Incumbent candidate Sen. Ted Cruz and challanger Democrat Rep. Beto O’Rourke are campaigning against each other.
Cruz is getting the boot from Beto
Democratic candidate Robert “Beto” O’Rourke is campaigning to unseat Republican incumbent Rafael “Ted” Cruz in the upcoming Texas Senate election, and he just might do it.
O’Rourke has consistently trailed Cruz by a narrow voter gap, according to various online polls. A recent poll by Reuters and the University of Virginia had O’Rourke overtake Cruz by 2 percentage points on Sept. 19, with a 3.5 percentage point margin of error.
O’Rourke’s appeal lies in his positive approach in an especially conflicted and cutthroat political climate. Republicans and Democrats are increasingly more divided and political animosity has deepened in the past 20 years, according to the Pew Research Center.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand,” President Abraham Lincoln famously said, a quote especially relevant during a time when many believe the U.S. hasn’t been this polarized since the Civil War.
Cruz’s strategy is to capitalize on the climate of animosity and run a personal attack campaign directly against O’Rourke, including digging up old photos of O’Rourke in a ska band and running TV ads accusing him of various nefarious activities. Some of Cruz’s accusations, such as a tweet claiming O’Rourke proposed a resolution to legalize all narcotics, including heroin, has already been debunked as false by PolitiFact.
On the other hand, O’Rourke wants to have a different kind of conversation.
“We’re all Americans,” O’Rourke frequently says along his campaign stops. “We’re all Texans. We’re all human beings.” His message resonates with many Texans tired of rhetoric based on hate and fear.
O’Rourke rarely mentions Cruz during his rallies. Though, Cruz frequently mocks O’Rourke, including declaring O’Rourke will ban barbeque if elected.
O’Rourke’s unusual campaign strategy has led to his unprecedented success.
“It gives you a certain freedom to run your own race,” O’Rourke told the Houston Chronicle.
He’s rejected the usual Democrat methods of political triangulation and heavy focus on blue-moderate metroplexes.
Instead, O’Rourke toured all 254 Texas counties to talk openly about his progressive stances on divisive issues, such as gun control, universal health care, climate change, marijuana legalization and immigration. His strategy is to talk honestly about his policies instead of employing political spin. He even visited solidly red counties he has no chance of winning.
In February, Cruz voted against a policy by President Donald Trump that would allow nearly 2 million undocumented immigrants to pursue legal citizenship, calling it “Obama’s amnesty.” Cruz also believes children brought illegally into the country by their parents should be denied citizenship and deported, according to The Hill.
“Beto wants those open borders and wants to take our guns,” Cruz’s radio ad sang during the March primaries. When asked to compose a punk rock reply on-air by an anchor, O’Rourke refused.
“We can get into name calling and focus on why the other person is such an awful guy, or we can focus on the big things,” O’Rourke said to the anchor.
In June, O’Rourke led hundreds of people protesting the family separation policy in 100 degree heat on Father’s Day. The protest took place in Tornillo, Texas, which was reported by The Texas Tribune to have a detention camp holding immigrant children. Tornillo is 40 miles from El Paso, where O’Rourke’s family has lived for four generations.
O’Rourke opposes the border wall plan. Cruz approves it. Various polls show Texans are mostly split on the issue. According to Politico’s voting data, during the 2016 presidential election, 10 of the 14 Texas-Mexico border counties flipped blue and backed Clinton over Trump.
According to The Texas Tribune, O’Rourke refuses to take funding from political action committees, or PACs, for his campaign, and has raised $8 million more than Cruz, who so far, has received over $4 million from PACs.
Cruz claims O’Rourke appropriated Beto, a common Spanish nickname for Robert, just to appeal to Latino voters. But he’s had that name for a while. O’Rourke tweeted a photo of himself as a young child wearing a sweater with “Beto” stitched across the front. Cruz’s first name is Rafael. He used the name Rafael until he was in junior high school.
During their first campaign debate Sept. 21, Cruz, a conservative incumbent in a red state with the backing of PACs and the U.S. president, still could not win a decisive rhetorical victory over O’Rourke, a progressive Democrat with a single campaign account and skepticism from his own party.
Nothing quite captured the essence of their character and campaign trails like the end of their first debate, where moderators asked them to compliment each other.
O’Rourke thanked Cruz for sacrificing family time to serve the country. Cruz called O’Rourke a socialist.
“True to form,” O’Rourke said.
Beto is Cruz’n for a bruisin’
John C. McClanahan
For Democrats, winning over Texas voters is like climbing the Matterhorn without a pickaxe. The state is too conservative.
For over a year, Sen. Ted Cruz has campaigned against Rep. Beto O’Rourke to retain his seat representing Texas in the U.S. Senate. As the 2018 midterm election approaches, a Sept. 18 poll drafted by Quinnipiac University put Cruz ahead of O’Rourke by nine points, according to The Dallas Morning News.
But the race for the U.S. Senate seat in Texas is closer than one might assume. An online survey by Ipsos, a market research company, put O’Rourke up 2 percentage points over Cruz among likely voters, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Progressives believe O’Rourke’s blueback boots are a better fit for Texas’ place in the Senate. But incumbent Republican candidate Cruz still has a better chance to win.
To take down Cruz, O’Rourke will have to convince voters that Texas needs swift social and political change spawned by progressive agenda – something Democrats have struggled to do in Republican-dominated Texas for over two decades. O’Rourke’s chances seem unlikely.
A Democratic senator has not represented Texas since Bob Krueger did in 1993. And a Democrat has not won a senate seat in Texas since Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, who secured four consecutive elections from 1970 to 1988, before resigning to become U.S. Secretary of the Treasury in 1993. But Texas’ lack of support for Democrats in the Senate is not slowing O’Rourke’s ambition.
“I think Texas is going to do something really important for the country this year,” O’Rourke said in an interview with Vice News. “We’re running a campaign unlike any other Texas has ever seen, and perhaps, unlike any the country has ever seen. No PACs. It is really just the people of this state who I am visiting, listening to, understanding and fighting for that will make the difference.”
O’Rourke attempted to connect with communities across Texas, but his too-cool-for-school attitude, casual swearing during speeches and DUI arrest mugshot might convince several Texans, who pride morality and traditional values, to keep clinging to conservatism.
Though, he tried to charm as many as he could visiting all 254 Texas counties, a strategy deviating from what other Democrat candidates did in previous elections, according to The Texas Tribune.
“I don’t know if I’m going to win more votes than the last Democrat who ran in those counties, but I know that not enough Democrats have been showing up in those counties in the first place,” O’Rourke said in an interview with Vice News.
NOT BLUE ENOUGH
O’Rourke, who was born and raised in El Paso, might sway voters in Bexar, Travis, Dallas and Harris counties – regions that mostly voted Democrat in the 2016 presidential election – but he struggles to gain statewide mass appeal, according to Vice News.
“This is Texas,” Cruz said during a campaign rally in Gonzales, Texas, a mostly Republican city between Houston and San Antonio. “And in Texas, there are a whole lot more conservatives then there are liberals.”
Cruz is right. He has more support. O’Rourke’s ticket might be too radical for Texans situated in the state’s heartland. There’s a criteria traditional Texans set for political leaders, and O’Rourke’s progressive ideas might fail to resonate in a red state.
More importantly, his push for a Democratic blue wave to crest in Texas has not deterred conservatives, such as Cruz, from fighting to keep the status quo.
Cruz’s appeal to more traditional communities, who adhere to his conservative values, will keep him in Congress.
These predominately Republican communities have promoted Texas-sized congressional conservatism for over 25 years. Obviously, this is good news for Cruz, who has modeled his political figure after Republican traditionalism.
One could appreciate the rhetoric in Cruz’s recent tweet regarding the future of Texas barbeque if O’Rourke is elected. “@peta protested our town hall yesterday, handing out barbecued tofu,” he tweeted. “We were glad to welcome them, but it illustrates the stakes of the election. If Beto wins, BBQ will be illegal!”
Perhaps the senator from Houston was asking Texans if they were willing to give up some of their most cherished traditions, such as big barbeque cook-outs, for new customs to surface upon fluctuation in Texas’ political culture. According to USA Today, Cruz said liberals across the country sent millions of dollars to turn Texas into a blue state like California, with 10-gallon hats and barbeque replaced with dyed-hair and tofu.
In addition, Cruz has described an Americana aesthetic associated with his home state.
“Texas is America on steroids,” Cruz said in an article in The New York Times. “The ethos of our state is, ‘Give me a horse and a gun and an open plain and we can conquer the world.’”
Cruz’s cowboy, crusader-like motto is why Texas continues to preserve yesteryear’s American culture amidst today’s changing political climate. It’s almost as if Cruz and Texas met on a dating app, hooked up and married after he became a member of the U.S. Senate in 2013. The two are a match, leaving O’Rourke to be swiped right this election. So, come November, based on a popular apparatus for conservativism to thrive in Texas, Cruz will most likely stay in Washington D.C.