Mansfield and Akron. Republican challenger Mitt Romney, back from a rocky overseas trip, was to campaign on Thursday in Colorado.
But his campaign was running a new television ad in Ohio attacking Obama's support for the auto industry bailout and blaming him for dealership closures across the state.
Polls show a continuing tight race between Obama and Romney, raising the importance of swing states like Ohio.
The tea party scored major gains in 2010 congressional races although has had mixed successes since. But it managed a big win in May when it toppled veteran Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind.
Cruz, who won the support of conservative Republicans, including ex-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, has called for tougher immigration laws, cutting taxes, sharp reductions in federal spending and curtailing the powers of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Tea-party-backed lawmakers generally have resisted compromising on a range of budget and deficit issues. That could complicate navigating past a slew of upcoming fiscal deadlines, no matter who is elected president.
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