Athens — Ted Cruz's talkathon on the U.S. Senate floor had no hope of legislative success and boiled down to largely political performance art. But in Texas, the combative style his 21-hour speech demonstrated could be transformative.
The all-night self-emulation is energizing the grass-roots conservatives that already helped Cruz rise from electoral longshot to national star, and may prove a boon for other tea party-backed candidates waiting to follow in his footsteps.
While no one is expecting an army of Cruz clones to emerge, he may be a model for a certain type of confrontational conservatism back home. And the implications will stretch far beyond its own borders since Texas is the nation's richest GOP donor state and repeatedly has been a cradle for Republican presidential candidates — perhaps even Cruz himself in 2016.
"You can feel the Cruz effect all over the state," said Konni Burton, a Fort Worth tea party Republican who is running for a Texas Senate seat.
Burton hopes to replace Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis, who became an overnight national sensation in her own right by leading a nearly 13-hour filibuster in the Texas Legislature this summer that temporarily blocked passage of strict new abortion limits statewide.
Cruz had hoped to defund the White House-backed health care law or shutdown the government trying but knew before he started his marathon speech that he was going to fail. But Burton said, "the politics of standing pat" has mainstream Texas Republicans looking over their shoulders and could make compromise a dirty word in the Legislature.
"At town halls, at any event, his name gets mentioned and people just go crazy," Burton said of Cruz. "There are legislators there too and they're running and they hear it. They can't ignore what's going on."