Some encouraging news today out of Texas:
A new Vox Populi poll in Texas finds Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in a dead heat with challenger Beto O’Rourke (D) in the U.S. Senate race, 50% to 50%.
I can believe it’s this tight because 538 breaks down how O’Rourke has been successful in defining himself to the voters:
O’Rourke is a pretty good candidate in a race that was supposed to be a slam dunk for Republicans. He’s raised more than any other Democratic candidate for Senate this cycle — $23 million — and has packaged his progressive identity into something that (he hopes) is accepted just as readily by the Democratic base as it is by independent voters who still haven’t made up their minds. GOP attack ads have tried to paint the Democrat as outside the mainstream, despite the fact that the 2018 iteration of O’Rourke is more suburban dad than anything else, the type whose most countercultural tendency is probably owning a monthly pass to a rock-climbing gym.
Recent surveys seem to indicate that independents will help determine the close race. A Dixie Strategies poll from early September showed Cruz and O’Rourke nearly tied among independents, with 20 percent of them yet to make up their minds. That poll and others have showed Cruz struggling with independent voters (only 2 percent didn’t have an opinion of him), while O’Rourke’s numbers with independents showed there’s room for him to make a good impression (a full 23 percent were undecided on how they felt about him). A Rasmussen/Pulse Opinion Research poll from early September showed O’Rourke winning independents 46 percent to Cruz’s 39 percent, and even found that 15 percent of Republicans said they’d vote for O’Rourke. A more recent poll that showed Cruz leading overall also showed O’Rourke ahead among independents.
O’Rourke is going out of his way not to bust up his hopes with Texas’s independent voters, who, in that red state, might tend toward the more conservative end of the political spectrum (52 percent of the state’s independent voters chose Trump in the 2016 election). His rhetoric of togetherness seems clearly aimed at this demographic. “You cannot be too much of a Republican, you can’t be too blue of a Democrat, too much of an independent. You can’t be in prison for too many years, you can’t be too undocumented to be worth fighting for. It is for everyone,” O’Rourke said of his campaign in a speech this summer. His earnest varnish is polished to its highest shine. When baited with questions that could easily lead to Trump-bashing, O’Rourke instead talks about the importance of having “unguarded moments with one another.” The across-the-aisle-guy label is important to his brand — O’Rourke had his first viral moment back in 2017 when he took a cross-country road trip with another Texas congressman, a Republican.
The trick with branding, of course, is that it changes with the times. O’Rourke hasn’t always been allergic to PAC money. He won his first congressional election by defeating an eight-term Democratic incumbent. In that campaign, O’Rourke used money from a super PAC bent on prying longtime representatives from their seats. O’Rourke’s father-in-law, a wealthy real estate developer, gave the PAC $18,750 after maxing out his personal donation to the campaign.
One of O’Rourke’s political assets is his ability to trumpet progressive ideas and a bipartisan spirit at a time when political tribalism and racial tensions are rife. That is in part because he is white and America — and the Democratic Party — seems to have a soft spot for young white men running for office. O’Rourke looks like generations of white male politicians, but he’s advocating for societal changes meant to benefit minorities and disenfranchised immigrants. He’s called for single-payer health care and the expansion of Medicaid, he wrote a book on the drug war, he has made legalizing marijuana a campaign issue, and he wants citizenship for immigrants who were brought to the country illegally as children.
O’Rourke’s embrace of Latino culture has stood out during the campaign. Much has been made of that fact that he goes by his childhood nickname, Beto, which is a Spanish diminutive for “Roberto.” Robert Francis O’Rourke is Irish-American, but he grew up in the heavily Latino border town of El Paso and became Beto early on. Cruz (full name Rafael Edward Cruz) has tried to use O’Rourke’s nickname against the congressman as a way to prove he’s pandering to the state’s skyrocketing Latino population. Texas is 39 percent Latino and a harbinger of America’s demographic future. Population projections estimate that the state’s Latino population could surpass the state’s white population as early as 2020 or 2022, while it’s estimated that the U.S. as a whole will become majority-minority by 2045.
Note, though, what O’Rourke’s nickname says about the ways that assimilation has changed in America. Joe Kennedy made sure that his children went to boarding school and college among America’s high WASP set so they’d be taken seriously. It worked — one became president. Beto is a nickname he comes by honestly, but it’s also a boon for O’Rourke to be comfortable with a community whose political clout will only increase in Texas.
Texas Rep. Joaquín Castro (D) and his brother, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro, will join Senate candidate Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D) at campaign stops along the Texas border, O'Rourke's team announced Thursday.
The trip with the Castro brothers will come after O'Rourke's first debate with incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz (R), scheduled for Friday.
Polls have shown Cruz and O'Rourke in a tight race in deep-red Texas, and the Hispanic vote could be key to November's results.
Reps. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso and Joaquin Castro of San Antonio are among several Texas Democrats calling for a deeper Customs and Border Protection investigation into Juan David Ortiz, a longtime Border Patrol agent accused of killing four women this month in and around Laredo.
Ortiz, 35, had worked for CBP for 10 years, most recently as an intelligence supervisor. In a letter to CBP Commissioner Kevin McAleenan, the congress members asked CBP to determine if Ortiz was acting in his official capacity during the murders, if he used government equipment or databases to carry out the crimes, and if the department missed potential warning signs.
“Like you, our priority is to provide for the well-being and safety of the populations we serve. To do so, we must learn from any mistakes made in this case,” the letter says.
After weeks of planning, the debate between Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Beto O'Rourke is finally here.
On Friday night, the two Senate candidates will faceoff in Dallas at 6:00 p.m. to discuss domestic policy.
A number of networks will also be televising the event, like KTRK (ABC 13), Univision and KXAN.
So let’s keep up the moment and keep his campaign well fueled. Click here to donate and get involved with Beto’s campaign.