A must read from the New York Times:
President Trump’s budget chief, Mick Mulvaney, expressed confidence to Republican donors on Saturday that the party would overcome a Democratic “movement of hate” in November, but he acknowledged Republicans could lose races where they have nominated candidates who are not seen as “likable” enough, like Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.
Speaking at a closed-door meeting in New York City alongside Ronna McDaniel, the Republican National Committee chairwoman, Mr. Mulvaney insisted that Democrats and the media were exaggerating the political threat facing Republicans this fall: “They want you to think there’s a blue wave when there’s not,” he said, according to an audio recording of his remarks that was obtained by The New York Times from a person at the meeting.
But Mr. Mulvaney, who leads both the Office of Management and Budget and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, conceded that Republicans had nominated poor candidates in places and might struggle to defend a huge number of open House seats where Republican incumbents decided not to run for re-election.
He pointed to the Senate races in Texas and Florida as examples where candidate quality could be decisive.
In Florida, Republicans have nominated Gov. Rick Scott to challenge Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, and polls show the race is close. In Texas, Mr. Cruz holds a modest polling lead over Representative Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat who has raised enormous amounts of money online.
Of course, Trump and GOP donors shouldn’t be surprised about Cruz losing to Beto. Esquire highlights that Beto has an actual platform to run on:
Texan voters couldn’t have two more different candidates to choose from in the midterms. On the polarizing issue of gun control, O’Rourke—who personally owns guns—has an “F” rating from the NRA, supports requiring background checks for all gun sales, and wants to ban weapons of war and high-capacity magazines. Cruz, on the other hand, has an “A+” rating from the NRA and has actively worked against any limits on access to guns.
Because of Texas’ position on the Mexican border, immigration is a key issue in this race. O’Rourke opposes Trump’s plan to build a wall at the border, supports passing the DREAM Act, and wants to end the militarization of our immigration enforcement system. On the other end of the spectrum, Cruz supports building a wall at the border and is in favor of strict sentencing for those who enter the country illegally.
As far as healthcare, O’Rourke supports universal healthcare coverage and improving the Affordable Care Act, while Cruz has made numerous efforts to repeal the ACA during his time as senator. He even led a doomed government shutdown with that aim.
Cruz’s campaign website doesn’t currently offer any future plans for creating more jobs, but O’Rourke is campaigning on increasing federal spending on infrastructure in order to create new construction and manufacturing jobs for Texans. O’Rourke also wants to invest in training, certification, and registered apprenticeship programs.
You can read more about O’Rourke’s platform and how he plans to address other issues here. The contrast with Cruz’s platform couldn’t be starker for Texans, who will go to the polls November 6.
Plus, Beto is just too fucking cool. He’s literally rocking the vote:
O’Rourke is also now set to appear at a new music festival in his home state, the inaugural Buffalo Tree Festival, which takes over Main Street Garden in Downtown Dallas on October 7. The festival was put together by The Polyphonic Spree‘s Dylan Silvers and The Dallas County Democratic Party, and it’s got an all-Texas lineup. The Polyphonic Spree and fellow indie vets Spoon are both playing, as is another former Cedric Bixler-Zavala collaborator, Jim Ward, playing with the reunitedSparta. There’s also music by singer/songwriter Sarah Jaffe, rising rapper Bobby Sessions, and more.
In addition to O’Rourke, there will be appearances by other Texas 2018 Democratic candidates including Colin Allred (Congress in Texas’ 32nd district), Lupe Valdez (2018 Democratic nominee for Governor of Texas), and Kim Olson (2018 Democratic Candidate for Texas Commissioner of Agriculture). Full lineup of musicians and Democratic candidates below.
Affiliated nonprofits and causes will also be on site, including Moms Demand Action, Coalition of Black Democrats, Next Generation League of Progressive Voters, Angie’s List, Human Rights Campaign, and more TBA.
Tickets are on sale now.
The poll, conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy for the Telemundo Spanish language stations in Texas, gives Democrats a clear advantage among Hispanics in the November election. Valdez—who has virtually dropped off the radar in her campaign against Abbott—has been running on her appeal to Hispanic voters. But her 44 percent to 38 percent lead among self-identified Hispanic voters who say they are likely to cast a ballot puts her barely ahead of the governor when you consider the four-point margin of error of the poll. O’Rourke, by contrast, leads Cruz by a margin of 54 percent to 31 percent among the Texas Hispanics surveyed. Ironically, O’Rourke, who has gone by the Spanish nickname “Beto” all of his life, has been accused of cultural appropriation by some Hispanics, while Cruz, who is Hispanic, but has used the Anglicized nickname “Ted” most of his life, falls short among voters polled.
Both races suggest that neither Democrats nor Hispanics should take for granted the Hispanic vote in Texas. And these results come as a national poll commissioned by the NALEO Educational Fund/Latino Decisions poll shows Hispanics feel like they are being ignored by candidates nationwide. “This poll confirms what we have known for some time—that Latino voters are still being ignored by the nation’s major campaigns, political parties and funders. We are once again witnessing an overall lack of investment in Latino outreach efforts across the country in Election 2018, with the little funding that is available being diverted towards partisan outcomes,” said Arturo Vargas, NALEO Educational Fund chief executive officer.
In the two largest metros in Texas, the governor’s race is a dead heat among the Hispanic respondents in the Telemundo poll. In Dallas-Fort Worth, Valdez leads Abbott by a single percentage point: 41 percent to 40 percent. Valdez was serving as the elected Dallas County sheriff when she resigned last year to run against Abbott.
In Houston, the two are tied at 39 percent. In Hispanic-heavy San Antonio, Abbott is ahead of Valdez by a margin of 43 percent to 40 percent. Only along the border does Valdez open the gap. In the Rio Grande Valley, she is ahead by a margin of 54 percent to Abbott’s 32 percent. In El Paso, she’s ahead of Abbott by a margin of 52 percent to 33 percent among the Hispanic respondents. The only other area in which Abbott takes a lead in this poll is gender. Forty-five percent of the Hispanic men polled said they would vote for the governor, while 40 percent support Valdez. Among women, Valdez leads 47 percent to 33 percent.
The closest O’Rourke and Cruz poll is in Houston, where the Republican comes within five percentage points of his challenger. O’Rourke has a lead of 45 percent to 40 percent among Houston-area Hispanics who responded. In Dallas-Fort Worth, O’Rourke’s margin bumps up significantly, where he enjoys a 51 percent to 39 percent advantage over Cruz. And along the border, it’s a Democratic blowout in the U.S. Senate race. The Rio Grande Valley polled 61 percent to 22 percent in favor of O’Rourke. And in O’Rourke’s hometown of El Paso, the margin of his lead is 68 percent to Cruz’s 20 percent.
Hispanic voters statewide said that immigration and border security is the most important issue facing Texans, with a 20 percent margin. The economy polled second at 15 percent and health care followed closely behind at 12 percent among the 625 respondents who were polled between August 20 and August 22.
In a typical midterm election, only about 22 percent of eligible Hispanic voters cast a ballot. For O’Rourke to even have a chance, that number needs to rise by at least 10 percentage points, according to Rice University political scientist Mark Jones. Even if that happens, O’Rourke will also need a bump in the millennial vote — another “low-propensity” voter group.
“If we look at normal turnout for a Texas midterm, O’Rourke has no realistic chance,” Jones said. “He has to increase Latino voter turnout, win a larger share of the Latino vote and then reduce Cruz’s advantage among Anglos.”
The Latinos who do cast ballots don’t favor Democrats as heavily as they do in California. Gov. Greg Abbott, whose wife Cecilia is Mexican-American, defeated Democratic challenger Wendy Davis in 2014 with 44 percent of the Hispanic vote. (By contrast, Jerry Brown’s Republican opponent the same year in the California governor’s race won just 27 percent of the Latino vote.)
O’Rourke makes no pretense of targeting his efforts toward any particular group. The cornerstone of his campaign is his pledge to visit all 254 counties in Texas ― which he accomplished in June ― casting aside the traditional logic of focusing on the state’s major cities, where Democrats have carved out an advantage, in the name of defusing the polarization of the Trump era. Keeping his message positive, he rarely attacks Cruz by name, except to jab him for taking more interest in campaigning in Iowa than Texas. “If you’re a Republican, you’re in the right place,” O’Rourke said at more than one speech.
The reality, though, is that O’Rourke has little chance of winning by convincing Cruz voters to switch sides, according to James Henson, the director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas.
“This is a mobilization election, not a persuasion election,” Henson said. “Each candidate has to mobilize its partisan base. Neither candidate has much of a chance of changing each other’s voters’ minds because of the gulf between the two candidates.”
The campaign knows this. One strategy developed by the El Paso Democratic Party aims to increase border turnout — a proxy for Latino turnout in a region where Hispanics make up by far the majority of the population — by 20 points to 35 percent, a goal that requires mobilizing an extra 170,000 voters.
“If the Border comes out in record numbers this election, we could be the reason Texas sends one of our own to the Senate,” read a paper detailing the “Border Surge” strategy.
Cruz is so desperate that he’s had to beg Trump to come out and campaign for him. Luckily, David Hogg is already being a pain in Cruz’s ass about this:
It’s typical of politics that, during a primary, candidates bash each other for months—and then, once one of them has secured the nomination, their former opponents line up to talk about what a swell person the victor is. The relationship between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, though, was always a little more complicated than that. And that complicated relationship is coming back to haunt Cruz in the form of a mobile billboard—featuring one of Trump’s harsher tweets about the state’s junior senator, planned for a site outside of the yet-to-be-announced sites of the president’s rally for Cruz on October 3.
The billboard was crowdfunded by Houston activist Antonio Arellano, in partnership with #resistance figure Claude Taylor and Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg. The trio posted the campaign on GoFundMe on September 1, and quickly raised more than the $6,000 needed to host the billboard. (After hitting $9,760, the campaign stopped accepting donations.)
On February 28, 2016—the day before the Texas GOP primary—Trump tweeted about Cruz, the only other candidate in the GOP primary field who appeared to have a chance of securing the nomination, “Why would the people of Texas support Ted Cruz when he has accomplished nothing for them? He is another all talk, no action pol!”
The harsh words from the future president were typical of their relationship. Trump called Cruz “Lyin’ Ted,” threatened to “spill the beans” about Cruz’s wife—no additional context was ever provided—and accused Cruz’s father of helping plot to assassinate John F. Kennedy. All of that goes well beyond the typical “What my distinguished opponent fails to consider…” rhetoric we come to expect from political disagreements between members of the same party during a primary, but such is life under Trump. For his own part, Cruz went back at Trump pretty hard: He called Trump a “sniveling coward” and, demonstrating his affinity for pop culture, channeled Aaron Sorkin-via-Michael Douglas by hitting Trump with a line from The American President. He stood his ground well past the point where there was a direct benefit for him in doing so, too—during the 2016 GOP convention, Cruz drew boos from the crowd during his speech by refusing to endorse the party’s nominee, urging instead that those watching vote their conscience.
By the way, this isn’t the only close race in Texas:
Polls released over the summer on the November race for Texas attorney general show a narrow margin between leading candidates with many voters still undecided.
According to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll released in June, incumbent Republican Ken Paxton was at 32 percent while Democratic nominee Justin Nelson was at 31 percent. Libertarian Michael Ray Harris stood at 6 percent. Four percent of voters polled named other candidates while 26 percent had no opinion.
In July, a statewide Texas Lyceum Poll was released showing a larger margin between the leading candidates; 35 percent of likely voters favoring Paxton and 25 percent choosing Justin Nelson. Harris had 4 percent of that poll. Of those polled, 34 percent answered “haven’t thought about it” and 3 percent either didn’t know or refused to answer.
Nelson, who spoke with NBC 5 this week, is trying to become attorney general in a state that hasn’t elected a Democratic candidate in a statewide race since 1994.
“I am going around the state. We have been everywhere. We just finished a 12-city road trip,” Nelson said.
It could be an uphill climb. Attorney General Ken Paxton won by more than 20 percentage points in 2014, but Nelson is quick to point out Paxton’s legal troubles since then.
Paxton was indicted for securities fraud. The case has yet to go to trial after several delays. Paxton has said he can’t talk about the case because of a gag order.
Let’s give Desperate Ted and his GOP pals the boot and have the Blue Wave hit Texas. Click below to donate and get involved with Beto and his fellow Texas Democrats’ campaigns:
Also, since the New York Times also mentioned Rick Scott, let’s also U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D. FL) win re-election. Click here to donate and get involved with Nelson’s campaign.