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Home | Tag Archives: beto for senate

Tag Archives: beto for senate

Win or Lose, Beto O’Rourke’s Campaign Against Ted Cruz Could Shape Texas Politics for Years

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.

“The only winning is winning,” Stanford said.

Author: ABBY LIVINGSTON – The Texas Tribune

With O’Rourke Gaining Momentum, Cruz’s November Alarm Hits New Volume

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 and a 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 Saturday came 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 in the 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.”

Sydney Greene contributed to this report.

Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

Cruz Releases First TV Ads of Re-election Bid, Including 2 Attacking O’Rourke

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.

Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

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 as block 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.

O’Rourke has had some early success, though. He outraised Cruz by half a million dollars in the second quarter and has drawn big crowds in some of the reddest areas in the state — almost 500 people turned out for an event he did Tuesday in Amarillo, according to local media.

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.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • Texas Democrats may not have a full statewide slate yet, but they are seeing early and intense interest in several congressional races. [Full story]
  • Ahead of his 2018 bid for re-election, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has an imposing war chest collected through three allied groups. [Full story]
  • 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]

Author:  PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

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