-- She didn't say it outright, but Washington Sen. Patty Murray, the head of the committee tasked with electing Democrats to the Senate, suggested Wednesday that she considers Texas Senate candidate Ted Cruz a likely winner in November.
During a briefing with reporters Wednesday, Yahoo News asked the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee chairwoman about her level of confidence in Paul Sadler, the Democrat running against Cruz for the seat. Citing his tea party support, Cruz is more of a problem for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell than for Democrats, she responded.
"We're monitoring Texas, as we are all states, talking to people on the ground," Murray said. "Let me just say, he won last night, he had a very compelling story, but I think the bigger issue there is that Mitch McConnell is now going to have a potentially much more tea party-oriented caucus and we have all seen the damage that has done to our ability to govern, to find compromise, to move this country forward in a positive direction. So I think it's more their problem than ours."
Cruz, a Canadian-born attorney of Cuban heritage with strong conservative support, defeated Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in a Senate run-off election in Texas Tuesday night. The DSCC website lists Texas as one of the "races to watch," calling it "the next big swing state" because of changing demographics. Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson has held the contested seat since 1993.
While outlining the Democrats' plan for the other Senate races, Murray said the party is facing "a very difficult and tough map" in November, but predicted that it would hold its majority. Her major concern, she said, was millions of dollars in spending from Republican outside groups, which have poured $55 million into Senate races.
"The only thing that stands between me and a long, good night of sleep is the outside money coming into these races from Karl Rove and the right-wing billionaires who are funding these races across the country," Murray said, adding later: "I was one of the first races that got hit by a lot of outside money after the Supreme Court ruling, and when it first rolled into my state in the millions of dollars, I know I woke up going, Oh my God, where did that come from? You can't turn on the TV without it. What kind of impact is that going to have at the end of the day, and I'm sitting here in front of you as a United States senator elected."