It seems like the Democratic party has allowed themselves to dream big and to try and unseat a sitting senator in deep red Texas. Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas republican, failed presidential candidate, and purveyor of government shutdowns) seems to be in the middle of the toughest fight of his political career, or at least that is what the Democrats would like for you to believe. Democrats are on the hunt for a senate majority and leaders of the party want you to know that Texas is very much in play. Why? One man: Beto O’Rourke.
Rep. Beto O’Rourke is the young (45 years old) and hip Democrat who is giving all of Texas the vapors. O’Rourke entered politics back in 2005 when he defeated a two-term incumbent to become the youngest representative to serve on the El Paso City Council. In 2012 O’Rourke won his congressional seat by primarying an eight-term congressman. Back in March of 2017, O’Rourke announced his plans to challenge incumbent Republican senator, Ted Cruz (this guy loves taking out incumbents, apparently), for his seat.
The Democratic party quickly latched on to the young congressman and made him a national figure. O’Rourke sailed to a primary victory back in March and has been ascending in recent state polling, but the question remains… who is Beto?
The answer is sort of underwhelming. O’Rourke is the son of a Judge, a former bassist (strike one, Beto), and has a nearly non-existent private sector background. Beto seemed to be a bit directionless until he found his bearings while running for City Council.
I don’t knock career politicians, and I don’t understand the fervor against people who know they have a skill set in governance. O’Rourke has created a nearly spotless record while in Government (a lot to disagree with, but no apparent improprieties). Cruz, who prefers personal attacks over a policy debate, has been left to latch onto strained lines of attack like “Beto” is not really his first name but is in fact a nickname and irrelevant hits on O’Rourke’s mom.
The major scandal in O’Rourke’s history happened in his personal life back when the congressman was in his mid-20’s. It was September 1998, O’Rourke was speeding down the I-10, about a mile from the New Mexico border, when he lost control of his vehicle and hit a truck. His car was then sent barreling over the center median and into oncoming traffic. Soon after the crash, O’Rourke tried to flee the scene by driving away. O’Rourke was drunk at the wheel. Arrested at the scene and charged with a DWI, O’Rourke completed a court-approved diversion program and had the charges dismissed.
This scandal has yet to have any effect his political career. The DWI was used against him during his congressional campaign but O’Rourke waved away the accusations of misconduct as just youthful idiocy. Voters seemed to agree with him.
Perhaps it is Cruz’s inability to find an attack that sticks to O’Rourke, or perhaps it’s O’Rourke’s own skill as a politician that’s to be credited, but polls have been tightening in Texas. Where once Republicans thought they had a safe seat, now many are seeing the threat O’Rourke poses to Cruz. A new Emmerson College poll this week shows O’Rourke behind Cruz by just one point. An average of the polls taken in the month of August shows Cruz leading by only three points. O’Rourke has also raised more money for his campaign than Cruz. O’Rourke has brought in $23.6 million (the third largest of all senate candidates) while Cruz has only been able to manage $15.6 million.
So things are looking bleak for Cruz, right? Not so fast. While Cruz is in a precarious position, one would be remiss to count the Senator out. Cruz is a savvy politician and his 2012 campaign demonstrated how formidable the man can be. Democrats underestimate Cruz at their own peril, preferring to seem him as a clownish figure instead of the Texas political powerhouse he is. The fact is, in recent polling, 38 percent of Texans either had a neutral feeling about O’Rourke or said they had not heard of him at all. 38 percent is a lot of rope for Cruz to work with. While none of Cruz’s attacks have landed yet, that is not to say Cruz won’t be able to find something that will stick between now and November.
Furthermore, Cruz is no stranger to the debate stage. Cruz participated in twelve presidential debates in 2016 alone (that is not including forums), CNN debates against far-left senator Bernie Sanders, and has argued nine cases in front of the Supreme Court. This is just a small sample of some of the debates Cruz has gotten himself into. O’Rourke, on the other hand, has next to no meaningful debate history.
O’Rourke is probably aware of this weakness because he has already backed out of one of six planed debates that was scheduled for today (August 31st).
While O’Rourke is an impressive candidate, I would still be surprised if he managed to unseat Cruz. I’m always open to being wrong, but my prediction is Cruz maintains his seat this November.