The conservative elite descended upon Texas this weekend, as some of the tea party's biggest stars stood with Senate hopeful Ted Cruz in his bid against Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in the state's heated runoff.
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and 2012 GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum are all stumping for Cruz just days before Tuesday's election.
Palin and DeMint attended a get-out-the-vote rally in The Woodlands outside of Houston on Friday night, while Santorum is set to join Cruz at a rally near Dallas Saturday morning.
Friday night, Palin fired up the crowd, reiterating anti-Washington rhetoric often heard during the midterm elections two years ago.
"2010 was just a step in that long march towards the real reform that we need," Palin said. "Texas will you keep fighting? Will you keep marching for the real reform that we need in Washington?"
She described Cruz as a candidate who would stand against "big government cheerleaders" and wasted no time in attacking President Barack Obama, hitting what she labeled his "death-panel filled, Orwellian nonsense called 'Obamacare'."
And while he was in Texas this month, the president told a San Antonio crowd he could see the Lone Star State soon turn into a "battleground."
Palin, however, objected.
"There will be an Alaskan sized blizzard on the Brazos (River) before Texas turns blue for Barack," Palin said, drawing big applause.
DeMint also laced his speech with anti-establishment undertones, urging the crowd to turn out for Cruz next week in a sign of protest against lawmakers in Washington.
"Tuesday night, when they find out what happened here in Texas, Republican leaders in Austin and Washington are not going to sleep very well because they know it's out of their hands and in your hands," the South Carolina senator said.
Echoing refrains from his fellow conservatives on stage, Cruz said his campaign was a "testament to the power of grassroots" and lambasted the nation's capital for the increasing debt.
"This ain't rocket science. If any one of us ran our families or our businesses the way our federal government is run, we'd be in jail, we'd be bankrupt and sleeping under a bridge," Cruz said.
Friday's rally underscored the storyline seen in Texas and in other Senate Republican primaries this year, with a tea party-backed candidate (Cruz) competing against a more establishment-friendly Republican (Dewhurst).
While Cruz took 34% of the vote in the Texas primary on May 29 compared to Dewhurst at 45%, the lieutenant governor failed to cross the 50% threshold needed to capture the GOP nomination and the race was forced into a runoff.
Palin has had a successful endorsement record in GOP primaries this year. The 2008 vice presidential nominee backed state treasurer Richard Mourdock in his takedown of longtime incumbent Sen. Dick Lugar in the Indiana Republican primary. She also endorsed Nebraska state Sen. Deb Fischer, who ultimately topped a crowded field of Republicans in the May contest, and Palin threw her voice behind incumbent Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah as he beat back his toughest primary challenge in decades.
DeMint, a leader in the conservative movement, has also been active in Senate races this year. His super PAC, Senate Conservatives Action, announced on Monday a half-million dollar ad buy in support of Cruz in Texas.
Also this week, the national conservative group, Club for Growth, announced an additional $574,000 in spending for Cruz, bringing its total to $2.5 million spent in the Texas race.
Santorum, meanwhile, first endorsed Cruz in May during the primary race. After ending his presidential bid in April, the former Pennsylvania senator has been rallying for conservative causes with his new group, Patriot Voices.
"Sen. DeMint, Gov. Palin, and Sen. Santorum recognize that this race is now ground zero for the Tea Party movement in America, and that's why they're supporting Ted Cruz," said James Bernsen, a spokesman for the candidate.
Dewhurst's team, however, has made Cruz's high-profile backers a big attack line in the campaign, arguing they represent the interests of Washington, not Texas.
"Ted Cruz has relied on out of state support for his entire campaign, so it's no surprise they're rallying for him in the final days of the campaign," said Matt Hirsch, a spokesman for Dewhurst. "In contrast, David Dewhurst is campaigning with Texans and talking about issues that matter to voters here in the Lone Star State. While Ted Cruz would go to Washington and serve at the pleasure of the special interests supporting his campaign, David Dewhurst will go to Washington to serve the people of Texas."
The race, held to replace retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, has become one of the most expensive congressional contests of the year. As of July 11, Cruz had raised just over $9 million, with about $1 million coming from his own pocket. Dewhurst, however, has lent his campaign much more money, about $17 million of the $24.5 million his team has received.
Early voting in the state began Monday.