Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has narrowly won reelection against an historic challenge by Beto O’Rourke, who ran a staunchly progressive campaign that refused to appeal to moderates and Republicans in deep-red Texas.
As major news outlets began calling the race for Cruz around 10:30 p.m., the incumbent senator was leading in the low single digits — a much closer margin than most polls had shown in recent months.
Democrats across the country had high hopes for O’Rourke, a media darling who drew comparisons to Robert Kennedy and Obama, and whose candidacy put his name on short lists for 2020 Democratic presidential nominees.
The problem for O’Rourke was that he was running in Texas, a state that hasn’t sent a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since 1988 and that Cruz won by 16 points in 2012. Instead of tacking to the center on key issues like gun control, immigration, abortion, and health care, O’Rourke ran on a platform that was more or less indistinguishable from that of Bernie Sanders.
Still, the race should never have been this close in the Lone Star State. The Texas Republican Party needed a good scare, and they got one tonight. Years of statewide dominance has atrophied the state GOP; what used to be a robust party machine with a lot of paid staff and operations in all 254 counties in Texas has slimmed down in recent years, relying more on social media and outside groups to get its message out.
If Texas is going remain a solidly red state, the state Republican Party is going to have to make inroads in every major city, all of which are Democratic dominated, and court Hispanics voters in every corner of the state.
The lesson for Texas Democrats is similarly stark. Instead of nominating wealthy Anglo progressives to run statewide, the party might consider running candidates that can better speak to the reality of life in Texas, from the oil boom towns in the west to the growing Hispanic population throughout the state to the suburban areas that will never get on board with a pro-abortion, pro-tax Democrat — not matter how “cool” and “authentic” he tries to be.