Can There Really Be a Democratic Senator in Texas?

By Ellie Shoup

The GOP (Grand Old Party) has a large statistical advantage this election season. Republicans are defending only nine of the thirty-five seats up for election while Democrats are defending twenty-six (ten of which are in states that Donald Trump won in the 2016 election). That having been said, there is still talk of a so-called “blue wave” overwhelming Capitol Hill this November.

In order for the Democrats to gain a majority of fifty-one in the Senate, there are ten key races, most of which they need to win. These are: West Virginia, North Dakota, Missouri, Montana, Indiana, Florida, and the Republican-held seats of Arizona, Nevada, Tennessee, and Texas.

Texas is an especially interesting race. Incumbent Senator Ted Cruz and his challenger, Representative Beto O’Rourke from El Paso, are fighting a surprisingly close race despite their polar-opposite viewpoints. Ted Cruz, a well-known conservative in the Senate, is a firm believer in the Second Amendment, an advocate for smaller government, and wants to crack down on illegal immigration. Beto O’Rourke is at the other end of the spectrum. He supports universal healthcare, the ban of semi-automatic weapons, and the decriminalization of marijuana.

So far, Cruz has been blown out of the water by O’Rourke in terms of campaign fundraising. Donations to O’Rourke skyrocketed this season. A whopping $70.2 million has been raised so far, none of which is PAC or corporation money. This makes his campaign very unusual. On the other side, Cruz has raised a meager $34 million, $7 million of which is affiliated PAC money.

O’Rourke’s uphill battle has garnered a huge amount of media attention, prompting him to Democratic celebrity status. O’Rourke has even been the subject of more than a few tweets by President Trump. The Texas election is one of the most-watched races of 2018. Even given these circumstances, Ted Cruz still holds the advantage. Cruz’s fame from his 2016 presidential run overshadows O’Rourke, who has been relatively unknown until now. People are also far more likely to vote for the incumbent than they are for the challenger.

One serious problem for Ted Cruz’s campaign is his lack of popularity among voters and fellow politicians. Cruz is notoriously disliked, especially by other Republicans. “ I just don’t like that guy,” said former President George W. Bush to a group of donors during the 2016 presidential race. Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina joked a bit more bluntly: “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.”

O’Rourke has stayed close behind Cruz in the polls. Cruz’s lead has been an average of only seven points. A single-digit race in a traditionally red state is enough to seriously worry Republicans. Could Texas, a state that has not seen a Democratic senator for twenty-four years and has not voted for a Democratic president since 1974, be turning purple?

If Cruz does win, it certainly will not be by a landslide. If Cruz loses, it does not necessarily mean the Senate is lost to Republicans, but it does not help the narrow majority they are clinging to. If O’Rourke wins, it will certainly be an unprecedented event in Texan and American history. The turning of the Senate would also make a vote for impeachment more likely and Supreme Court confirmations more difficult for President Trump. If O’Rourke loses, the closeness of the race might still be enough to energize Democratic voters nationwide and even create a ripple effect for future races. Either way, the Texas senatorial election is potentially the most important race of 2018.

Stokols, Eli. “George W. Bush unleashes on Ted Cruz.” Politico, 19 Oct. 2015.
Accessed 1 Nov. 2018.
Treyz, Catherine. “Lindsay Graham jokes about how to get away with murdering Ted
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