There are some constants in life that people just expect to happen, like Meryl Streep being nominated for an an Academy Award every year or LeBron James playing in the NBA Championship. In a world so often filled with unpredictability and chaos, the American public at least has some unchanging variables that they can count on no matter what. For the past quarter-century, a Republican senator winning reelection in Texas has been one of those things.
After dominating every single Senate election since Texas’ first back in 1857, the Democrats have had a consistent losing streak in the Lone Star state ever since both parties’ dramatic shifts in the nineties. Since then, it’s been a slew of Republican governors, senators and representatives emerging from Texas, including former President George W. Bush and current Secretary of Energy Rick Perry. The notoriously red state has largely rejected liberal ideals in the twenty-first century and ends up being a lock for the Republican party nearly every year, just like California usually is for Democrats. In fact, Texas Democrats have lost (or didn’t even compete in) 123 consecutive statewide races since 1996, which is the longest losing streak of any state party in the country.
Yet if there is anything the past two years have taught America, it is that precedent means nothing. By electing a reality TV star with no experience to the White House, it looks like all historical norms have been thrown out the window. The president’s approval ratings are historically low and his overall ineptitude is helping Democrats win in places that they should not be. If Republicans aren’t careful, the Left’s next upset might be in Texas.
Sen. Ted Cruz has represented his state since 2013. Any opponent he might face from the Democratic party should be an easy victory for the nationally known conservative, who has become a household name since his unsuccessful run for president in 2016.
Still, Rep. Beto O’Rourke decided to give it a shot and challenge the incumbent in the midterms this November. The race is sure to be an uphill battle for O’Rourke. In fact, fellow Texas senator John Cornyn called the Democrat’s bid “a suicide mission”. On paper, he appears to be right.
Despite the grim predictions, O’Rourke has already raised a whopping 1.5 million dollars more than Cruz. He has traveled to 223 of Texas’s 254 counties. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, he benefits from his state’s low approval rating of President Trump, who Cruz has hypocritically chosen to closely align himself with ahead of the election. All of these factors may end up not meaning anything this November. However, they may also trigger yet another upset in what has been a consistently red state for decades.
The president is apparently well aware of his schedule to headline a fundraiser for Senate Republicans in Texas next month, which may ultimately end up doing more harm than good, as former Trump endorsees Luther Strange, Roy Moore and Rick Saccade can all attest to.
While Cruz has wrapped his arms around the man who insulted his wife and maligned his father, O’Rourke has taken the opposite stance. He has vowed that if elected, he would vote to impeach Trump. As Cruz has cozied up to his former enemy in his attempt to climb up the national ladder, O’Rourke is visiting as many counties as possible to better connect with Texans. This is not a good look for the Republican who has a reputation for not listening to his constituents after Election Day.
The impressive display of Democratic turnout in the primaries should be enough to worry Republicans. Cruz himself has said that “Democrats will crawl over broken glass to vote in November”. He and the GOP are well aware that if Democrats can win in Alabama and deep in the heart of Trump country, they can win anywhere. While Cruz still may feel he has a significant advantage over his opponent due to sharp partisanship, there are enough to reasons for him to start losing sleep.
The same goes for Donald Trump. If he thinks being president is hard now, imagine how difficult it will be when his party loses control of Congress and the newly empowered Democrats begin calling for impeachment.
The fact of the matter is that the GOP needs to win in Texas. An inevitably in the decades prior is now starting to look like less and less of a sure thing as the race progresses. Yet with strong Democratic victories all over the country, even winning Texas might not be enough to save both Congress and the president. Democrats, on the other hand, should be extremely pleased with themselves. A strong showing in Texas and even a potential upset is monumental to the country’s hard shift to the left. All eyes will be on this Senate race in November to see if there truly are “Beto” days ahead.
Photo credit: LM Otero/AP