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Tuesday , November 13 2018
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Ted Cruz Defeats Beto O’Rourke in Re-Election Fight

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, narrowly defeated Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke Tuesday evening in what appeared likely to be one of the closest U.S Senate races in Texas in decades.

With more than 60 percent of precincts reporting in Texas, Cruz had a four-point lead over O’Rourke.

While Cruz had a strong showing across most of rural Texas, O’Rourke narrowed the margin by winning urban counties and coming within striking distance in some Texas suburbs.

Graphic courtesy Texas Tribune

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Delivering his victory speech at about 10 p.m., Cruz cast the race in dramatic terms, saying it was not about either candidate but a “battle of ideas” and a “contest for who we are and what we believe in.”

“This was an election about hope and about the future of Texas,” Cruz said, “and the people of Texas rendered a verdict that we want a future with more jobs and more security and more freedom.”

Cruz thanked O’Rourke, saying he “poured his heart” into the campaign and “worked tirelessly,” making sacrifices as a father. Acknowledging that “millions across this state were inspired by his campaign,” Cruz appealed to O’Rourke’s supporters, saying he wanted to represent them too.

Cruz did not hold back about the challenge he said he faced, though.

“We saw an assault that was unprecedented,” Cruz said. “We saw a $100 million race with Hollywood coming in against the state, with the national media coming in against the state. But all the money in the world was no match for the good people of Texas and the hard work.”

Cruz’s speech followed a three-hour roller-coaster for those watching results trickle in, as Cruz and O’Rourke repeatedly traded narrow leads.

At about 9:25 p.m., Cruz’s supporters at his Election Night party in a Houston hotel broke out in cheers and a chant of “Cruuuz!” as Fox News called the race for him. “We want Ted!” supporters shouted as they moved closer to the stage, hoping to hear from the victor.

It was a dramatic shift from shortly before 9 p.m., when Cruz’s chief strategist, Jeff Roe, took the stage to address concerned supporters looking at returns that showed O’Rourke in reach of a historic upset. Roe told them “everything’s good” and said the campaign expected Cruz’s lead to grow once the results in more rural counties came in.

“Anybody that’s really clenched — you can release a little bit — it’s OK,” Roe said, suggesting he nonetheless expected to be “in for a little bit of a night.”

The mood at the O’Rourke election night party in El Paso was upbeat well into the evening. But the mood quickly soured once it became clear that most news outlets had called the race in favor of Cruz.

“I’m very surprised. I’m very disappointed,” said 80-year-old Olivia Lara, an O’Rourke supporter who said she votes in every election. “He worked so hard. It’s very sad for El Paso.”

Cruz supporters acknowledged being spooked as the first early vote results came in, giving O’Rourke a lead.

“At first I was a little worried, but we knew that after the big cities were done, that the rural counties would pull us in,” said Mike Diaz, a 39-year-old engineer from Cypress.

As for the closer-than-usual margin of victory for a statewide Texas Republican, Diaz and other Cruz backers chalked it up to financial firepower that O’Rourke brought to the race.

“It was a good, hard-fought battle, but they dumped so much money and so much advertising — they made it close,” Diaz said.

The race between Cruz and O’Rourke emerged in recent months as the hottest in the country during this midterm election season, as O’Rourke, a relatively unknown congressman just two years ago, cobbled together the most competitive statewide campaign by a Texas Democrat in over a decade. As Election Day drew closer and polls suggested a tightening race, Democratic hopes abounded that O’Rourke was cracking the code: energizing long-beleaguered Texas Democrats, expanding the electorate and putting himself in position to be the first of them to win statewide office in over two decades.

After making little secret of his intentions for months, O’Rourke entered the race on the last day of March 2017, announcing his campaign alongside his wife in El Paso. He laid down some early markers, promising to run a positive campaign, not accept PAC money and eschew pollsters and consultants.

For a period, the prospect of a competitive primary loomed as U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio considered a run as well. But about a month after O’Rourke launched his bid, Castro passed on a run, giving O’Rourke a relatively clear shot at the nomination.

O’Rourke immediately got to work on an ambitious goal: visiting all 254 counties of Texas. That push defined much of the first half of his campaign as he racked up thousands of miles holding town halls throughout the state, building the case that he would be the senator who would show up for all of Texas.

Heading into the March 6 primary, there was little concern O’Rourke would dominate in his first statewide test. But he received an underwhelming 62 percent of the vote, with most of the rest going to two unknown candidates. He also lost a number of heavily Hispanic counties in South Texas, auguring concerns about his ability to turn out the demographic long believed to be key to a Democratic revival in the state.

The night of the primary was notable for another reason: Cruz abruptly went on the offensive against O’Rourke after months of largely ignoring him. In a conference call shortly before polls closed, Cruz unloaded on O’Rourke as too liberal for Texas, and in an ad released later that night, mocked him for using the nickname “Beto” when his legal name is Robert Francis. (“Beto” is a Spanish nickname that the congressman has gone by since his youth.)

The following month, Cruz formally launched his re-election bid with a focus on extolling Lone Star State exceptionalism — especially in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. It was an ostensibly unifying message that complemented Cruz’s new campaign slogan — “Tough as Texas” — and punctuated a period of home-state re-engagement following his unsuccessful 2016 presidential campaign.

O’Rourke pressed forward with his 254-county tour. He completed it on June 9 in Gainesville, the seat of Cooke County, and did not let up afterward, continuing to keep an aggressive travel schedule that attracted growing national spotlight. It only grew brighter by mid-August, when O’Rourke’s remarks at a town hall defending NFL players who kneel during the National Anthem went viral.

By late summer, the mood of the race started to change. Things were tightening, according to surveys, and national Republicans began to develop some concern that it was getting too close for comfort.

The alarm was not helped by O’Rourke’s massive fundraising, which poured in online. He was outraising Cruz period after period, and he posted an astonishing $38 million in the third quarter of 2018 — a new record for the biggest fundraising quarter ever in a U.S. Senate race.

The GOP calvary began to mobilize. The Club for Growth, a conservative group that was critical to Cruz’s 2012 election, announced it would spend seven figures to help fend off O’Rourke, and a parade of high-profile surrogates began to form.

None, of course, was more high-profile than President Donald Trump, who Cruz bitterly battled in the fight for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. At the end of August, the president took to Twitter to announce he would headline a rally for Cruz in October — and he wanted to do it in the “biggest stadium” he could find in Texas. The two ended up reuniting on the first day of early voting — Oct. 22 — at the Toyota Center in Houston, where the president made clear they had buried the hatchet from 2016 and happily attacked O’Rourke as a “stone-cold phony.”

The fall also saw two debates between Cruz and O’Rourke, the product of grueling, months-long negotiations between the two sides. Meeting first in Dallas, O’Rourke displayed a more aggressive approach to Cruz, but it still left some supporters unsatisfied, especially as O’Rourke was getting buried by attack ads on TV while running exclusively positive spots. So in the second debate, held in San Antonio, O’Rourke swung harder at Cruz — to the point of adopting Trump’s old nickname for the senator: “Lyin’ Ted.”

Strategically, it was a pivotal moment for O’Rourke, and it was followed the next morning by the launch of three TV ads criticizing Cruz, a test of O’Rourke’s longtime vow to take the high road. Around the time, Cruz was riding high off the GOP enthusiasm generated by anger over Brett Kavanuagh’s confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court, and he gleefully portrayed O’Rourke’s new tack as the hallmark of a flailing candidate.

But Cruz’s high was not forever. Polls suggested his lead began to narrow again during early voting, which itself was a key moment. Turnout was comparable to that of a presidential election year, with nearly 5 million Texans voting early in the 30 Texas counties where most registered voters in the state live.

Earlier at O’Rourke’s election night party, some were already preparing for Cruz’s eventual victory, predicting that O’Rourke’s bid will likely be viewed as having paved the way for a future Democrat to win statewide.

“Even if he doesn’t get over the finish line, he’s laid a foundation we can build upon,” said Julián Castro, the former U.S. housing secretary and San Antonio mayor.

At one point later in the evening, a cover band played “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

Julian Aguilar contributed to this report.

Read related Tribune coverage

Authors:  ABBY LIVINGSTON AND PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

Beto O’Rourke Says he Raised Staggering $6.7M in First Quarter of 2018

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, raised over $6.7 million for his U.S. Senate bid in the first quarter of 2018, according to his campaign, a staggering number that poses a new category of threat to Republican incumbent Ted Cruz.

The haul is easily O’Rourke’s biggest fundraising quarter yet, more than double his next-closest total for a three-month period. It also is more than any Democratic Senate candidate nationwide took in last quarter, O’Rourke’s campaign said.

Cruz has not released his first-quarter fundraising numbers yet, but O’Rourke’s $6.7 million total is on a different level than his previous hauls, which ranged from $1.7 million to $2.4 million. Those alone were good enough to outraise Cruz for three of the last four reporting periods.

Furthermore, the $6.7 million total came from more than 141,000 contributions — another record-busting number for O’Rourke.

“Campaigning in a grassroots fashion while raising more than $6.7 million from 141,000 contributions, we are the story of a campaign powered by people who are standing up to special interests, proving that we are more than a match and making it clear that Texans are willing to do exactly what our state and country need of us at this critical time,” O’Rourke said in a statement.

O’Rourke’s campaign released the fundraising statistics Tuesday morning ahead of the April 15 deadline to report it to the Federal Election Commission. Cruz has not offered any numbers for the full quarter, though he disclosed raising $803,000 through the first 45 days of the year — a fraction of O’Rourke’s $2.3 million for the same timeframe.

On Tuesday morning, O’Rourke’s team did not volunteer its cash-on-hand figure, but the $6.7 million raised is likely to go a long way toward closing his deficit with Cruz in money to spend. As of mid-February, O’Rourke had $4.9 million in the bank to Cruz’s $6 million.

O’Rourke unveiled the $6.7 million figure on the second day of a three-day, 12-city trip by Cruz to mark the official start of his re-election campaign. O’Rourke is also hitting the road — he plans to hold town halls in 15 cities over the next six days.

Author:  PATRICK SVITEK – The Texas Tribune

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