Republican Texas Senator Ted Cruz is neck and neck with his Democrat challenger, congressman and former post-hardcore bassist Beto O’Rourke, in Cruz’s bid for reelection, according to the race’s first Quinnipiac University Poll. The admittedly early poll deemed the race “too close to call” with the incumbent Cruz polling at 47 percent and O’Rourke coming at 44 percent, a difference that falls within the 3.6 percent margin of error.
This is not great news for Cruz, whose reelection would otherwise be a foregone conclusion given how he’s representing a deeply red state. However, 2018 isn’t an auspicious year for Congressional Republicans up for reelection. So far, at least 43 House Republicans opted to retire from public office, resign, or seek another office rather than face a possible “blue wave” sweeping the midterm elections. From NPR:
The last time a party had nearly that many members retire during a midterm year was in 1994, when 28 Democrats left and the GOP subsequently took back control of Congress in the Republican Revolution. Now, it’s Republicans who find themselves in the opposite and unenviable position. Just one year into his term, President Trump has record low approval ratings, congressional Republicans have had few legislative achievements save for the tax overhaul they passed last month, and Democrats seem more fired up than ever to issue a rebuke to the GOP at the ballot box this year.
During the first quarter of 2018, O’Rourke’s Senate campaign pulled in $6.7 million in donations from 144,000 donors, more than double what Cruz earned. O’Rourke is going to need every advantage as Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate since the reelection of Lloyd Benton in 1988. However, the Democrat’s early appeal to independent voters may give him an edge.
“The key may well be independent voters. O’Rourke’s 51 to 37 percent lead among that group is key to his standing today,” Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Poll, said in a statement, “But Texas remains a strong GOP state so O’Rourke will need the independent strength to pull the upset.”
Although Texas is “a strong GOP state,” President Trump is expected to be a drag on GOP candidates at the polls. Trump beat Hillary Clinton by nine points in 2016, but that’s an unusually slim margin for the reliably Republican stronghold. Almost midway through his first term, Trump has just a 43 percent approval rate in the Lone Star state.
“It’s not a question about whether there will be a Trump drag in Texas, the only question right now is how big it will be — and how many Republican incumbents will be in trouble,” political consultant and former executive director of the state Democratic party Harold Cook told the Houston Chronicle. “If you’re a member of Congress or state Senate or House incumbent who has a credible Democratic opponent, and you’re in districts that went for Trump less than 7 or 8 … points, you better be out working your ass off to get re-elected.”
Perhaps “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz made a mistake endorsing Trump right before the 2016 election, despite Cruz’s former political rival accusing his dad of murdering JFK and retweeting memes calling the failed presidential candidate’s wife Heidi Cruz ugly.