SAN ANTONIO — In the lead-up to the U.S. Senate debate here Tuesday night, Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke heard from supporters who wanted him to take a more aggressive stance toward Republican incumbent Ted Cruz.
It appears O’Rourke listened.
Over the hourlong event, the El Paso congressman took a series of harsher-than-usual swings at Cruz — including a couple of blows evocative of the senator’s battle with Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential race.
“He’s dishonest,” O’Rourke said of Cruz at one point. “That’s why the president called him Lyin’ Ted and it’s why the nickname stuck because it’s true.”
“It’s clear Congressman O’Rourke’s pollsters have told him to come out on the attack,” Cruz shot back. “So if he wants to insult me and call me a liar, that’s fine.”
Trump, who is coming to Houston on Monday for a rally with Cruz, fueled a number of contentious exchanges during the debate at the studios of KENS 5, the CBS affiliate in San Antonio. Early on, O’Rourke accused Cruz of not being able to stand up to the president for Texans, while Cruz went on to dismiss the idea O’Rourke would be able to work with the president after expressing support for his impeachment. And “Lyin’ Ted” was not the only Trump-style insult aired in the debate, with O’Rourke telling Cruz multiple times that he was “all talk and no action.”
As O’Rourke hammered Cruz as more interested in his political career than representing Texas — “Ted Cruz is for Ted Cruz,” the challenger said at one point — Cruz pressed his long-running case that O’Rourke is captive to the activist left and too liberal for Texas. He also repeatedly cast O’Rourke as a key agitator if Democrats take Congress for the next two years under Trump.
“You want to talk about a shutdown?” Cruz said after O’Rourke raised Cruz’s leading role in the 2013 government shuttering. “With Congressman O’Rourke leading the way, [there’ll be] two years of a partisan circus and a witch hunt on the president.”
O’Rourke offered a deadpan response, telling Cruz it is “really interesting to hear you talk about a partisan circus after your last six years in the Senate.”
Cruz’s campaign argued O’Rourke’s more hostile performance was a reaction to recent spate of polls that show Cruz expanding his lead.
“When you’re down 10, you better do something, right? You better change the conversation,” Cruz strategist Jeff Roe told reporters after the debate. “When an unconventional candidate becomes conventional, that’s typically when they get split like a cantaloupe, and I think that’s what we’ll see.”
Cruz and O’Rourke, who first debated Sept. 21 in Dallas, may have sparred for the last time before Election Day when they took the stage in San Antonio. A debate that had been planned for Sept. 30 in Houston was postponed amid the battle over Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court, and it has not yet been rescheduled.
After the debate, O’Rourke was set to head to the Rio Grande Valley to participate in a CNN town hall Thursday in McAllen. Cruz declined to appear back-to-back at the event but has since sought to turn it into another debate.
As someone who moved from NYC about eight years ago, I might not understand Texas tough but I do know NYC tough. Ted Cruz showed moxie when he went to the Bronx during the Presidential primaries. He stood strong as crowds booed while one lone supporter yelled: “We love you, Ted.” That was tough, even by NYC standards. Amazed I watched him take on candidate Trump for insulting his wife and father. Where’s that Ted Cruz?
He’s a sniveling coward, who’s kissing Trump’s butt while calling out Beto for not being “Tough as Texas.” I see Beto barnstorming through Texas hitting Red counties. Skateboarding through What a Burger but refusing to back down on his “take a knee” stance. Beto is showing up and being honest with Texans. Now maybe I don’t understand “Tough as Texas” but I see Beto O’Rourke tough enough for this former New Yorker. In my opinion, he’s Texas tough.
Mary Ellen Popkin
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WASHINGTON — A new poll released Thursday morning showed Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has stabilized his lead over his Democrat challenger, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso.
Fifty-four percent of Texans backed Cruz, while 45 percentbacked O’Rourke in the latest Quinnipiac University poll.
As for each candidate’s images, 52 percent of Texans surveyed had a favorable view of Cruz, with 44 percent viewing him unfavorably. O’Rourke, however, was slightly under water in how Texans viewed him: 45 percent of respondents had a favorable view of O’Rourke, compared to 47 percent who view him unfavorably.
A September poll from the same outfit showed the same margin: a nine-point Cruz lead. While at times Quinnipiac had this race within the margin of error over the last year, the Cruz lead has stabilized in this and other polls to the high single digits.
This most recent poll was conducted Oct. 3-9.
The poll also took a snapshot of Texas’ gubernatorial race, showing Republican Gov. Greg Abbott with aprohibitive lead over his Democratic rival, former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, 58 percent to 38 percent.
Strikingly, while Valdez and O’Rourke have consolidated support among African Americans,Abbott and Cruz garnered sizable Hispanic support. Cruz had the backing of 37 percent of Hispanic respondents while nearly half of Hispanics surveyed — 46 percent — supported Abbott.
Sixty-two percent of Texans viewed Abbott favorably while 32 percent of Texans had an unfavorable view of the governor. In contrast, Valdez — an underfunded candidate — is still largely unknown for this point in the cycle. Thirty-one percent of Texans had a positive view of Valdez and 29 percent had an unfavorable view of her.
The poll surveyed 730 likely voters,730 using cell phone and landlines. The margin of error was 4.4 percent.
U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, maintained Saturday night that he did not flee the scene of a 1998 drinking and driving incident, a contradiction of a police report filed at the time.
“I did not flee,” he told Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith at the closing keynote of the Texas Tribune Festival in Austin. “The police report on this count is wrong.”
O’Rourke added: “I reached out to the passenger who was in the car that I was driving — who also does not appear in the police report, among other factual errors — somebody that I’ve not spoken to in more than 15 years, and asked her recollection of that evening. She said, ‘No, we were in the median of the road. We did not try to flee. I don’t know that there was anywhere we could have gone.’”
During the wide-ranging conversation, O’Rourke, who is running to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, also reiterated his commitment to not seek higher office should he be elected to the Senate. He said that while he has been on the campaign trail, most of the responsibility for raising his three children has fallen to his wife, Amy O’Rourke, and that “our kids need us to be a family.” He also said he would limit himself to a maximum of two terms.
O’Rourke accused Cruz — whom he repeatedly refused to address by name, instead referring to him as “the junior senator from Texas” — of running a “cynical” campaign rooted in fear.
O’Rourke ended the night by appearing before a massive crowd at Auditorium Shores, an Austin concert venue, where country music legend Willie Nelson headlined a show for the candidate.
“Let tonight be a message to the future,” O’Rourke said. “Let them know who we are, what we believe in and what we are willing to do to accomplish our goals. Let them know that we believe in this country, let them know that we believe we can come together and do great things for this country, And let them know that we believe that Texas can lead the way.”
O’Rourke went to tell supporters they’ve “never been so close, but it’s on all of us.” He encouraged them to get registered to vote by the Oct. 9 deadline — there were 250 voter registrars at the event — and be prepared to cast an early ballot when the period begins Oct. 22.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, leads his Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke by 9 percentage points among likely voters, according to a new poll from Quinnipiac University.
Released Tuesday, the survey found Cruz with 54 percent support and O’Rourke, an El Paso congressman, with 45 percent. Only 1 percent of those polled were undecided.
“The Texas U.S. Senate race between Sen. Ted Cruz and Congressman Beto O’Rourke, and Democratic hopes for an upset win there, have boosted talk of a Senate takeover,” Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said in a news release. “These numbers may calm that talk.”
It’s the first time Quinnipiac has released a likely voter survey in the Senate race. Quinnipiac previously polled registered voters three times, finding Cruz ahead by 6 points in August, 11 in May and 3 in April.
Quinnipiac also surveyed the governor’s race in the most recent poll and continued to find a much less competitive contest, with Republican Gov. Greg Abbott leading Democratic opponent Lupe Valdez by 19 points.
In the Senate race, Quinnipiac found Cruz has a higher favorability rating than O’Rourke does. Fifty-two percent of likely voters said they like Cruz to 43 percent who said they do not, while the split was a more divided 43-42 for O’Rourke.
Quinnipiac also asked likely voters about President Donald Trump — and they were evenly split, with 49 percent approving of the job he is doing and 49 percent disapproving. Trump is set to visit the state next month to rally for Cruz.
The latest Quinnipiac survey was conducted from Sept. 11 to Sept. 17 and reached 807 likely voters using live interviews on landlines and cell phones. The margin of error was plus-or-minus 4.1 percentage points.
The Texas Tribune August 23, 2018NewsComments Off on Beto O’Rourke’s NFL Comments Have Gone Viral. Here’s How it Can Impact his Texas Race
Since 2016, Texas Republicans have been spoiling for a fight over NFL players protesting during the national anthem, confident they have a winning issue on their hands — or at least one that will fire up their voters.
That fight has now arrived in the state’s 2018 U.S. Senate race.
A video of the Democratic nominee, Beto O’Rourke, recently voicing support for the protests has gone viral, earning hundreds of thousands of social media shares and garnering praise from Hollywood celebrities and professional athletes. The Republican incumbent, Ted Cruz, and his allies have seized on O’Rourke’s position to press their long-running argument that despite the national fanfare, O’Rourke is out of step with the Texans who will actually decide the election.
There has not been any recent public polling in Texas gauging support specifically for the protests, which participating players have said are meant to bring attention to police brutality and racial injustice in the United States. But multiple University of Texas/Texas Tribune polls have provided some indications about how Texans feel about the controversy.
In June, with the debate over the player protests still raging, a UT/TT survey discovered a plurality of voters — 47 percent — had an unfavorable opinion of the NFL, vs. 26 percent who felt favorably about the league.
In October 2017, as President Donald Trump was sharply criticizing players over the protests, a UT/TT poll found more Texas voters disapproved of Trump’s handling of the situation than approved of it, 50 percent to 40 percent.
In October 2016, as the protests were beginning to gain attention, a UT/TT poll found that the Black Lives Matter movement, which is largely allied with the protesting players, had a poor image in Texas, with voters having an unfavorable view of it by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.
In a blog post Wednesday, UT/TT pollster Jim Henson suggested the numbers show O’Rourke’s position is anything but a clear-cut political winner in Texas.
“While it’s too soon to judge O’Rourke’s national prospects — despite the natural eagerness to discover the Next Big Thing — the response on Political Twitter illustrates that in moments like his Houston comments (and many others on a growing list), O’Rourke looks a lot like a national Democratic candidate,” Henson wrote. “Relevant attitudes in Texas, however, suggest that he still has a rough schedule to get through before he graduates to the pros.”
The political fervor over the national players protests is nothing new for top Texas Republicans, who have seized on them to varying degrees since they began in 2016. Cruz has been especially vocal, bashing the protesting players last year as “rich, spoiled athletes disrespecting the flag.”
The saga in the Senate race began Aug. 10 at an O’Rourke town hall in Houston, where the candidate fielded a question from a man who said he came from a family of veterans and found it “incredibly frustrating that people seem to be OK with” the player protests. The man asked O’Rourke: Do you find it disrespectful?
“My short answer is no, I don’t think it’s disrespectful,” O’Rourke replied, offering a preface before giving his long answer: “Reasonable people can disagree on this issue — let’s begin there — and it makes them no less American to come down on a different conclusion on this issue.”
O’Rourke went on to offer a lengthy recollection of civil rights struggles in the United States, the sacrifices Americans have made for those rights and the more recent national conversation surrounding police shootings of unarmed black men.
“And so nonviolently, peacefully, while the eyes of this country are watching these games, they take a knee to bring our attention and our focus to this problem to ensure that we fix it,” O’Rourke concluded. “That is why they are doing it, and I can think of nothing more American than to peacefully stand up or take a knee for your rights anytime, anywhere, anyplace.”
The next weekend at a campaign stop in Corpus Christi, Cruz brought up O’Rourke’s comments while responding to a question about respect for police.
“[O’Rourke] gave a long, long answer that ended with, he quote ‘couldn’t think of anything more American’ than kneeling to protest the national anthem,” Cruz said, recalling the patriotism he said he saw during a recent tour of Texas military bases. “The contrast of every person there having that respect — you know, when Beto O’Rourke says he can’t think of anything more American, I’ve got to admit — I can. Those soldiers, those sailors, those airmen, those Marines, who fought and bled to protect the flag — yeah, that’s something more American.”
The issue appear to cool off for a few days — until Tuesday afternoon, when the website NowThisNews tweeted the video of O’Rourke’s comments, set to dramatic music and accompanied by a caption saying O’Rourke “brilliantly explains why NFL players kneeling during the anthem is not disrespectful.” The tweet quickly racked up over 100,000 retweets and got the attention of people like talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who told O’Rourke she would like to meet him, and LeBron James, who called the video a “must watch” and praised O’Rourke for his “candid thoughtful words.”
With the video ricocheting around the internet, O’Rourke continued to tackle the issue Wednesday evening at a town hall in Texas City, where the first question he got was about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem. O’Rourke gave an answer that echoed his initial one, not backing away from the assertion that there was a patriotic quality to the protests.
“To peacefully, without violence, call attention to problems that we have going on in this country, so that our conscience, our eyes, our focus, are directed on those who otherwise might not have a voice … I think that is something uniquely American,” O’Rourke said.
Meanwhile, Texas Republicans continued to show Thursday morning they are happy to have the debate over kneeling during the anthem, with Cruz firing off a tweet mocking actor Kevin Bacon’s embrace of the viral video. A short time later, state party Chairman James Dickey issuing a statement calling O’Rourke’s definition of American “utterly flawed” and his comments a “slap in the face” to veterans. The episode, Dickey added, “further demonstrates [O’Rourke’s] failure to comprehend the values held by the voters of Texas while he runs tenaciously farther and farther to the left every day.”
O’Rourke clearly sees some political upside to the episode as well. As of Thursday, his campaign was running Facebook ads highlighting his viral comments on the player protests. Meanwhile, an O’Rourke campaign stop Thursday afternoon in Houston featured a surprise guest: Arian Foster, the former Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins running back who kneeled during the anthem in 2016.
Disclosure: The University of Texas has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
WASHINGTON — It’s the most backhanded of compliments.
U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke‘s campaign for U.S. Senate has caught so much fire throughout the state that the new favorite betting game in Texas politics is “How close can he get to Ted Cruz in November?”
The implication in the question’s phrasing is that O’Rourke’s loss remains a given.
Despite the high enthusiasm the El Paso congressman’s campaign has drawn among Democrats, Texas has not elected a Democrat statewide in over 20 years. An informal round of interviews with well over a dozen political players involved in Texas and national politics suggests that Cruz is expected to extend that streak with a re-election victory in the high single digits.
While such a margin would amount to significant progress for Democrats from past statewide performances, a loss is a loss, and Cruz’s win would likely ensure GOP control of the U.S. Senate for another two years.
Even so, O’Rourke’s 18-month statewide tour could still help significantly rebuild a flagging state party apparatus. The term being thrown around quietly among Democrats is “losing forward.”
In that sense, the stakes are much higher for both parties than a single race.
How this very strange match up of Cruz, a former GOP presidential runner-up, against O’Rourke, a rank-and-file congressman turned political sensation, shakes out could set the trajectory of the next decade in Texas politics.
“Not an ordinary cycle”
The latest sign of O’Rourke’s momentum came over the weekend, in the wake of Cruz releasing several television ads Friday, including three attacking O’Rourke.
“The biggest challenge I have in this race … is complacency,” Cruz said Saturday at a conservative conference in Austin. “People say all the time, ‘Oh, come on, it’s a Texas re-elect. How could you possibly lose?’ Well, in an ordinary cycle, that might be true. But this is not an ordinary cycle.”
O’Rourke’s campaign, meanwhile, set an ambitious goal of raising $1 million over the weekend to help counter Cruz’s attack, and easily blew past that target, announcing Monday morning it had raised more than $1.25 million through more than 30,000 donations.
More than one operative from both parties brushed off the O’Rourke excitement with a pervasive phrase — “This is still Texas” — a nod to the state’s recent history as the most populous conservative powerhouse in the union.
The enthusiasm for O’Rourke — his bonanza event attendance and record-breaking fundraising, in particular — is something the state has not seen in modern memory. But there remain open questions over whether the three-term congressman can take a punch when the widely expected fall advertising blitz against him begins, whether he can activate the Hispanic vote and whether he can effectively build his name identification in a such a sprawling and populated state.
“We’ve never been in a situation where November matters at a statewide level,” said Jason Stanford, a former Democratic consultant, about the uncertainty of the fall.
So what would a moral victory be, if O’Rourke is unable to close the deal outright? Operatives from both parties suggest a 5- to 6-point spread — or smaller — could send a shockwave through Texas politics.
Such a margin could compel national Democrats to start making serious investments in the state and force local Republicans to re-examine how their own party practices politics going forward.
But that kind of O’Rourke performance could also bear more immediate consequences, potentially scrambling the outcomes of races for other offices this fall.
Only a handful of statewide surveys on the race are floating around the Texas political ether. But one increasing point of alarm for Republicans is what campaign strategists are seeing when they test down-ballot races.
Often campaigns for the U.S. House or the Texas Legislature will include statewide matchups in polling they conduct within a district. Sources from both parties say some of those polls show Cruz underperforming in some state legislative and congressional races — particularly in urban areas.
In effect, O’Rourke could come up short but turn out enough voters in the right communities to push Democrats over the line in races for the Legislature and U.S. House.
Cruz’s pollster, Chris Wilson, countered that Cruz’s coattails are ideal for turning out the party’s base.
“What Cruz does that is unique from what any other statewide official can do — it’s to motivate the presidential-year voters to turn out,” he said. “He’s a candidate who engenders enthusiasm among the Republican base. It would be myopic to think the Republican base would turn out without someone like him on the ballot.”
Former Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes, a Democrat, pointed to the other race at the top of the ticket — Gov. Greg Abbott‘s bid for re-election against Democrat Lupe Valdez — which is expected to be a blowout given Abbott’s popularity. While that arguably makes O’Rourke’s task even harder, it could force habitual straight-ticket Republicans to split their votes between him and Abbott. Barnes argues such a scenario could open the door for Texas voters in GOP strongholds to consider Democrats for races down ballot.
“It’s pretty dismal, the chances of a Democrat, but I think Beto has done a good job in maybe changing the politics of rural Texas,” he said. “He will run a good campaign and get a lot of votes. I think Beto is going to make people split their tickets.”
Moving the goalposts
Ironically, those most wary of this chatter about O’Rourke’s potential are some of his fellow Democrats.
Since Republicans took control of the state government in the 1990s, a new statewide Democratic candidate has burst onto the scene every few years, drawing the mantle of the party’s new great hope. And repeatedly, that candidate has come up far short.
Former state Sen. Wendy Davis’ campaign was the latest incarnation of this in 2014, and her 20-point loss did much to dampen future enthusiasm and fundraising in the state.
Since 2002, a series of Democrats running for governor or U.S. Senate garnered similar hype and sometimes, money, for bids aimed at breaking the party’s statewide drought. They include former Houston Mayor Bill White and banker Tony Sanchez – both of whom lost bids to unseat then-Gov. Rick Perry – and former state Rep. Rick Noriega and former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk — both of whom lost to current U.S. Sen. John Cornyn. Most lost by double digits.
For Democrats, it’s a nightmarish lather, rinse, repeat of loss. In recent years, many shifted their focus to low-level races with an aim to build the party’s bench for the future.
And then came O’Rourke, who seemingly out of nowhere has prompted the kind of excitement and expectations that some Democrats now fear are once again doomed to lead to disappointment.
But whether these Democrats like it or not, the goalposts have already moved.
One national Democratic consultant who is involved in Texas races suggested that simply doing better than Davis’ 2014 performance against Abbott is not enough — any O’Rourke loss in the double digits would significantly deter any potential enthusiasm among national Democrats that Texas could be competitive at the statewide or presidential level in the near future.
There is also some clear anxiety about the U.S. Senate race in some Republican circles, but it’s not as widespread.
Some GOP insiders — even those who are not keen on Cruz — shrug off any scenario in which this race could portend a long-term threat to Texas Republican power.
While Cruz had a difficult landing after his failed presidential bid, confidence remains high that he will run a technologically organized campaign on par with his presidential and 2012 Senate campaigns.
At the same time, Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick are postured to tap their hefty war chests to provide tens of millions of dollars of support to the rest of the ballot.
But also, in this Republican worldview, these two Senate candidates are too unique and, with Donald Trump in the Oval Office, the times are too tumultuous to extrapolate any grand prognostications of the future of Texas politics. Cruz is a uniquely polarizing force in state politics, while O’Rourke has proven so far to be a Democrat with rare charisma.
A better barometer, these Republicans argue, is how Cornyn performs in his widely expected bid for re-election in 2020.
And even if O’Rourke pulls off an historic upset, many caution against any sweeping conclusions that Texas will become a central battleground in national politics. Back in 1961, John Tower defied low expectations in a special election for U.S. Senate, becoming the first Republican to win a statewide seat in Texassince Reconstruction. The GOP’s path to eventually sweeping every statewide office would take another 37 years.
In that regard, some Democrats view any talk that an O’Rourke loss by a certain number of points could be spun into a long-term victory as absurd. For them, this remains a zero-sum game.
SMITHVILLE — As Ted Cruz took questions at a Republican women’s event here Saturday evening, Bastrop retiree Ronnie Ann Burt wanted to know: Should she really trust the growing barrage of chatter online that the senator’s re-election bid is in peril?
Cruz’s response: Believe it.
“It’s clear we have a real and contested race where the margin is far too close for comfort,” said Cruz, who’s facing a vigorous, massively funded challenge from U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso.
Cruz’s stop in this small Central Texas town was part of a return to the campaign trail Saturday in which the incumbent cranked up his long-building warnings that Democratic enthusiasm in the era of President Donald Trump should not be discounted, even in a state as red as Texas.
The timing couldn’t have been more fitting: A trio of polls came out this week showing Cruz’s race tightening anda national political forecaster shifted the contest in O’Rourke’s favor. Meanwhile,Cruz launched his first TV ads Friday, including three targeting O’Rourke, and the challenger moved quickly to turn them into a fundraising boon for him.
Appearing Saturday afternoon at the conservative Resurgent Gathering in Austin, Cruz delivered a nearly 10-minute assessment of the uncertain political landscape he faces in November.
“The biggest challenge I have in this race … is complacency,” Cruz said. “People say all the time, ‘Oh, come on, it’s a Texas re-elect. How could you possibly lose?’ Well, in an ordinary cycle, that might be true. But this is not an ordinary cycle. The far left is filled with anger and rage and we underestimate that anger at our peril.”
Cruz added that there is reason to be skeptical of the polls — his campaign has criticized their methodologies — but the trendline “ought to be a cause for concern for everyone.”
After the Resurgent conference, Cruz headed to a meeting with supporters and home school families in east Austin, where he continued to press the argument that the GOP base cannot take November for granted. Cruz said Travis County was the “base of the support” for O’Rourke but other “bright red” counties like Denton, Tarrant and Collin need to turn out hard as a counterweight.
“There are a lot of good, strong conservatives [in Travis County] too — you’re outnumbered, but it does make you sturdier when you’re withstanding criticism and abuse,” Cruz said. “What [Democrats] are doing is to find every liberal in the state of Texas and get them energized and get them to show up.”
Cruz’s remarks at events Saturdaycame a day after Gov. Greg Abbott offered a more reassuring forecast for November while addressing the Resurgentconference. He dismissed the idea of a “blue wave” in November as media hype that “sells papers” and reminded the audience that he ended up defeating his much-ballyhooed Democratic opponent, Wendy Davis, by over 20 points in 2014.
“Texas is going to stay red,” said Abbott, whose Democratic opponent, Lupe Valdez, has not caught traction in the way O’Rourke has against Cruz.
Cruz did not sound as sure as Abbott on Saturday — and his supporters appeared to get the message.
“I think what Sen. Cruz said is true: The Democrats are unhappy that they lost [the 2016 presidential election] because they never anticipated it, and so they’re coming out in force, and I see it in my own county,” said Jeanne Raley, vice president of the Lost Pines Republican Women group that hosted Cruz in Smithville. “That just means we have to work harder.”
“Complacency will kill any of us,” she added.
O’Rourke spent Saturday inthe border city of Del Rio, the latest stop on his 34-day tour of the state during the August congressional recess. Holding an evening town hall there, O’Rourke geared up supporters for a final three months of the race with momentum on their side.
“They say there are two points that separate us, the campaign we’re running and Ted Cruz — two points is all we’re down right now,” O’Rourke said. “There are 94 days to go in this election. We can totally win this, but it is 100 percent on us.”
O’Rourke’s campaign continued to show momentum Saturday afternoon, when it said it had raised more than $500,000 over the last 24 hours in response to Cruz’s commercials. The campaign has set a goal of topping $1 million by the end of the weekend.
Cruz got a taste of the opposition several minutes into his appearance at the Resurgent Gathering, when a protester interrupted with a sign reading, “Russian Bootlicker,” called Cruz a coward and used an expletive to denounce the crowd before breaking out in chants of “Beto!” Speaking afterward, Cruz wasted little time turning the incident into a rallying point for the fall.
“That anger, by the way, is dangerous,” Cruz said. “Every one of us needs to be taking this November election deadly serious.”
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has started airing the first TV ads of his re-election campaign, including one that highlights his work on the state’s recovery from Hurricane Harvey and two others that takes aim at his Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso.
The Harvey-themed commercial is airing in Beaumont, while the O’Rourke attack ads were found to be on the air Friday morning in Abilene and Lubbock. In a news release, Cruz’s campaign highlighted only the Harvey spot, and it did not provide any information about how much it was spending on the ads.
One of the anti-O’Rourke spots tells viewers he is “more extreme than he wants you to know,” pointing to comments O’Rourke has made about impeaching President Donald Trump as well as the movement among some liberal activists to abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
O’Rourke has said that he would vote to impeach Trump. While he initially expressed openness to doing away with ICE, he has more recently rejected calls to eliminate the agency. The commercial goes on to claim such positions put O’Rourke to the left of liberal boogeymen such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
The other anti-O’Rourke spot focuses on a bill from Cruz that President Donald Trump signed into law last year that expanded the number of unemployment benefit applicants that states can drug test. A narrator then seeks to contrast the law with O’Rourke’s successful effort on the El Paso City Council in 2009 to amend a resolution to urge for an “open, honest, national dialogue on ending the prohibition of narcotics.”
“Beto O’Rourke said we should consider legalizing all narcotics, including heroin — that would be destructive to our communities and families,” a narrator says. “Texas needs a senator who’ll lead the fight against drug abuse, and help those in need get back to work.”
Cruz has previously attacked O’Rourke over the resolution, which was eventually vetoed by then-El Paso Mayor John Cook over concerns it could cause the city to lose out on federal funding. O’Rourke has long supported marijuana legalization but has not advocated for ending the prohibition on other drugs. At the time he amended the resolution before the city council, he said he was not calling for legalizing all drugs but looking to have a “serious discussion about that.”
O’Rourke responded to the drug-related ad Friday by tweeting a clip from a June 29 appearance in San Antonio where he discussed a number of attacks he was anticipating from the Cruz campaign.
“They will tell you, because I want to end the war on drugs and end the prohibition on marijuana, that I want to do some terrible things like legalize crack cocaine and give your kids heroin,” O’Rourke said at the event. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
The other TV ad Cruz began running Friday is more positive. It touts Cruz’s involvement in passing Harvey aid in Congress and shows media coverage of him visiting affected communities after the storm devastated the Gulf Coast last year. It also features a clip of Cruz at a news conference standing next to Galveston County Judge Mark Henry, who says, “No official, state or federal, has been more involved in the recovery of Galveston County than Sen. Ted Cruz.”
“When the hurricane hit, you stood up for Texas,” a narrator concludes, “and Ted Cruz stood up for you.”
O’Rourke’s campaign released its first ad last month, though it was only online. The candidate has expressed ambivalence about the effectiveness of TV ads in the race.
While Cruz’s campaign did not reveal the negative ads in its news release, it made clear in a subsequent statement that it would not shy away from offering contrasts with O’Rourke.
“Between now and November, Ted Cruz will be informing voters of his own record of accomplishment as well as the stark differences between him and his opponent,” Cruz spokeswoman Emily Miller said.
The Texas Tribune August 10, 2017NewsComments Off on U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke on 34-Day Road Trip in Underdog Senate Bid
Looking to overcome the long odds in his U.S. Senate campaign, U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, has hit the road for an aggressive 34-day tour of Texas.
O’Rourke launched the trip without much fanfare at the end of last month, when he flew to San Antonio and bought a new truck for the trip. He does not plan to return home to El Paso until Aug. 31, when he’s due for a monthly town hall with his constituents.
No other candidate is currently campaigning across Texas quite as aggressively.
“I want to do this as hard as I can and make every effort to meet every Texan as possible,” O’Rourke said in an interview Thursday. In a state as large as Texas, he added, such an itinerary is the “only way you’re going to have any hope of meeting the people that you want to represent.”
O’Rourke’s campaign has a name for the trip: “Town Hauling Across Texas.”
The trip, much of which O’Rourke has been livestreaming on his Facebook page, has already taken him to the Rio Grande Valley, Far West Texas and the Panhandle. In those places, he has held traditional campaign events such as town halls and meet and greets, as well as less-formal activities — such asblock walking Thursday in Wichita Falls.
Over the next week, he’s set to hit North Texas and East Texas, with stops planned after that in Houston, College Station, Waco, Victoria, LaGrange, San Angelo, Midland, Odessa and Abilene.
It’s an intense pace of campaigning more than a year out from the November election, but it also reflects the work required if O’Rourke wants to stand a chance against U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. The state has not elected a Democrat to statewide office in over two decades.
Both Cruz and O’Rourke have August off for the congressional recess. Cruz, who is running for re-election but has not made an official campaign announcement yet, visited East Texas on Friday in his capacity as a U.S. senator, making stops at two local businesses and a junior college.
As he travels the state, O’Rourke said he is encountering community leaders who tell him they haven’t had the same level of outreach from the incumbent in Cruz’s four and a half years in office. “They haven’t seen him,” O’Rourke said.
A Cruz spokesperson did not return a call for comment Thursday.
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No Texas Democrat has won a U.S. Senate seat in nearly 30 years or any statewide office since 1994. But U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke is optimistic he can break the streak, in part by eschewing consultants, pollsters and PAC money. [Full story]