December 17, 2017: Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas addresses the crowd during a town hall meeting at the Columbus RV Park and Campground in Columbus, TX. John Glaser/CSM. (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)
The Texas U.S. Senate race between incumbent U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R. TX) and Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) has gained a lot of press coverage due to Beto’s impressive fundraising capabilities. Today, The New York Times released its piece about how Cruz better watch out for Beto’s campaign:
Cruz is a rare and precious gift. He’s so loathed that any passable Democrat with a picayune chance of toppling him was bound to draw more attention and inspire more hope than the political dynamics warranted. While President Trump’s unpopularity endangers his party’s incumbents far and wide and Texas may indeed be getting bluer, the state has been very red for very long. The last time a Democrat won statewide office was 24 years ago.
But Beto is more than passable. Many of his campaign events are mobbed. People line up for selfies and then insist on hugs.
He’s raising money like mad. Last week he disclosed that in the first quarter of 2018 he took in $6.7 million, bringing his total haul to $13.2 million, which handily outpaces Cruz and is more than any Texas Democrat running for the Senate ever amassed. All of that cash came from individuals. He has sworn off money from PACs.
“Even the most skeptical person has to acknowledge that there’s something going on here,” Jim Henson, the director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, told me. “But is it something that can overcome the deep hole that any Democratic candidate in this state is in?”
Beto’s answer to those odds is an oddball campaign. This has freed him to be freewheeling. He has no speechwriter, because he never speaks from a fixed script. He has no pollster, because he’s not going by polls.
“No political consultant worth their salt would allow us to go to college campuses, because young people don’t vote,” he told a group of Latino leaders during a meeting on Thursday that I accompanied him to. “That’s why we don’t have a political consultant.”
Rolling Stone released their piece yesterday taking note of Beto’s fundraising and relentless campaigning on the campaign trail:
Sen. Cruz’s campaign has not released its first quarter fundraising numbers yet. (According to the most recent figures available, Cruz has raised $7.3 million since the start of 2017.) O’Rourke may have outpaced Cruz in fundraising, but the sitting Senator earned far more votes in last month’s Texas primary: 1.3 million in the Republican primary to O’Rourke’s 641,000 in the Democratic.
“We were in Paris, Texas, not too long ago, and at the end of that town hall, a number of people came forward and said, ‘I vote in the Republican primary, because in our county, that’s the only way I can choose my county commissioner, my justice of the peace, my county judge, but in November, I will be voting for you.’ And that is characteristic of so many people and so many counties across Texas.”
At a campaign stop Tuesday, Cruz acknowledged that his campaign won’t come close to matching O’Rourke’s haul this quarter. "That’s a whole lotta money,” Cruz said. “There’s no doubt about that. And it has been clear for some time that the hard left is energized and they’re mobilized and they’re angry at the president. And we are seeing all across the country… and it underscores that Republicans cannot take November for granted."
While Cruz might have more money in the bank thanks to Super PACs and lobbyists, Beto’s grassroots efforts have him running scared:
O’Rourke pledged, at the beginning of the campaign, not to accept donations from corporate political action committees. The funds he’s raised, since the year began, came from some 141,000 individual donors, who chipped in an average of $40 each. That’s a measure of enthusiasm for his candidacy, and one his opponent, Ted Cruz, should be taking seriously.
But Cruz — who won the Senate seat in 2012, after pulling off his own upset for that year’s Republican nomination — deserves some credit for this surprisingly competitive landscape, too.
Publicly, Cruz has expressed confidence in his ability to deal with the threat that O’Rourke represents. But Monday, at his campaign kickoff party at the Redneck Country Club in Stafford, he debuted an ad warning Texas Republicans against being complacent about it.
“DEMOCRATS TAKE CONTROL,” blares the front page of a mock edition of the Houston Chronicle, sitting on his coffee table. A television news anchor explains that Nancy Pelosi, being accordingly emboldened, has announced her plan to divert all border wall funding to Planned Parenthood.
A noise outside catches the young man’s attention. He opens the front door to see an apocalyptic landscape. And then, much to the man’s relief, he wakes up from this nightmare.
It’s a funny ad, but a revealing one. As Texas Southern University’s Jay Kumar Aiyer pointed out, while he and I were chatting this week, it suggests that Cruz would like to turn this race into a referendum on the national parties.
That was an astute observation, and it would be a shrewd move on Cruz’s part. If the race is framed that way, he would be able to dodge the question of whether he or O’Rourke is best equipped to represent Texas in an era when the figure who dominates the political landscape is Donald Trump.
The president is a Republican, of course, and in 2016 he was the alternative to Hillary Clinton. Many Texans voted for him on that basis; he carried the state’s electoral votes by nine points.
But Clinton isn’t on the ballot this year. And Texans who vote in this year’s general election may have some objections to decisions that have been made in Washington lately, even if they continue to approve of Trump.
But The Daily Beast notes that Beto’s strongest weapon has been his ability to run a successful digital campaign to help fuel his campaign:
At the heart of the operation is a basic idea: that flooding the zone is fundamentally a good thing. Voters can see O’Rourke all the time, in emails, videos and tweets that the campaign posts every day. He broadcasts from settings that politicians normally shun or find so incredibly mundane that they don’t think there is any particular advantage in advertising. He did a Facebook Live post while in line for Whataburger, and during his wait to get a haircut, and while he got gas, and as his son climbed a tree, and as he picked up donuts, and while he drove across the country with Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX). He’s live streamed his jogs, only to be joined by other joggers who have live streamed his live stream.
Those close to O’Rourke insist that he is making the decisions about when and where to post—something he’s done since his first run for Congress in El Paso in 2012—and that he genuinely wants to be seen as much as possible since he can’t knock on every door in Texas. The goal is to give voters the sensation that they’re actually playing a role in his David and Goliath campaign. And while the cumulative effect has been a smashing success, even close associates concede that they’re still not sure which particular post will work best.
“Did we pick up a lot of donors because they saw him getting a haircut on livestream? I have no idea,” a source directly familiar with the campaign told The Daily Beast.
O’Rourke’s fundraising and work ethic are unquestioned. O’Rourke spoke to The Washington Post during a 1,600-mile week-long drive across Texas that began Tuesday in Waco and ends Monday in Lubbock.
He recently held a rally in Roanoke, a northwest suburb of Dallas in a heavily Republican County. A thousand people showed up. “Something is happening right now,” he said.
However, in last month’s primaries, Cruz received twice as many votes as O’Rourke received in the Democratic primary.
Those results proved that, despite a boost in Democratic turnout in the primary, O’Rourke needs more than a “blue wave” to defeat Cruz.
“There just aren’t enough Democratic votes. If he is going to make any progress, he’s going to need a lion’s share of the independent vote, and he has to cut into the GOP base. That’s pretty tough,” said Jennifer Duffy, the Senate analyst for the Cook Political Report.
But well-fueled and engaged grassroots campaigns can pull off an upset victory. Cruz will always have more money but he’s incredibly hated and represents everything that’s wrong with Washington, D.C. Beto has his work cut out for him but he knows that and he’s letting nothing slow him down. He has proven to me and I’m sure to many of you that he is serious about pulling this off. We need to be by his side to not only energize the bast but also win over voters who hate Cruz but normally don’t vote Democrat and he gives people who don’t vote a reason to vote. Click here to donate and get involved with Beto’s campaign.