Amid a tightening Texas Senate race between Republican incumbent Ted Cruz and his challenger, Democratic congressman Beto O’Rourke, the Texas GOP is trying to salvage Cruz’s lead by tweeting photos of O’Rourke looking hot as hell in the ’90s. This seems counterintuitive, but we’re going to assume the GOP knows what it’s doing.
The move was inspired by a back and forth between the O’Rourke and Cruz camps over the scheduling and terms of upcoming debates between the candidates. Because O’Rourke didn’t agree to a debate Cruz proposed for Friday, the Texas GOP began taunting him with photographic evidence that Cruz’s opponent is a fun guy who likes skateboarding and rock music and occasionally got drunk in his youth. As we all know, if there’s anything Texas voters don’t like, it’s live music and booze.
The hilariously impotent smear campaign began on Tuesday when the official Texas GOP Twitter account posted this homemade meme referencing a video of O’Rourke skateboarding in a Whataburger parking lot after a supporter gave him a board. Way to stick it to a guy so cool that strangers just hand him skateboards!
Texas Republicans followed that bombshell with a reminder that O’Rourke was a cool guy who played in a band when he was in college. In October, Spin interviewed O’Rourke about his days as a bassist for several punk bands, including the Texas post-hardcore group Foss. But now is as a good time as any to remind voters that O’Rourke was a fun guy that people wanted to hang out with, rather than a sweaty lurker whose college roommate constantly tweets about how everyone at Princeton hated him.
When the band photo failed to tank O’Rourke’s campaign, the GOP brought out the big guns: A mugshot from O’Rourke’s DWI arrest in the late ’90s, which O’Rourke has spoken about openly since his political career began. Earlier this week, O’Rourke referenced his two prior arrests (neither of which resulted in a conviction) in an op-ed on criminal justice reform for the Houston Chronicle.
“Twenty-three years ago I was arrested for attempted forcible entry after jumping a fence at the University of Texas at El Paso,” O’Rourke wrote. “I spent a night in the El Paso County Jail, was able to make bail the next day, and was released. Three years later, I was arrested for drunk driving—a far more serious mistake for which there is no excuse.” O’Rourke writes that he went on to contribute to “the success of my family and my community—as a father, small business owner, city council member, and congressman,” and discussed how to make the justice system more equitable so people without his privileges are afforded that same second chance.
Granted, there’s no shortage of mugshots for Texas politicians. Plus, I remember a time when a drunk driving arrest was considered a youthful indiscretion that didn’t preclude someone from being elected to higher office.
In short, the Texas GOP reminded us that Beto O’Rourke is all the things Texans hate: a stone cold fox who jammed with Willie Nelson. And what’s not to like about Ted Cruz, a melting butter sculpture of a man who bought 100 cans of soup on his honeymoon and bent the knee to a guy who accused his dad of plotting to assassinate JFK? This is definitely going to work.