beto vs. ted
November 5, 2018

With the race between Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and his challenger, Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas), appearing to tighten in the home stretch, both Cruz and O'Rourke hit the road on the final weekend before Election Day. In early voting, which ended Friday, nearly 40 percent of voters cast ballots in the 30 counties where 78 percent of Texas registered voters live, less than the 45 percent who voted early in 2016 but a larger percentage than in 2014 (19 percent) — a total of 34 percent of Texans voted in 2014 — and 2012.

O'Rourke released his closing campaign ad Sunday night, emphasizing that he has driven to all 254 Texas counties and, incidentally, shared a stage with Willie Nelson, whose "On the Road Again" provides the soundtrack for the ad. As with all O'Rourke ads, it is upbeat and talks a lot about Texas.

The Cruz campaign released a video Sunday featuring a group of young or ethnically diverse people talking about how they are no longer Democrats and now back Cruz, but his final ad touches on school vouchers, border security, tax cuts, and Texas.

It's not clear O'Rourke's novel road-trip model through every county in Texas will be enough to offset Cruz's advantage in rural areas — Politico's Tim Alberta is already explaining why O'Rourke failed to unseat Cruz. But as actor Sonny Carl Davis ("Come on, Ted") notes in this ad from an anti-Cruz PAC, Cruz visited all 99 counties in Iowa, and that was enough for him to win the 2016 Iowa causes. Peter Weber

October 26, 2018

With less than two weeks before the election, Rep. Beto O'Rourke's (D-Texas) long-shot bid to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is still a long shot, according to two new polls of the expensive Senate contest. In a University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll released Friday, Cruz leads O'Rouke by 6 percentage points, 51 percent to 45 percent, among likely voters. In a Reuters/Ipsos poll on Wednesday, Cruz leads by 5 points, 49 percent to 44 percent. In the September Ipsos poll, O'Rourke had a 2-point lead among likely voters. The RealClearPolitics average has Cruz up by 7 points.

O'Rourke fared better than the other Democrats in the Texas statewide races, in the UT/Texas Tribune poll, all of whom trailed by 12 to 19 points. That's largely because unlike in the other races, independent voters prefer O'Rouke over Cruz, 51 percent to 39 percent, the poll found. Cruz consolidated support among Republicans, The Texas Tribune says, and "more importantly, his race to define his leading opponent to voters before O'Rourke could do it himself has paid dividends." While Cruz is viewed favorably by a 51 percent to 44 percent margin, O'Rourke has a 49 percent to 44 percent favorability deficit, thanks to a souring of opinion about him among Republican voters.

The University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll surveyed 1,200 registered voters online Oct. 15-21, and it has a likely voter margin of error of ±3.2 percentage points. The Ipsos poll surveyed about 2,000 Texan adults Oct. 12-18 and has a credibility interval of ±3.1 points. Peter Weber

October 17, 2018

Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) and President Trump don't agree on much politically, but O'Rourke said in a debate Tuesday night that the president had a point when it comes to his opponent Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-Texas) truthfulness. "Sen. Cruz is not going to be honest with you," O'Rourke said in the San Antonio debate, likely his last face-off against Cruz before the election. "He's dishonest. It's why the president called him Lyin' Ted, and it's why the nickname stuck. Because it's true."

O'Rourke, who's trying to unseat Cruz, is trouncing him in fundraising but trailing in the polls. Cruz characterized O'Rourke as too liberal for Texas on a number of issues, while O'Rourke said "Ted Cruz is for Ted Cruz" and "all talk and no action" when it comes to helping Texas. They sparred on border security and abortion rights, but largely agreed on trade, and both stressed the importance of civility — though Cruz snapped "Don't interrupt me, Jason," at one of the moderators when he tried to ask a followup question about the uncivil Brett Kavanaugh confirmation battle, CBS News notes.

When O'Rourke pointed to Cruz's 2013 government shutdown over ObamaCare, Cruz shot back that if you "want to talk about a shutdown," O'Rourke's efforts to investigate Trump would lead to "two years of a partisan circus and a witch hunt on the president." O'Rourke replied that it's "really interesting to hear you talk about a partisan circus after your last six years in the Senate."

Both candidates tried to end on a high note. "We're in desperate need right now of inspiration," O'Rourke said, adding that he's constantly inspired by the people of Texas. Cruz highlighted his policy differences with O'Rourke and portrayed himself as the actual candidate of hope. "Do we choose fear, or do we choose hope?" Cruz asked. "I believe in hope." Peter Weber

September 22, 2018

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and his challenger, Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas), wrangled at a contentious debate in Dallas Friday night. And the fatal shooting of Botham Jean — the black man killed in his apartment by a white Dallas police officer who says she mistook it for her own home — was a key issue of division between the candidates.

The evening of the debate, Cruz's Twitter account shared a video of O'Rourke speaking to wild cheers in a majority-black church. The clip shows an impassioned O'Rourke arguing Jean's case has yet to see justice. "How can we continue to lose the lives of unarmed black men in the United States of America at the hands of white police officers?" he asks.

The tweet's caption suggests the Cruz campaign sees this plea for better police accountability and a transparent public investigation into Jean's killing as self-evidently damning.

At the debate itself, Cruz argued his opponent consistently "sides against the police," claiming O'Rourke has "described law enforcement as modern day Jim Crow." O'Rourke's actual comment, made Wednesday, referenced the book The New Jim Crow to note black Americans are subject to demonstrable discrimination in the U.S. justice system.

"With the tragic shooting death of Botham Jean, you have another unarmed black man killed in this country by law enforcement," O'Rourke said at the debate. "Now, no member of law enforcement wants that; no member of this community wants that; but we've got to do something better than what we've been doing so far."

The latest polls show Cruz and O'Rourke are in a dead heat. Watch their full debate below; the discussion of policing begins around the seven-minute mark and continues through minute 16 with a discussion of NFL players' pre-game protests of police brutality. Bonnie Kristian

September 18, 2018

These would be fighting words in Texas, if anyone were taking them seriously.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) introduced this silly line of attack against his Democratic rival, Rep. Beto O'Rourke, at a campaign rally on Saturday, responding to PETA handing out barbecued tofu outside. "So I got to say, they summed up the entire election: If Texas elects a Democrat, they’re going to ban barbecue across the state of Texas," he said. "You want to talk about an issue to mobilize the people." The audience laughed.

Cruz didn't explain what tofu has to do with O'Rourke or Democrats, or how a U.S. senator would outlaw barbecue in a state, but in a speech a week earlier, he said liberals wanted to make Texas "just like California, right down to tofu and silicon and dyed hair." Cruz spokeswoman Emily Miller, who once called O'Rourke a "triple meat Whataburger liberal," echoed Cruz's barbecue line, just to show he wasn't entirely joking, tweeting: "Texas on the brink of #AbolishBBQ if voters don't #KeepTexasRed."

"Cruz's words may have been in jest — the suggestion that O'Rourke, an El Paso Democrat, is an an enemy of barbecue is clearly a straw man made of tofu — but that doesn't mean they didn't have the serious purpose of further planting an image in voters' minds of O'Rourke as a candidate outside the mainstream of Texas values," explains Jonathan Tilove at the Austin American-Statesman.

O'Rourke hasn't bothered chasing Cruz's barbecue conspiracy, tweeting instead about expanding Medicaid and protecting health care coverage from Republicans — and lemonade, which he clearly doesn't want to ban.

Anyway, watch for some anti-lemonade angle in Cruz's next attack. Peter Weber

September 4, 2018

Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-Texas) ended a 34-day road trip around Texas at a homecoming event in El Paso on Sunday. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the man he is trying to unseat, released a video on Monday with a "lighthearted reminder" that O'Rourke used the F-word at some of his 100 campaign events across the state.

For those of you not keeping score, historian Kevin M. Kruse recaps Cruz's case against O'Rourke:

O'Rourke, who trails Cruz by about 4 percentage points in the RealClearPolitics polling average, released a Labor Day video about labor. It is safe for work, and you can watch below. Peter Weber

August 20, 2018

Rep. Beto O'Rourke's (D-Texas) campaign is heating up, in part thanks to his odious opponent.

O'Rourke is running to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and the gap between the two candidates keeps shrinking. BuzzFeed News on Monday noted that an important part of O'Rourke's growing popularity is a growing disdain for Cruz, as voters tire of his pompous politics and support for President Trump.

The Senate hopeful isn't putting all his eggs in one Cruz-hating basket, though: O'Rourke has run an impressively energetic campaign, BuzzFeed News notes, driving all over Texas to drum up support from apathetic Democrats and moderate voters. The grassroots effort has raised more than double Cruz's fundraising haul, without taking any money from PACs, which BuzzFeed News describes as politically enthralling to voters who feel frustrated by politicians' assumptions that Texans will always vote red.

For voters that feel left behind by Cruz, O'Rourke is an exciting alternative, convincing crowds that establishment politics don't have to be so divisive and cynical. That notion is popular among moderate voters and even some wary Republicans who worry that Cruz's reputation slows down any hope of progress. "They hate [Cruz] in Washington," one voter in Abilene, Texas, told BuzzFeed News. "So how's he supposed to get anything done?"

Despite some Texans' appreciation of Cruz's anti-abortion and pro-Second Amendment politics, many are disenchanted with his sanctimonious style. "I'm not a Democrat," said another Abilene voter. "But I'm sure as heck not voting for Ted Cruz." Read more at BuzzFeed News. Summer Meza

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