Texas’ senior senator, Republican John Cornyn, is gearing up for what could be one of his most challenging election cycles yet. Just last year, another Texas Republican Senator, Ted Cruz, managed to keep his seat after a close race in the midterms against Democrat Beto O’Rourke. Now, Cornyn is reaching out to his political base and fellow Texas Republicans to warn them that his seat, and others, could be in jeopardy in 2020.
Abby Livingston, Washington bureau chief for The Texas Tribune, interviewed Cornyn about 2020. She says Cornyn seemed candid, but that he was also being strategic. She argues that Cornyn thinks some Republicans saw the 2018 midterms as an anomaly. But underestimating Democrats could hurt him in 2020, so he’s speaking out now.
“There are a lot of older Republicans who look at the 2018 race and shrug their shoulders and say, ‘Hey, that was just the Beto Effect,’” Livingston says. “They’ll shrug it off and just say that was a one-off, that was a perfect storm.”
She says there are some Texas Republicans who share Cornyn’s concerns.
He told Livingston that Texas is “no longer a red state,” and that other Republicans running in 2020 in Texas need to recognize that.
“I think he’s trying to be the leader of the party, ring the alarm and say, ‘Get with it,’” Livingston says.
Cornyn also needs those other Republicans to help him win.
“He’s also saying … ‘I need the reverse coattails, I need even guys in super-safe districts to run up those numbers to help me statewide,’” Livingston says.
Cornyn’s most likely Democratic challenger, MJ Hegar, is a proven fundraiser and has a national profile, Livingston says.
“I think she’s proven she can run a good House campaign. She ran against John Carter last year and came very, very close, and that was a Republican district,” Livingston says.
But she says that doesn’t guarantee that a possible race between her and Cornyn would be competitive.
And a Cornyn-Hegar race will likely be very different than the race between Cruz and O’Rourke, especially because of Cornyn’s temperament. Livingston says Cruz riles up animosity among Democrats unlike other Republican politicians; many Democrats turned out during the midterms just to vote against him. But, she says Cruz also has devoted base – something Cornyn doesn’t have.
“Not that many Texans know him compared to other statewide politicians,” Livingston says. “He may not evoke, on the other side, the passion to go to the polls to offset the left.”
Livingston says Cornyn is a proven fundraiser, but she’ll know more in July about exactly how much money his campaign has raised so far. The $80 million raised by O’Rourke’s 2018 campaign will be hard for Cornyn to match.
“Money is a very big concern on his mind,” Livingston says. “It was just something that I could tell really worried him.”
Written by Caroline Covington.