Ted rides wave of popularity

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Drivers speeding down a busy highway about 70 miles outside Houston have been greeted with two blunt messages that Bruce Labay put up at his oil field services business.

One declared that Mr. Labay was tired of softhearted Republicans, though he used a more colorful adjective.

The other read, “We Need More Republicans Like Ted Cruz.”

“I was proud of him,” Mr. Labay said of the state’s junior senator. “I was proud he was a Texan. I wish they would have held firm, and we’d still be shut down.”

The continued support for Mr. Cruz among Texas Republicans illustrates something larger: the red state that President Obama lost by nearly 16 points in the 2012 election.

Republican elected officials, voters and political strategists said the fact that Cruz and House Republicans lost their fight with the White House over Obama’s health care law was a side issue.

What mattered, they said, was that Cruz, who had campaigned on shaking up the status quo in Washington, had fulfilled his promise.

From local party leaders to county commissioners to Tea Party members, Cruz was praised for having the courage to challenge the administration.

Cruz won his Senate seat by defeating one of the most powerful Republicans in Texas, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst.

Dewhurst, who is now running for re-election against three prominent Republican conservatives, has tried to steer farther to the right after his loss to Mr. Cruz. In the aftermath of the government shutdown, Dewhurst complimented his former Senate primary opponent. “I give Senator Cruz credit for using every means available to draw attention to one of the biggest examples of Washington’s overreach, the financial disaster known as Obamacare,” Dewhurst said in a statement.

Dan Patrick, a Houston Republican who endorsed Dewhurst last year, said he supported Cruz’s stand and principles. “Texas likes a fighter,” Patrick said. “He’s only been there 10 months, but he’s proven to be a fighter. If our party doesn’t lead as a bold conservative party, then we will disappear as a party.”