In 2012, when Beto O’Rourke decided to challenge corrupt, entrenched establishment Democrat Sylvester Reyes in El Paso (TX-16) it was a real David vs Goliath contest. The entire Democratic establishment rallied behind Reyes, powerful— if somewhat doddering— chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Beto, a former alternative rocker in the band Foss and a city councilman best known for being pro-pot, anti-war on drugs and for fighting crackpot xenophobes.
In the primary, all the big guns came out for Reyes, not just Pelosi, Hoyer and both congressional and K Street big guns but Bill and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as well. The only outside group coming to Beto’s aid was Blue America. But it was his field operation and local outreach that won him the election. The distant and out-of-touch Reyes spent $1,350,486 on his primary battle with O’Rourke who spent only $618,526 for the primary and the general election combined. In a 4-way primary, he won 50.5% of the vote to Reyes’ 44.4%, avoiding a primary and going on to beat Republican Barbara Carrasco with 65%. This past cycle the Republicans didn’t even bother to run anyone against him. He beat a Green and a Libertarian with 85.8% of the vote.
Thursday, Beto as much as announced he’s going to run against far right extremist Ted Cruz in 2018. I don’t think a Democrat has won a U.S. Senate seat in Texas since Lloyd Bentsen was reelected in 1988. When Cruz first ran in 2012, he beat Democrat Paul Sadler 56-41%.
There are 11 Democrats in Congress. Here are their career-long ProgressivePunch crucial vote scores:
• Lloyd Doggett- 87.31
• Sheila Jackson-Lee- 85.69
• Eddie Bernice Johnson- 84.14
• Beto O’Rourke- 83.11
• Joaquin Castro- 81.02
• Al Green- 76.62
• Mark Veasey- 72.61
• Gene Green- 66.52
• Filemon Vela- 51.44
• Henry Cuellar- 39.15
• Vicente González- 0.0
Beltway operative Matthew Down who’s jumped between parties but is popular with DC journalists and government types, says he wants to run against Cruz as an independent and Rick Perry has encouraged multimillionaire Clear Channel son-in-law MichaelMcCaul too run as well. Presumably, Trump would also encourage his candidacy against Cruz, who he still despises.
In August, PPP surveyed Texas voters about Cruz and he looked pretty unpopular and possibly electorally vulnerable.
Overall only 39% of voters in the state approve of the job Cruz is doing, to 48% who disapprove. It was already clear from national polling that Donald Trump had come out ahead in his feud at the GOP convention with Cruz, but we find that even in Texas 52% of Republicans now say that they prefer Trump as their nominee this year to only 38% who would go with Cruz.
The skirmish with Trump seems to be contributing to an overall weakening of Cruz's position with Republicans in the state. Only 50% of GOP voters say they'd like Cruz to be their Senate candidate again in 2 years, to 43% who say they would prefer someone else. He hovers right around that 50% mark in hypothetical match ups against both Michael McCaul (51/19) and Dan Patrick (49/27). Against Rick Perry though, who shares Cruz's universal name recognition, Cruz faces a 9 point deficit at 46/37.
…The opinions of Texans show the extent to which a number of progressive policy goals have reached incredibly mainstream popularity, even in a state as traditionally conservative as Texas:
• 89% of voters in the state support background checks on all gun purchases, to only 7% who oppose them. They're supported by 94% of Democrats, 91% of Republicans, and 80% of independents.
• 83% of voters in the state support barring those on the Terror Watch List from buying guns, to only 10% who are opposed. That's supported by 85% of Republicans, and 82% of both Democrats and independents.
• Voters in the state support an assault weapons ban, 48/43. That's because Democrats are far more unified in their support for one (70/21) than Republicans are in their opposition to it (34/55).
• 72% of voters in the state support increasing the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour, compared to only 14% who think it's fine where it is now, and 11% who would like to eliminate the minimum wage altogether. A minimum wage hike to at least $10 gets support from 94% of Democrats, 74% of independents, and 53% of Republicans.
Before Cruz dropped out of the presidential race, his campaign and his SuperPACs had raised $143,047,711 and spent $142,732,811. The campaign still has $314,901 on hand, which could be used towards the Senate race. He raised $14,511,279 in his last Senate race and still had about half a million left in his Senate warchest after that. O’Rourke has $211,923 left over from his most recent re-election bid.
This is going to be a very tough race for O’Rourke— or for any Democrat. Raising enough money to compete in Texas, with 7 major media markets, is one of the toughest hurdles anywhere in the country. The DSCC is going to have its hands full raising money too prevent a catastrophe with weak red state Democrats like Joe Manchin (WV), Joe Donnelly (IN), Claire McCaskill (MO), Jon Tester (MT), and Heidi Heitkamp (ND), not to mention reelecting normal Democrats like Sherrod Brown (OH), Tammy Baldwin (WI), Bill Nelson (FL) and Bob Casey (PA) in states Trump also won. The New Jersey seat could be a problem because Melendez is now widely— c]and correctly— perceived as one of the most corrupt sleaze bags in the Senate and presumably Tim Kaine (VA) could have a tough contest as well). So will there be anything left over for a long shot like taking on Cruz? Would you help? I’m guessing Blue America members aren’t going to be contributing to reactionaries like Manchin, Heitkamp, McCaskill, Tester, etc. But would you contribute to Beto O’Rourke’s campaign? Give us an indication here. It would be pretty amazing to get rid of Ted Cruz. Here’s a TedTalk he did a couple of months ago, The Border Makes America Great.
“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.” — Sinclair Lewis