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Governor Greg Abbott to Speak at Donald Trump’s Campaign Event with Ted Cruz

Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that he will be speaking at President Donald Trump’s campaign event with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in Houston on Monday.

Trump’s campaign announced Monday evening that the rally would take place at the NRG Arena on the first day of early voting for the November 6 election.

The competitive U.S. Senate race pits Cruz against U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso.

The rally is set to begin at 6:30 p.m.

The governor announced his attendance while speaking at an event to accept the Governor’s Trophy following the University of Texas Longhorns’ recent win over the University of Oklahoma Sooners in the Red River Showdown Game.

Author: MATT ZDUN – The Texas Tribune

Beto O’Rourke Swings Harder at Ted Cruz in Second Debate

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.

Early voting begins Monday.

Read related Tribune coverage

Authors:  PATRICK SVITEK AND MATT ZDUN –  The Texas Tribune

Letter to the Editor: Who is Tough as Texas?

Who is Tough as Texas?

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

***

El Paso Herald-Post welcomes all views and viewpoints.  To have your opinion heard, submit your letter to news@epheraldpost.com

Ted Cruz Leads Beto O’Rourke 54 to 45, New Poll Says

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.

Author:  PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

Cruz Allies Take Aim at O’Rourke Over Eminent Domain, Father-in-Law

Allies of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, are targeting his Democratic opponent, Beto O’Rourke, in a new TV ad over his support on the El Paso City Council for a plan to redevelop downtown El Paso that raised the threat of eminent domain.

The plan never went that far but fueled a contentious chapter in El Paso politics starting over a decade ago. The new TV ad from the Club for Growth — a national conservative group that recently announced a seven-figure offensive in the race — portrays O’Rourke as a puppet of wealthy developers who pushed the project, including his father-in-law, Bill Sanders.

“El Paso’s rich and powerful stay that way by controlling politicians like Beto O’Rourke,” a narrator says in the 30-second spot. “As a councilman, Beto carried water for his wealthy father-in-law, the developer behind a downtown redevelopment scheme, pushing the city to bulldoze an historic Hispanic neighborhood using eminent domain.”

The ad goes on to refer to eminent domain as a “government wrecking ball” and ends by tagging O’Rourke as “Beto the Bully.”

The O’Rourke campaign did not have an immediate comment on the ad.

Titled “Bulldozer,” the spot starts airing Tuesday in San Antonio, and the Club for Growth plans to also run it in Dallas and Houston in the coming weeks. The group’s super PAC arm, Club for Growth Action, is spending $200,000 on the ad for now.The commercial is part of an at least $1 million investment in the race that the organization announced last month, seeing a tightening race between O’Rourke and Cruz, on whom it spent lavishly in 2012.

The Club for Growth commercial involves an episode that has come up in O’Rourke’s previous races for City Council and Congress but not in the Senate contest until recently. The downtown revitalization plan was introduced in March 2006 by the Paso Del Norte Group —a private organization made up of regional business elite including Sanders — and would have impacted the historic Mexican-American neighborhood of Segundo Barrio.

While eminent domain was never used in conjunction with the project, the specter of it was controversial from the start. O’Rourke was among those on the council who at least initially wanted to preserve the option of eminent domain as a last resort and, for example, helped defeat a June 2006 motion to rule it out. A month later, as public concerns were growing about the plan, the council — including O’Rourke — voted to ban the use of eminent domain during the first year of the project.

Sanders initially said in April 2006 that he would not invest in the project to avoid creating an ethical dilemma for his son-in-law, according to El Paso Times articles from the time. Later in the year, however, he decided to invest in the plan after all, citing encouragement he received from then-Mayor John Cook, and promised any dividends would go to a downtown nonprofit.

O’Rourke appeared to cite that promise in denying there was any conflict of interest. Sanders “cannot profit from this plan, nor can I, nor can any member of my family,” O’Rourke wrote in an email to the Texas Observer for a 2007 story on the project titled, “Eminent Disaster.”

Still, opponents of the plan hounded O’Rourke as the council grappled with the issue in 2006. There was the threat of a recall petition — the signatures were never turned in — and two ethics complaints filed against O’Rourke, both of which were ultimately dismissed, the El Paso Times reported.

O’Rourke went on to easily win re-election the council in 2007, defeating a challenger who had made the project an issue. It came up again in his successful 2012 bid to defeat then-U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, whose campaign raised the potential destruction of Segundo Barrio homes in an attack ad against O’Rourke.

By the end of the decade, the plan — at least as initially conceived — had lost steam. The issue was further complicated in 2009 when Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment tightening eminent domain rules in the state.

In O’Rourke’s race against Cruz, the line of attack involving eminent domain is relatively new. Before Tuesday’s ad, it was only included on a long list of O’Rourke hits featured on a website launched last week by Texans Are, the other pro-Cruz super PAC.

On the campaign trail, O’Rourke often talks about eminent domain in the context of his opposition to President Donald Trump’s proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last year, O’Rourke introduced a bill to ban eminent domain for the purpose of the wall.

Cruz supports the wall, though he does not talk much about the use of eminent domain to construct it. Some other top Texas Republicans, such as Attorney General Ken Paxtonhave said they are OK with eminent domain for the wall.

Another super PAC, Texans Are, is also planning to spend into the seven figures on the race and its first TV ads are also set to hit the air Tuesday. One of them, seen on air in San Antonio, attacks O’Rourke over his record on border security and immigration.

“Lawless borders, reckless politician — that’s Beto O’Rourke,” a narrator says in the 30-second spot.

Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

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.

Author:  PATRICK SVITEK –  The Texas Tribune

Ted Cruz Leads Beto O’Rourke by 4 points, According to NBC/Marist Poll

Just as the fall television ad wars are about to begin, a new NBC News/Marist pollof Texas registered voters shows a tight U.S. Senate race between U.S. Ted Cruzand U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso.

In a head-to-head match up, Cruz held a 4-point lead over O’Rourke. Forty-nine percent of respondents backed Cruz, compared to 45 percent who supported O’Rourke.

Six percent of respondents remain undecided. The poll has a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points.

Cruz has maintained a fairly strong favorability rating, with 49 percent of those surveyed viewing him favorably and 41 percent viewing him unfavorably.

O’Rourke is far more unknown. Forty-one percent of respondents viewed him favorably while 23 percent of those surveyed had an unfavorable view. Thirty-six percent were either unsure of their opinion of O’Rourke or hadn’t heard of him.

That there are so many remaining Texans who do not know who O’Rourke is suggests his television ad campaign strategy will be critical: He either has room to grow his support or room for Cruz’s campaign to negatively define him.

The poll also showed Texas Gov. Greg Abbott with a daunting 19-point lead over former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez, similar to other public polling of the race.

Additionally, President Donald Trump is just above water in the state: 47 percent of registered voters approve of his job performance, against a 45 percent disapproval rating.

This was a live telephone poll conducted between Aug. 12 and 16. The poll was conducted prior to Tuesday, when Trump’s former longtime attorney and former campaign chairman were separately declared guilty of various crimes.

Author: ABBY LIVINGSTON –  The Texas Tribune

Beto O’Rourke Says He’ll Start Airing TV Ads With Money Raised off Ted Cruz’s attack ads

Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, is set to start airing TV ads in his race against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz.

O’Rourke’s campaign told supporters Monday that it has placed a “$1.27 million media buy” and voters will start seeing “positive TV ads” in 20 Texas markets this week. The dollar amount represents how much O’Rourke, an El Paso congressman, raised two weekends ago in response to Cruz’s first round of TV ads, three of which targeted the challenger.

“Texans in all 254 counties of our state are proving that together, we will be the big, bold, confident answer to the small, petty, negative attacks that are coming our way,” O’Rourke said in a statement.

Whether O’Rourke would air TV ads in the race — and if so, how extensively — has been something of an open question for months. He has expressed ambivalence about the effectiveness of TV ads nowadays and talked about investing heavily in a field operation instead.

In July, O’Rourke released his first ad, a minute-long montage of his travels across the state as livestreamed on Facebook. The spot has been appearing only online.

O’Rourke’s campaign did not immediately say what the content of the TV ads would be other than that they would be positive.

Cruz’s first TV ads came out Aug. 3. O’Rourke’s campaign sought to counter them with a $1 million fundraising drive over the following weekend and ended up exceeding the target by that Sunday night, raking in $1,274,528.

Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

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

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

Cruz Suggests Mexico’s Election of “Far-Left Socialist” Lopéz Obrador Means U.S. Needs Border Wall

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Tuesday that the election of a “far-left socialist” to the Mexican presidency underscores the need for President Donald Trump’s administration to secure the border and build a wall between the United States and its southern neighbor.

Cruz said Mexican President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador, 64, had been running on an “anti-American campaign for a long, long time.”

López Obrador earned more than 50 percent of the vote count Sunday, a landslide compared to Mexico’s historical election results. He ran on a populist agenda in which he promised to put Mexico’s interests ahead of those of foreign governments and investors, leading some to label the candidate as a socialist in the mold of other Latin American leaders.

While responding to an audience question at a campaign stop Tuesday in Waco, Cruz pondered the future of U.S.-Mexico relations if López Obrador, known as “AMLO” in Mexico, were to become the equivalent of former Cuban President Fidel Castro, Venezuelan strongman Nicolás Maduro or his predecessor, Hugo Chavez.

“It could really cause a problem in terms of our relationship with Mexico if he follows through on the anti-America rhetoric,” Cruz said. In addition to the wall, Cruz also repeated his call for the federal government to increase staffing and technology on the border with Mexico.

Cruz stressed, however, that he hoped López Obrador’s fiery rhetoric was limited to campaign-trail stumping and that it would not influence his foreign policy. But the senator said an area of highest concern was López Obrador’s take on immigration.

“One of the areas that could be particularly problematic is he urged Mexicans before the election, ‘Pack up and go up north to America.’ … I’m running in the state of Texas. How would it work if I stood up and said, ‘Elect me and then get the hell out of Texas!’?” Cruz said. “What a profound statement of giving up on your country, telling your citizens, ‘Flee our country because we’re not gonna solve the problem.'”

Claims that López Obrador called for mass migration to the United States during the campaign have been debunked. Instead, PolitiFact reported that López Obrador said his party would defend the rights of migrants who have, out of necessity, left their hometowns to find a better life in the United States.

“It is a human right that we are going to defend,” he said.

López Obrador, who ran unsuccessfully in 2006 and 2012, has reportedly taken a more moderate tone since his historic victory on Sunday, calling for friendship with the United States. Still, observers are waiting to see what happens during Mexico’s five-month-long transition period, during which the president-elect will likely lay out his policy proposals and Cabinet nominees — providing a better look into his administration’s agenda.

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Author – BY JULIÁN AGUILAR AND PATRICK SVITEK

Marijuana Legalization, War on Drugs Emerge as Issues in Race Between O’Rourke, Cruz

The U.S. Senate race between Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke is trending into new territory: the war on drugs.

It is a familiar topic for O’Rourke, a Democratic congressman who has earned a national reputation as an advocate for marijuana legalization since his days on the El Paso City Council. Yet it hadn’t become an issue in the Senate contest until now, as Cruz, the Republican incumbent, ramps up his general election crusade to paint O’Rourke as too liberal for Texas.

Cruz opened the new front Tuesday as he seized on a story published by the Daily Caller, a conservative news site, that claimed O’Rourke “once advocated for the legalization of all narcotics.” The story cited an episode on the El Paso City Council in 2009 where O’Rourke successfully — and controversially — amended a resolution about the war on drugs to urge for an “honest, open national debate on ending the prohibition on narcotics.”

“Reasonable minds, perhaps, can differ on whether marijuana should be illegal, but what Congressman O’Rourke introduced was a resolution for the City Council to take up legalizing all narcotics, legalizing everything, legalizing heroin, legalizing deadly opioids,” Cruz told reporters after a campaign event in San Antonio as his Twitter account sent out a similar line of attack. “As this country is facing a crisis — an opioid crisis … and in light of that growing tragedy, Congressman O’Rourke’s radical proposal to legalize all narcotics is a suggestion that might be very popular up at Berkeley. It might be popular in far-left circles, but it doesn’t reflect the values of Texans. Texans don’t want to see heroin and deadly opioids legalized and our kids able to just walk in to the corner store and buy them.”

Despite Cruz’s telling, the resolution did not explicitly call for legalizing all drugs but rather for a conversation about it. O’Rourke said as much at a Jan. 6, 2009, council meeting, video of which accompanied the Daily Caller story.

“I’m not saying that we need to do that – to end the prohibition,” O’Rourke said. “I think we need to have a serious discussion about doing that, and that may, in the end, be the right course of action.”

The resolution was ultimately vetoed by the mayor, John Cook, after he received pressure from elected officials worried that it could cause El Paso to lose out on federal resources. Among them was U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-El Paso, who lobbied the council to vote against a subsequent effort to override Cook’s veto. Reyes, whom O’Rourke would unseat a few years later, got his way: The veto override effort was unsuccessful, though O’Rourke still voted for it.

O’Rourke would later concede that the language in the controversial amendment could have been handled better.

“It was an artless and even inaccurate amendment to the larger resolution (I only learned later that marijuana is not a narcotic, even though it was precisely that drug that I felt people would be most open to debating), but it got the point across,” O’Rourke wrote in his 2011 book, “Dealing Death and Drugs: The Big Business of Dope in the U.S. and Mexico,” which made the case for ending the federal prohibition on marijuana.

The attack is not new to O’Rourke, who faced it as he battled Reyes in 2012, ultimately dislodging the eight-term incumbent in a bitter primary. Reyes ran an ad that showed a group of young children shouting “no” and expressing disbelief as text on the screen claimed O’Rourke “wants to legalize drugs.” The fact-checking site PolitiFact rated that claim “Half True” at the time.

O’Rourke has not made marijuana legalization a major part of his U.S. Senate campaign. But at town halls and other campaign events, he does not shy away from the topic when the discussion turns toward it or when he is directly asked about it.

Such was the case Saturday morning as O’Rourke made a campaign stop in Sonora, a small city on the western edge of the Hill Country. Soon after he slid into a booth with patrons at a donut shop, he was fielding questions for several minutes about marijuana legalization.

“I’m on a bill that would end the federal prohibition on marijuana once and for all,” O’Rourke told them, later lamenting that the United States is “spending on that war on drugs right now when we could put it into the classroom, into teacher pay, into treating an opioid epidemic, a methamphetamine epidemic that I’m seeing through lots of West Texas right now.”

Cruz, for his part, has long maintained marijuana legalization should be left up to the states, though he personally opposes it. He reiterated that position while speaking with reporters Tuesday in San Antonio.

“I don’t support drug legalization,” Cruz said. “I think drug legalization ends up harming people. I think it particularly hurts young people. It traps them in addiction.”

On marijuana, Cruz added: “I’ve always said that should be a question for the states. I think different states can resolve it differently. So in Texas — if we were voting on it in Texas — I would vote against legalizing it. But I think it’s the prerogative of Texans to make that decision, and I think another state like Colorado can make a very different decision.”

While O’Rourke did not directly respond Tuesday to Cruz’s criticism over the council resolution, the El Paso congressman — coincidentally, apparently — got the endorsement on the same day of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. The group, which supported O’Rourke when he first ran for Congress, hailed him as a “true champion for abolishing our disastrous prohibition on marijuana since the very beginning of his political career as a city council member in El Paso.”

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Author: PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

Analysis: A Poll Showing a Close Race in Texas, if Most Texans Voted

You probably saw the new Texas political survey from Quinnipiac released last week — the one that had Democrat Beto O’Rourke running just a few percentage points behind Republican Ted Cruz in this year’s U.S. Senate race.

Heady stuff, or scary stuff, depending on your team.

It’s from a highly regarded polling operation, but there are a couple of caveats that ought to figure into your jubilation/trepidation. The biggest is that the poll included a lot of Texans who have never been in a voting booth and likely never will be.

Also, this is a springtime poll. Lots of voters who actually will show up on Election Day have no more idea how they’ll vote on Nov. 6 than they know what they’ll have for lunch that day.

Partisans know. People acquainted with the candidates know. But political predilections are hard to nail down. People change their minds, candidates make mistakes, circumstances change. Take a look at this riff on springtime pollingfrom the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin (the authors are on the team that conducts the University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll) and you can see the difference between what the state’s voters have said months before elections and how they’ve actually voted.

Second, this new poll was a survey of registered voters, as opposed to a survey of likely voters. The difference is immense. Texas has 15.2 million registered voters, according to the secretary of state. Just over 9 million voted in the 2016 election, and presidential elections get the biggest turnouts. In 2014, which was a midterm election year like the year we’re in now, 4.7 million people voted. The folks at Quinnipiac also noted that 53 percent of the registered voters in Texas didn’t yet have an impression of O’Rourke. He’s never run statewide, after all, never been on a ballot outside of El Paso County, and he’s not in the hot part of the campaign season yet.

That’s all pretty normal, but it tells you where the holes are in any early survey of this broad a pool of voters.

Or, as it turns out, non-voters. Low turnout is a perennial problem across the country, but Texas outdoes most states — in the wrong way. (Shout out to Hawaii for beating us: Thanks!)

Here’s a simple political maxim: If you don’t vote, you don’t matter.

You don’t have power until and unless you exercise it.

Protesting, marching and speaking out isn’t voting. It’s useful. Sometimes it gets people to vote. Sometimes it reminds the pinheads in the capitols in Texas and Washington, D.C., who they’re working for and that their bosses vote. But people and factions that don’t vote have no juice. Nobody cares. They’re civic toddlers: noisy, cranky and a general pain in the back. Nobody is about to hand them the car keys.

Nobody listened to the Tea Party until the 2010 elections. Up until that election, smarty-pants insiders and officeholders regarded those folks as cranks. After that election, they were recognized as essential members of the conservative movement.

They got into the game in the easiest way possible. They engaged.

Non-voters get their power when they do the boring, clerk-like chore of registering to vote, showing up to vote and voting in a way that makes people listen.

Politicians are responsive. Honest. You can tell when you try to get them to do something that crosses their masters. The only way to change what they’re doing is to master the masters: Outnumber them. The only way to do that is to go to the polls.

It’s a free country, and you don’t have to vote. Everybody has friends who can yammer at length about how little a vote is worth. Those are the people the officeholders ignore whenever they can, like a vegetarian ignores the butcher.

Nothing happens to politicians who ignore non-voters, unless they get so far off road that those people become voters. In the meantime, ignoring non-voters gives them more time to listen to the other voters and to the interest groups that might or might not have things going in the direction you’d like things to go.

The people who got into office when those folks weren’t voting would generally prefer that those folks stick to their habits — forever. They didn’t need them to get where they are, and new entries into the game are potentially threatening to their careers. Want to protect them? Stay home. Watch TV. Mind your flower bed or your video game. Nobody cares what you do if you don’t vote.

Texas Democrats have a slogan that “Texas isn’t a red state — it’s a non-voting state.” Republicans like to say people don’t vote because they’re happy with the way things are going.

It’s hard to tell, unless you look at polls that include everyone who’s registered to vote, not just those likely to do so. Among those people, in Texas, in springtime, Cruz is three percentage points ahead of O’Rourke, according to the latest Quinnipiac University Poll.

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin 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.

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Author: ROSS RAMSEY – The Texas Tribune

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