Hutchison kept trailblazing as she became Texas' first female senator, but never made "women's issues" the main focus of her portfolio — which is noteworthy, said Jennifer Lawless, director of the Women & Politics Institute at American University's School of Public Affairs.
"She demonstrated that women don't have to be pigeonholed or stereotyped," Lawless said. "She normalized the fact that a woman could hold a Senate seat and not necessarily be more moderate than her male counterparts."
Cruz projects a more uncompromising approach than Hutchison's stated preference for bipartisanship, which she emphasized in her farewell address.
"This is an example of how increased party polarization in Congress has led to far more ideological and extreme candidates," Lawless said.
With the Republican Party suffering an identity crisis in the wake of Obama's re-election, Buchanan said, Cruz would be wise to look to Hutchison's approach as a model.
"Extremism of the right is not a good calling card now to appeal to a Republican electorate concerned with electability," Buchanan said. "His aspirations are more national than hers were. But he's a fellow who can understand the lay of the political land."