Ted Cruz forces runoff against David Dewhurst in Texas Senate race

Former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz (R) has forced a runoff election with Texas Lieutenant Gov. David Dewhurst (R), a victory for the Tea Party candidate against a better-known and much better-funded foe.

Dewhurst led Cruz by 46 to 32 percent with 44 percent of precincts reporting, according to the Associated Press. Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert (R) was in third place with 13 percent of the vote.

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Cruz entered the race with almost no name identification but a bevy of conservative star-makers rallied to his side to help him into a runoff against Dewhurst, the longtime front-runner. Among Cruz's endorsers include the deep-pocketed, fiscally conservative Club for Growth, which spent $2.5 million on his behalf and helped him raise $750,000 more, according to the group.

"The Club for Growth PAC congratulates Ted Cruz on making the runoff election in Texas," Club for Growth President Chris Chocola said in a statement released shortly after the AP called the race for Cruz. "Despite millions of dollars of desperate and negative attacks, David Dewhurst must now face true conservative Ted Cruz one-on-one…and that’s David Dewhurst's worst nightmare. Ted Cruz is a champion of economic freedom and the Club for Growth PAC strongly supports his candidacy."

Other key backers include former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R), Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

Dewhurst has the support of Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), his former running mate, as well as former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R). Besides his much higher name recognition, he was able to self-finance in a big way — he and the super-PACs backing him topped $10 million on the race, tripling the amount Cruz and his allies spent on the race.

The race has gotten nasty in recent days, with Dewhurst running ads attacking Cruz for being a member of Hispanic business organizations he falsely said supported amnesty for illegal immigrants and blasting him for being the lead attorney on a case that defended a Chinese company that had stolen designs from an American manufacturer. The runoff is likely to stay just as hostile.

The runoff will be in late July. While Dewhurst once again starts off with a big advantage Cruz and his allies hope that a low-turnout, mid-summer election will play in their favor.