As Beto O’Rourke’s Momentum Continues, The Race To Beat Ted Cruz Remains An Uphill Climb

“What [O’Rourke] effectively needs to do is convince a significant number of people who are going to be voting for Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick this fall to switch over.”

By Jill AmentAugust 6, 2018 11:31 am|

A lot can happen between Friday and Monday on the campaign trail, and that seems to be the case for the state’s most contested contest – the race for the Senate seat currently occupied by Ted Cruz.

With a couple of polls last week showing a tightening race between Cruz and his Democratic opponent, Beto O’Rourke, Cruz expressed some unease over the race, at a Republican conference in the state capital Saturday.

“With O’Rourke gaining momentum, Cruz’s November alarm hits new volume,” writes the Texas Tribune.

Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University says Cruz may not have reason to be alarmed, but there is cause for concern.

“I think [Cruz] is the odds-on favorite to win this race, but he’s going to have to work at it,” Jones says. “He can’t just coast to victory, say, like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.”

Cruz released several advertisements last week, which O’Rourke promptly turned into fundraising appeals to his supporters. Jones says O’Rourke has raised almost $1.25 milion, based on his response to the Cruz ads. He says the ads, some of which attacked O’Rourke, serve to define the Democrat to Texans who aren’t familiar with him.

“One of the real risks for O’Rourke is since about 40 percent of Texas voters don’t know much about him, Ted Cruz is now defining him in their eyes as someone who wants to abolish ICE, wants to impeach Donald Trump and wants to legalize narcotics, including Heroin,” Jones says.

O’Rourke’s success at challenging Cruz and raising money is a stark contrast to other Democrats running in the state, Jones says. O’Rourke’s weekend fundraising over the weeked, for example, netted him more money than gubernatorial candidate Lupe Valdez has raised during her entire campaign.

Polls show that other than Cruz, all Republican candidates for statewide office have comfortable leads over their Democratic opponents.

Jones says that since some 60 percent of Texans vote a straight ticket, O’Rourke, too, has an uphill climb in a red state.

“What [O’Rourke] effectively needs to do is convince a significant number of people who are going to be voting for Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick this fall to switch over, and essentially split their tickets and vote for him instead of Ted Cruz,” Jones says.

Written by Shelly Brisbin.