As Midterms Approach, Tough Times For GOP, Even In Texas

Former President George W. Bush is raising money for GOP Congressman Will Hurd, and Republicans are fighting to hold onto their Senate majority. But they’re having a tough time.

By Rhonda FanningSeptember 12, 2018 7:14 am

The most senior Republican figure in Texas politics appears to have come out of his shell. Politico and others report that former Texas governor and ex-U.S. President, George W. Bush, is hitting the campaign trail on behalf of the GOP.

He was scheduled to appear at a recent closed-door fundraiser for Will Hurd in Fort Worth, the south Texas congressman who secured a tight reelection bid in an area that went for Hillary Clinton in 2016. On Friday, Bush heads to Florida to rally support for a GOP Senate bid there. He’s also scheduled fundraisers for Texas Congressman Pete Sessions, and others.

Sean Sullivan of the Washington Post says the reason for this is that Republican officials are fearful they’ve overestimated President Donald Trump’s appeal to the rank and file, and are worried about, as one strategist put it, a “shipwreck,” in November.

Sullivan says Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is worried that Republicans could lose their Senate majority, so raising the stakes for party supporters could be a strategic move.

“I think there is some genuine fear here from Republicans, strategists and officials I talked to for the story,” Sullivan says. “They’ve looked at private polling in the last few days that has left a lot of them discouraged.”

Sullivan says Trump’s low approval ratings are among the reasons for alarm, but also because polls once showed the GOP had a strong chance to retain the Senate, and even increase its margin.

“We’ve come a long way from the beginning of this election cycle, when Republicans were not just talking about gaining seats, they were talking about gaining a bunch of seats,” Sullivan says. “And now, as we heard from McConnell, the question is whether they will even have that majority, come November 6.”

The race between Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke in Texas is among the bigger surprises for Republicans, who never expected to be battling for a Senate seat here.

“When you look at the 2016 election, there were already some troubling signs,” Sullivan says. “Trump’s margin over Hillary Clinton was smaller than I think some Republican strategists had anticipated.”

This year, O’Rourke has surpassed Cruz in terms of funds raised, and has attracted big crowds around the state.

Sullivan says Republicans are worried about the amount of money they’ll need to spend to hold Cruz’s seat, and how that affects their ability to defend other seats in Congress, where Democrats are more competitive.

Sullivan says it isn’t clear how supportive President Bush is of Ted Cruz.

“When you look at Bush’s relationship with Cruz, it will be interesting to see if they do a fundraiser at some point, and if they don’t, that may raise questions about the relationship between the two camps.”

Written by Shelly Brisbin.