The Washington Times - May 10, 2012, 02:54PM

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has weighed in on the fiercely competitive Texas Senate primary race with an endorsement of Ted Cruz, the tea-party-backed candidate announced on his website Thursday.

The Palin plug is likely to focus more attention on a primary that already was being touted as the next big intra-Republican power struggle, with Mr. Cruz, the former solicitor general of Texas, casting himself as the insurgent candidate taking on the “establishment” Republican, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the longtime statewide officeholder who is leading a crowded field in the polls.

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Mrs. Palin also endorsed Indiana state Treasurer Richard Mourdock in his successful primary challenge Tuesda to longtime moderate Sen. Richard G. Lugar.

Mr. Cruz, pulling 26 percent of likely Republican voters in the latest Public Policy Polling survey, is hoping to finish well enough in the May 29 Texas GOP primary to make it into a July 31 runoff with Mr. Dewhurst, who is comfortably in first with 38 percent.

Seven other Republicans are vying for the chance to replace retiring GOP Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, including the former mayor of Dallas, Tom Leppert, and former ESPN broadcaster and Southern Methodist University football star Craig James — but no one outside the top two candidates is polling above single digits.

For the Democrats, Addie Dainell Allen, Sean Hubbard, Paul Sadler and Grady Yarbrough are seeking the nomination.

Mrs. Palin and her husband, Todd, said Mr. Cruz’s “conservative principles [and] 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.”