POSTED: Tuesday, July 31, 2012 - 8:11pm
UPDATED: Saturday, August 4, 2012 - 3:56pm
(CNN) -- National conservatives and tea party-allied organizations congratulated Texas Republican Ted Cruz on Tuesday for winning his party's nomination for a U.S. Senate seat.
Cruz, a former solicitor general making his first run for office, was ahead of Lt. Gov David Dewhurst, 71% to 29%, according to unofficial early results from the Secretary of State's office. As of 10:30 p.m. ET, 55% of precincts were reporting and several Texas newspapers had called the race in favor of Cruz.
Cruz' apparent victory would be yet another win for a conservative grassroots underdog. He received the support of several high-profile Republicans, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, and 2012 GOP presidential contender Rick Santorum, each of whom headlined events for Cruz over the final weekend before Election Day.
"Congratulations to Ted Cruz!" Palin posted to her Facebook page Tuesday evening. "Our goal is not just about changing the majority in the Senate. It is about the kind of leadership we want. Ted Cruz represents the kind of strong conservative leadership we want in D.C....
"The message of this race couldn't be clearer for the political establishment: the Tea Party is alive and well and we will not settle for business as usual," she continued. "Now, it's on to November!"
Santorum said he and his political organization were "proud to congratulate Ted on his terrific victory this evening. The people of Texas resoundingly responded to Ted's strong conservative values and his message of limited government, the power of free markets, and the importance of traditional American values."
FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe said in a statement, "Congratulations to Ted Cruz on his victory, the latest step in the American people's hostile takeover of Washington. By rejecting the establishment's chosen successor and selecting Cruz as the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate, the people of Texas now have an opportunity to send a true fiscal conservative to Washington to replace the misguided leadership that has been in power for far too long."
Club for Growth President Chris Chocola called Cruz a "champion of economic freedom" in his congratulatory statement.
Ahead of Tuesday, the Texas political scene was abuzz over some polls showing Cruz with an advantage over Dewhurst. However, Dewhurst's campaign pointed to their internal polling which they said indicated their candidate has a narrow margin over Cruz.
Dewhurst, who has been Gov. Rick Perry's number two for nearly a decade, fell short of clinching the GOP nomination in a May primary for the seat to be vacated by Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison.
The race quickly turned negative, with both campaigns releasing a steady stream of attack ads and the two candidates exchanging jabs in a fiery debate last month.
At a Houston rally on Friday, Palin and DeMint especially fired up the crowd with anti-establishment, anti-Washington undertones, similar refrains from those heard during the midterm elections two years ago.
While Dewhurst has spent more than three times the amount of his opponent this cycle, Cruz has been bolstered by millions in outside spending from national groups like FreedomWorks, Club for Growth and Senate Conservatives Fund.
Dewhurst's campaign, meanwhile, highlighted his support from local conservative leaders and organizations, not national groups. In a television ad released mid-July, Dewhurst's team capitalized on anti-D.C. fever and turned it back against his opponent.
"(Cruz) is a lawyer trained in Washington. Half the money supporting Cruz comes from Washington," the ad's narrator said, later adding: "Lawyer Ted Cruz in Corrupt Washington? He'd fit right in."
Gov. Perry was also vocal in defending Dewhurst. Some political analysts viewed the race as a referendum on Perry, who critics accuse of lacking conservative credentials -- a noteworthy twist given that the Texas governor entered the 2012 presidential race last year as being the more conservative option to Mitt Romney.
The Republican nominee for the seat will likely win in November, as political handicappers Charles Cook and Stuart Rothenberg both rate the state as safe for Republicans.