EL PASO, Texas – A year ago today, no one imagined there would even be a race for Ted Cruz’s Senate seat in Texas. But in the months that have passed, Beto O’Rourke, an all but unknown congressman from El Paso, has gained a national spotlight and raised $38 million in the third quarter.
O’Rourke has raised more money than Cruz – more than any other Senate candidate ever. Cruz has an idea why his rival is getting attention and raising big bucks.
“If you’re a crazy left-wing activist,” Cruz said, “you’ve got this guy in Texas pledging to go after and impeach Trump.”
But O’Rourke brushes that aside, claiming Cruz is just playing politics.
“You’re going to be hard-pressed to ever hear me talk about Sen. Cruz or the president or really anybody else,” said O’Rourke, claiming he’d rather emphasize his vision for Texas.
The day before Tuesday’s midterm election, Texas voters have a stark choice. The two men’s visions for the state and the country are diametrically opposed. Cruz wants a border wall. O’Rourke is against it. Cruz opposes giving Dreamers a path to citizenship. O’Rourke wants one. Cruz wants to end Obamacare. O’Rourke is for expanding Medicare. The differences go on and on.
Both men have been crisscrossing the state in the last couple of weeks of the campaign, attempting to eke out last-minute gains. The voting climate in Texas is enthusiastic.
During the two weeks of early voting leading up to Election Day, voting has been almost on par with the last presidential election – well above the most recent midterms. Experts say many of those voting are new voters.
“Early voting numbers in a place like Texas indicate an enormous number of people who have no vote history,” said Daron Shaw, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin who is a member of the Fox News Decision Team. “Republican consultants I know are basically sort of conceding… that Beto O’Rourke is going to win the lion share of that new voter.”
Does that mean O’Rourke gets the win? Not so fast. Most experts doubt it.
“It has been 25 years since a Democrat won a statewide race in Texas,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor with Southern Methodist University. Most polls have had incumbent Cruz up throughout the race by varying margins.
“This is Texas,” Jillson said.
Texas also has a gubernatorial race this year with Gov. Greg Abbott solidly ahead of his opponent, former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez. That race is expected to bring out Republican voters to help Cruz.
Both candidates will have their watch parties in their respective hometowns — Cruz in Houston and O’Rourke in El Paso.