-- Call it the Sarah Palin bounce: Hours after the 2008 vice presidential nominee endorsed Ted Cruz, a Republican candidate for U.S. senator from Texas, on Thursday morning, the staff at Cruz's headquarters in Austin reported a swift and positive reaction.
Campaign manager John Drogin confirmed by email to Yahoo News that Palin's endorsement "has added HUGE buzz to our campaign."
"Phones are ringing, online contributions are pouring in, and supporters are more excited than ever on our social networks," Drogin wrote, adding that he's seen a "flood" of donations but has yet to tally them.
Select reaction from Cruz' Facebook page Thursday included:
"Fantastic endorsement. Congratulations. I support Sarah Palin, and after a lot of research I can honestly say you're the man for this job," wrote Facebook user Charles Netterville. "Thank you for your willingness to help take on the establishment (Both sides) and return this great nation to its former glory."
"Good choice Sarah! Sarah is a true Conservative and so is Ted! We need Ted representing Texas in DC!" wrote Barbara Rains Schroeder Hill.
Palin issued a public letter Thursday offering her endorsement of Cruz, who has earned support from national tea party groups including FreedomWorks and the Tea Party Express (groups that recently helped take down Republican Sen. Dick Lugar in Indiana). Palin wrote:
Your conservative principles, passionate defense of our Constitution and our free market system come at a time when these cornerstones of our freedom and prosperity are under attack. Our shared goal isn't just to change the majority in control of the Senate, but to assure principled conservatives like you are there to fight for us.
Cruz, the former solicitor general of Texas and the first Hispanic to serve in that position, is one of nine Republicans running for their party's nomination. (Current Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is retiring.)
Drogin noted the beneficial timing of Thursday's endorsement: four days before early voting is set to begin in Texas.
Palin's endorsement was a coveted prize in the 2010 election, when the former Alaska governor campaigned for tea party conservatives across the country even when they faced established Republican incumbents. Palin has earned the same reputation this cycle and already saw one major candidate she endorsed, Richard Mourdock, achieve victory in Indiana.
Cruz faces a very strong May 29 primary challenger in Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who has the personal wealth, name recognition and experience to put him in a frontrunner position.
Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert and ESPN analyst Craig James are among the other candidates campaigning for the seat.
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