Ted Cruz is wearing cowboy boots. Black ones, not particularly shiny. As he speaks, he pivots his feet on their three-quarter-inch heels to face different sides of the crowd gathered a few blocks from the convention center. Some people wear delegate credentials. Most do not. They sit on benches and folding chairs, or they stand and hold crucifixes and signs that read, “Give me liberty or give me death.” When they agree with Cruz, which they do often, they applaud and shout amen.
I first saw Cruz at the convention on Thursday. He was explaining why he declined David Dewhurst’s invitation to a debate in Spanish. “The voters in Texas speak English,” he told an interviewer at RightOnline’s booth. Dewhurst, he continued, “desperately wants to have a debate in a language Texans don’t speak.” His reasoning went as follows: unwilling to engage with grassroots Republicans for much of the campaign cycle, Dewhurst now wants to create the appearance of dialogue for the runoff election. “There has been no candidate in modern history in Texas who has blown off the grassroots more than Lt. Governor Dewhurst does,” Cruz later told me.
The two men hold similar positions towards several issues. Both favor a balanced budget, denounce abortion, and support the traditional family. But they squabble about their backgrounds, and about their campaign finances. Cruz touts his record as Texas solicitor general; Dewhurst calls his opponent a “slick lawyer who had worked for most of his adult life as a staffer in a bureaucracy.” Cruz cries out that Dewhurst poured $10 million of his own fortune into the campaign; according to Dewhurst, this means his candidacy is not tinted with Washington money. “I’m beholden only to the people of the state of Texas,” he says.
Dewhurst’s voice comes from his throat not his mouth, and he is tall, so when I lean forward to hear him better my eyes are level withÂ his chin. His proportions are better suited for the stage, and on Friday morning, when he addressed the convention, he looked at home behind the podium, which was tall enough so he hunched only slightly. By the end of his speech, many delegates were on their feet.
But at the offsite rally, Dewhurst seems too large for the small wooden platform. He reads his remarks from some pieces of paper folded to a quarter of their size, and the audience cheers, but their applause is delayed and fills the wrong pauses. He’s trying to appeal to the crowd of social conservatives, speaking about his veteran father who died in a drunk-driving accident and his mother who worked two jobs to keep food on the family’s table. “Faith is the most important thing in my life,” he says. I believe him, and I suspect most of the audience does, too, but there’s this:Â Dewhurst wears loafers; they are tasseled.
Teo Soares is a D Magazine summer intern. He’ll graduate from Yale in 2013 with a BA and an MA in history.