HOUSTON - Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, forced into a runoff in his quest to win the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, indicated Wednesday he'll cast opponent Ted Cruz as an opportunistic lawyer with a thin record, financially supported by groups outside Texas.
Cruz, the state's former top appellate attorney, came in second in Tuesday's primary.
Dewhurst got the most votes with a 45-to-34 percent split over Cruz, but didn't crack 50 percent, so a July 31 runoff must determine who wins the nomination.
Cruz enjoys considerable tea party voter support and has received financial support from groups like Washington, D.C.-based Club for Growth, California-based Tea Party Express PAC and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint.
An energetic Dewhurst said he is ready to reload for the runoff, and the strategy against Cruz is clear.
"Another lawyer funded by Washington special interests," Dewhurst said of his opponent.
Dewhurst said he'll stress his record as Lieutenant Governor since 2003 of keeping state spending and taxes low, and job creation.
But that record also includes working with Democrats in the Texas Senate, which infuriates the tea party supporters who like Cruz.
A poll by Public Policy Polling found voters who backed former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert broke sharply for Dewhurst over Cruz. Leppert isn't saying yet if if he'll endorse Dewhurst, who hinted, but would not confirm they talked.
But Dewhurst would like to have those voters in the runoff.
"But we're going to be reaching out to not only the Tom Leppert voters, many of whom I know personally, but we're going to be reaching out to all Texans," he said.
Cruz proposed five debates with Dewhurst, who asked, why stop with five?
"Is he scared to five times?" Dewhurst said. "I'm going to accept any and all debates that our TV stations sponsor and are willing to put on."
The Dewhurst campaign sees the advantage this time in taking on a single opponent; drawing sharp contrasts between records and of course, having the money to point out the differences.