The night started off hopeful for O’Rourke’s supporters: early voting numbers showed O’Rourke with a slight lead, which took a lot of people by surprise. But as the night went on, Cruz would end up winning by several percentage points.
“I just now had the opportunity to talk to Sen. Cruz, and to congratulate him for his victory and to wish him well,” O’Rourke said to a gathering of his supporters Tuesday night.
O’Rourke said the country is as polarized and divisive as he’s ever seen it. He said he told Cruz that he and his supporters will do what they can to bring people together.
“I know we will continue to work to come together to make sure that we live up to the promise and the potential of this country. I know it because I met you everywhere that you are. I’ve listened to you everywhere that you live,” O’Rourke said.
But for O’Rourke’s supporters, including Myrna Dalton, his loss was a missed opportunity for a more hopeful future.
“I think we are just creating a further division in this country by not embracing his platform and his ideas for us to move forward,” Dalton says.
She says that as an immigrant, the issue of immigration prompted her support for O’Rourke. Dalton travelled from Austin to El Paso with a broken foot. She says she knocked on doors for O’Rourke back home in the hopes he would win.
“So, it didn’t turn out out the way we had hoped. But, you know, we will feel bad for a little bit and then we will just dust ourselves off, and we will go back to knocking on doors and what we do,” Dalton says.
And Marisol Rodriguez from El Paso, who also helped the campaign, says she’s also disappointed, but that it’s not all bad.
“I heard a lot of great stories throughout this whole campaign. A lot of first-time voters ever. A lot of people coming in and volunteering from all over the country, and even other countries as well. So, it just brought a lot of people together. So, there’s a lot of good that came from it,” Rodriguez says.
But last night, Rodriguez says she just needed some comfort food.
“I’m going to Whataburger and I am going to get a Green Chile Double,” Rodriguez says.
While Democrats, including those at the O’Rourke event in El Paso, tried to find a silver lining in a close race, there was almost no mention of how close the race had actually been at the Cruz party in Houston. The Senator’s father, Rafael Cruz, came out on stage and told the crowd that Texas had stayed solid red. And when Cruz took the stage, it was as if the entire state had voted for him.
“Texas came together behind a common-sense agenda of low taxes, low regulations and lots and lots of jobs,” Cruz said to his supporters.
And of course, this was a victory party – winners aren’t supposed to temper the win based on how close it was. Cruz supporter Mark Brown says there will be time for the state GOP to think about races lost. But even with Cruz losing urban and suburban areas, Brown says there’s a bright-red firewall that brings GOP victories.
“There’s so many small towns in Texas that do show up in these things; I was never worried about Ted. Beto ran a good campaign, he was very positive. He was very respectful. But in the long term, it’s the policies that matter the most, and that’s where Ted Cruz won most of the Texans,” Brown says.
Now, it’s back to D.C. for Cruz, where he’ll spend the next six years working, and possibly waiting, for the 2024 presidential election.