Texas' Ted Cruz scores a major Tea Party victory

(CBS News) HOUSTON - Republicans are talking about the Tea Party's big victory in Texas Tuesday night.

There was a runoff for the GOP nomination for a U.S. Senate seat and a conservative Republican was beaten by an even more conservative Tea Party candidate.

Ted Cruz will head into the election in November as the virtual shoo-in to be the state's next U.S. senator. He was once the state's chief lawyer and was a law clerk for William Rehnquist, the former Supreme Court chief justice.

"I think we're seeing a transformation, because I think the Republican Party is getting back to the principals we should have stood for," Cruz said.

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Cruz has never been elected to public office, but the Princeton debate champion and Harvard Law grad is now heavily favored to replace retiring Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson. His primary campaign was viewed by many as a struggle between moderate Republicans and the Tea Party.

Cruz told CBS News that Congress is better off with elected members of the Tea Party in it, "but I think it is a transition that's only half way complete."

"2010 was the first step," Cruz said. "Right now they can't do anything. As long as Harry Reid and the Democrats control the U.S. Senate, very little is going to get accomplished."

"I think 2010 was the first half," Cruz added, "but we can't accomplish what needs to be done without 2012 being the second half of it."

Cruz pulled off a come-from-behind upset, defeating Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. By most any standard, Dewhurst is considered a very conservative Republican -- tough on taxes and social issues -- and was endorsed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Cruz spent months tacking even further to the right, chatting up prayer groups, party meetings and tapping into frustrations about Washington spending.

"I will never support new taxes," he said. "Period. The end."

A lot of Republicans would say they think things have gotten worse with the Tea Party members in Congress, putting a halt to a lot of legislation. But Cruz said that's a good thing.

"Well I think there are a lot of things that needed to stop. That needed to halt," he said. "Our $16 trillion debt was a bipartisan problem. A whole lot of Republicans went arm in arm with the Democrats in agreeing to that spending, in agreeing to blow up the federal budget, and that's why Americans are looking for new leaders who won't do that."

When asked if he believes a lot of people are out there to get the Tea Party, Cruz said "sure."

"Look, everyone who has a vested interest in the status quo in business as usual in spending and spending and spending, wants to stop anyone who wants to stop that gravy train," Cruz said. "And that's the nature of politics. People are going to hold on to whatever they make their livelihoods from, but I think the American people are looking for leaders that aren't going to Washington to suddenly be popular at the cocktail parties. They're looking for leaders to go to Washington and be public servants."

Cruz thinks there's a chance a half dozen other constitutional conservatives will get elected to the Senate right along with him and he plans to spend the next 90 days helping them.

  • Sharyl Attkisson On Twitter»

    Sharyl Attkisson is a CBS News investigative correspondent based in Washington.

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