TX-Sen: FiveThirtyEight.com, “Why Our Model Thinks Beto O’Rourke (D) Really Has A Chance In Texas”

FiveThirtyEight.com has a great piece that makes a strong case that Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D. TX) has a great shot at unseating the incumbent U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R. TX). Here’s how Nate Silver has a great breakdown:

Some factors hurting Cruz have nothing to do with Cruz himself, but rather with the state of Texas. Historically, the incumbency advantage is larger in small, idiosyncratic states and smaller in larger, more diverse ones. This is why Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono’s incumbency advantage in Hawaii is much larger than Cruz’s in Texas or Sen. Bill Nelson’s in Florida, for example. In addition, Congress’s overall approval rating is low, which hurts incumbents in all states and all parties.

Still, Texas is a red state — redder in statewide elections than in presidential ones, in fact — and Cruz won by a fairly healthy (although by no means overwhelming) margin in 2012. That ought to be enough to offset a blue national environment as measured by the generic congressional ballot. If you add up the first four indicators in the table — incumbency, state partisanship, Cruz’s previous margin of victory and the generic ballot — they’d project him to win by about 9 percentage points.2012 by 16 percentage points, and the political environment as measured by the generic ballot is about 7 percentage points more Democratic now than it was back then.

It’s the other factors that push the race toward toss-up status, however. When a challenger has previously held an elected office, they tend to perform better with each level higher that office is. To run for Senate, O’Rourke is giving up his seat in the U.S. House, which is a higher office than had been held by Cruz’s 2012 opponent, Paul Sadler, a former state representative. Strong incumbents tend to deter strong challengers from entering the race, but Cruz wasn’t able to do so this time. Cruz also has a very conservative voting record, one that is perhaps “too conservative” even for Texas. The model actually penalizes O’Rourke slightly for his DUI scandal, but because the scandal has been public knowledge for a long time, the model discounts its importance.

Fundraising is another influential factor hurting Cruz. Ordinarily, you’d expect an incumbent to have a pretty healthy fundraising advantage. Instead, O’Rourke had more than doubled Cruz in dollars raised from individual contributors as of the end of the last filing period on June 30 — an advantage that will probably only increase once the campaigns file their next fundraising reports, which will cover up through Sept. 30. (Our model considers money raised from individual contributors only — not PACs, parties or self-funding.) If fundraising were even, Cruz would still lead in our fundamentals calculation by 4 percentage points, but O’Rourke’s money advantage is enough to bring the overall fundamentals forecast to a dead heat.

One could get into some pretty good arguments about exactly how fundraising should be included in the model. Should out-of-state or out-of-district contributions get less weight, for example? Are Republican donors contributing less in the post-Citizens United era because they expect super PACs to fill in the gaps for them? Still, individual fundraising totals have one really nice quality, which is that they represent hard evidence — tangible action undertaken by individual voters. If you thought you could never trust the polls, fundraising might be one of the first things you’d look at instead. And the fundraising numbers have generally been really good for Democrats, in Texas and in other races for Congress, perhaps reflecting their enthusiasm advantage.

FiveThirtyEight currently gives Cruz a 3.3 point lead. Click here to read the full fundamentals about their polling.

Silver makes the case that Cruz is a weak incumbent and Cruz has been making the headlines continuing to make an ass of himself. Especially when it comes to the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. Kudos to ThinkProgress for capturing this:

Cruz argued that if Kavanaugh was really a sexual predator, he’d likely face multiple allegations.

“All of us know from human experience that if someone is a sexual predator and someone is committing the actions that had been alleged, that it is very rare that they are a one-time offender,” Cruz said. “If someone is carrying out this conduct, they have a pattern of doing so over and over and over. We have seen powerful men throughout society, in politics and journalism and Hollywood, whose careers have been ended, but ended for a pattern of harassment and abuse that typically extends decades. When someone behaves like this, they behave like this over and over. There’s no credible indication that that’s occurred.”

There’s just one problem — three women have now independently come forward to accuse Kavanaugh of assault or misconduct. So Cruz’s suggestion that Ford’s allegation isn’t part of “a pattern” is bogus.

And kudos to The Huffington Post for capturing this:

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Cruz lamented to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday that even if Kavanaugh is confirmed as a justice, he and his family will still have to deal with the social consequences of him being accused of sexually assaulting and harassing women when he was in high school and college ― allegations Cruz dismissed as “sensational” and “ludicrous.”

“Judge Kavanaugh has two young daughters, a 10-year-old and a 13-year-old,” Cruz said. “For the rest of their lives, their daughters will go to school, will interact with people, many of whom are convinced their father is a rapist.”

Kavanaugh may never again be able to teach at Harvard Law School, Cruz also pointed out, calling the judge’s description of his Harvard teaching career  “some of the most poignant testimony yesterday.” (Christine Blasey Ford, whose testimony preceded Kavanaugh’s, described, in detail, being sexually assaulted at age 15 while the two boys in the room laughed at her, and how it affected the rest of her life.)

“It is entirely possible those on the left would say we don’t want someone we believe to be a rapist ever teaching again,” Cruz said.

“[Judge Kavanaugh] also talked about how much he has loved coaching girls basketball, coaching his daughters in basketball. And he mentioned he may never coach again.”

Cruz added: “It might well be in this tribalized, partisan-divided world that the parents of the other girls say, ‘No, we don’t want him as a coach anymore.’ Our words and actions have consequences.”

Click the Huffington Post link to read the responses. The second debate between Cruz and O’Rourke were postponed due to the Kavanaugh hearings, the perfect forum to make a bigger ass of himself:

Cruz called the Thursday hearings “shameful” and said both professor Christine Blasey Ford and Kavanaugh were “treated incredibly poorly by Senate Democrats and the media.”

He ceded his time to question Blasey to a GOP-hired attorney, but took the opportunity to speak during Kavanaugh's testimony.

He joined fellow Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn in criticizing Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., for sitting on Blasey's allegations for several weeks.

“That is not a fair process. We should look to the facts, not anonymous innuendo and slander,” Cruz said.

Feinstein said she kept the allegations confidential by Blasey's request.

During the Senate debate in Dallas on Sept. 21, O'Rourke called for Blasey's allegations to be heard and investigated by the FBI. O'Rourke has not explicitly opposed Kavanaugh's confirmation.

Friday morning, O'Rourke tweeted that Blasey showed “real courage and strength” during Thursday's hearing.

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By the way, Cruz is running for re-election for a job he may abandon very soon:

Asked in a Sept. 11 interview with the Tribune whether he might run for president in 2020, Cruz said “I am focused on the United States Senate.”

“Can you commit to serving out your term?” the Tribune's Alana Rocha asked.

In response, Cruz began: “You know, as we stand here today, the Texas Board of Education is getting ready to vote on a proposal, a recommendation they received, to delete the word 'heroic' from the description of the defenders of the Alamo.”

His reply, which went on for two minutes but did not answer the question, concluded with, “We should be standing up for who we are as Texans and Americans.”

Asked the same question, U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke was unambiguous.

“I will commit to serving every single day of my full six-year term for the people of Texas,” O'Rourke said.

In this race, it’s become clear how each candidate wants to win. O’Rourke is focused on getting new voters to the polls:

Millennials only recently elbowed baby boomers to become the largest generation of voters in the United States, according to a Fact Tank study by the Pew Research Center published in June.

O'Rourke has energized a young generation of Democratic voters in the once staunchly Republican state by focusing on topics and behaviors relevant to them. The race has tightened in recent weeks after Cruz, who ran for president in 2016, enjoyed an early lead.

Last week, a Quinnipiac University poll found Cruz leading O'Rourke by 9 percentage points among likely voters. An online poll by Reuters- Ipsos showed O'Rourke 2 points ahead. Last Friday in Dallas, Cruz and O'Rourke engaged in the first of three planned debates. Political analysts are calling the race a toss-up.

O'Rourke, a former businessman, is a different candidate in many ways. His campaign does not accept money from political action committees (PACs) and has raised $26 million in individual donations between Jan. 1 and June 31 — $8 million more than his opponent.

“Not taking PAC, not taking corporate money, is really appealing to people,” Houston campaign volunteer Clara Goodwin, 25, told VOA. “A lot of people my age feel like we don't have much of a voice, and that's partly because politicians are listening to corporate interests more than us.”

That admission was a revelation for O'Rourke.

“I was surprised to hear time after time from young people that the fact that we don't take political action committee money — no corporate help, no special interest contributions — is the reason that they are part of this campaign,” O'Rourke told VOA at the opening of his Houston campaign headquarters, a festive event packed with 20-something volunteers eating barbecue and registering voters.

Put simply, PACs are financial contributions pooled from donors that are used to elect and defeat candidates or legislation. Since the Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission, corporations, which are banned from directly donating to campaigns, are allowed to contribute through PACs.

O'Rourke said the fact that he is “showing up where young people are” is more important than how he raises campaign funds.

“I would never ask any young person to vote for anyone if no one has shown up to ask what's on their mind, what's important to them, to hear about the most important issues in the country from their perspective,” he said, noting that his campaign has done many events at universities across the state.

Cruz is trying to get young voters too but he’s too fixated on making this election about racial tensions. I’ll let Jamil Smith from Rolling Stone explain:

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In the clip, O’Rourke is inside a church speaking before a predominantly black congregation. He discusses Jean’s September 6th shooting at the hands of Amber Guyger, who was then an officer with the Dallas Police Department. “How can it be, in this day and age, in this very year, in this community, that a young man, African American, in his own apartment is shot and killed by a police officer?” O’Rourke asks.

The applause builds, and attendees begin to rise from the pews. “And when we all want justice and the facts and the information to make an informed decision, what is released to the public? That he had a small amount of marijuana in his kitchen.” He’s referring to the Dallas PD’s attempt to sully Jean’s character with a search warrant showing that he had 10.4 grams of marijuana in several baggies inside his apartment. That would have meant something if Guyger had a warrant for that weed. Instead, she illegally entered his residence, later claiming that she mistook it for her own. Guyger then fired twice at Jean, striking him once in the torso.

“How can that be just in this country?” O’Rourke demands, surely knowing the answer. Everyone is standing by now. “How can we continue to lose the lives of unarmed black men in the United States of America at the hands of white police officers? That is not justice. That is not us. That can and must change. Are you with me on this?”

When the tweet appeared, so did the jokes. Cruz, running for his second term in the Senate, is the prodigal schmuck. He is barely able to act like a typical human being, let alone portray himself as likable. He is one of the most recognizable conservative politicians in America in the same way you remember that dude in college who wore a suit every day to class. I’ll never forget standing among the Texas delegation at the 2016 Republican National Convention as Cruz refused to endorse Donald Trump, and seeing a bevy of dismayed faces beneath those cowboy hats and cowlicks.

The church video looks like a political ad for O’Rourke, and a good one. It wouldn’t have been strange to hear his voice at the end saying that he “approves this message.” Theoretically, Texas Democrats could be using it to help turn out the African American vote.

However, it is how Cruz uses this video that matters most. On its face, the clip is a brazen appeal to outright racism and little else. This is not Cruz dodging the question of systemic bigotry, as he had done four days before the debate when he told Houston’s Fox affiliate that O’Rourke was too quick to “always blame the police officer” and that Jean “ found himself murdered.” Actually, it was right when the moderator asked Cruz about that bewildering reaction to the Jean killing that the tweet dropped. While Cruz was stumbling through his all-lives-matter-ish answer, his campaign was promoting a message that a white politician talking about the value of black lives is a bad thing.

But Beto is not only showing up everywhere to win over new voters, but he’s also rocking the vote:

Beto O’Rourke’s time as a musician is one of the more well-trodden parts of his bio. And it makes sense. As O’Rourke worked to introduce himself to 28 million Texans who had scarcely heard of the young congressman from a corner of the state that had never elected anyone to statewide office before, the punk rock was an easy shorthand for “not your daddy’s Senate hopeful.”

That could be why Texas musicians have lined up behind O’Rourke in a way that we’ve rarely seen with previous candidates. During her 2014 gubernatorial campaign, Wendy Davis was also a rising national star, but Willie Nelson never played a major public rally to drive support for her candidacy (but he did perform at a private fundraiser on her behalf). And it’s not just Willie—at events around the state, heavy hitters are performing at rallies in Austin, Houston, and Dallas for (and with!) the candidate.

Willie’s event in Austin this Saturday kicks off the lineup of performances. He’ll be joined by Bridges, his sons in Lukas and Micah, Carrie Rodriguez, Tameca Jones, and Joe Ely—as well as O’Rourke himself, who’ll be speaking in a pre-headliner slot at 10 p.m. From there, O’Rourke will be co-headlining a festival in Dallas on October 7, where he’ll be joined by indie rockers Spoon, the Polyphonic Spree, Sparta, and more. The following day, in Houston, Bun B and former Texans running back Arian Foster are hosting a voter registration drive and concert at which Bun, Shakey Graves, Willie D, the Ton Tons, and others will be performing. (There’s no word yet if O’Rourke will make an appearance at that event.)

Even Fox News admits that the energy Beto has brought to this race could also help down-ballot Democrats:

Political experts say that energy will fuel congressional races.

“It’s almost certainly going to help candidates in the congressional level, at the state legislative level, if there’s a boost in Democratic turnout, which we think there might be,” said James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.

Democrats need to flip at least 24 seats to regain control the House. They’re eyeing key races in the Lone Star State, including those in the 7th, 23rd, 31st, and 32nd congressional districts where Rep. John Culberson, Rep. Will Hurd, Rep. John Carter, and Rep. Pete Sessions, respectively, are trying to keep their seats.

“All four…are Republican incumbents that, with the exception of Hurd – who's in a competitive district – people would've thought [were] relatively safe a few years ago,” Henson said. “But, given the environment, all four are seeing much more of a challenge.”

For the first time in over two decades, Democrats are running in all of Texas’ 36 congressional districts. Democrats say that anger against President Trump’s policies could help the party.

“Because of this unprecedented amount of energy, the energy of Beto leading our ticket, the energy of folks wanting to fight back against Donald Trump…we have really impressive candidates up and down the ballot,” said Manny Garcia, deputy executive director of the Texas Democratic Party.

Let’s keep up the momentum and make sure the Blue Wave rocks Texas hard. Click below to donate and get involved with Beto and his fellow Texas Democrats campaigns:

Beto O’Rourke

Lizzie Pannill Fletcher

Colin Allred

Gina Ortiz Jones

M.J. Hegar