[Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, a Washington-based group that helps finance conservative anti-establishment candidates] said Cruz’s win is the biggest this year for tea party activists, calling it “an 11 and Indiana a 10” on the scale of importance. The reason, according to Kibbe and other tea party leaders, is because of the sheer size of Texas.So now the Tea Party has it: A really big state and a really big brain. And Hispanic!
In the 2010 primaries, the movement fared best in smaller states without large media markets — places such as Delaware, where neophyte Christine O’Donnell used grass-roots support to sweep past a 30-year veteran of state GOP politics. Just 50,000 people voted in that primary. The tea party’s feat was repeated in other small-turnout states, such as Nevada and Alaska.
This year, tea party leaders sought mostly pure conservatives but also candidates with more political and professional experience, aiming to appeal to activists as well as independents in the general election. “You’re not going to see any Christine O’Donnell train wrecks,” Kibbe predicted, noting O’Donnell’s defeat by nearly 20 points in that fall’s election.
Cruz epitomized that effort. Unlike some of the anti-intellectual candidates of the tea party past, he boasted of his undergraduate degree from Princeton University, his national debating championship, his Harvard law degree and his Supreme Court clerkship.
“I think he’s got the pedigree, he’s got all of it,” [Rand] Paul said. “In fact, we’ve joked that he’s too smart for the Senate to fit in.”
ADDED: I think we'll see a lot more of the effort to distinguish Cubans from other Hispanics. That has already come up in the context of Marco Rubio.