After ten long years, the news media have found a new Barack Obama. His name is U.S. Congressman Robert “Beto” O’Rourke (D-TX). He is the Democratic Party’s hope to wrest the U.S. Senate seat away from the incumbent, Hon. Ted Cruz.
While he shares the good looks and oratorical skills of Barack Obama, he is not African American or Hispanic. In fact, his family is of Irish heritage. The “cool” thing about this candidate is that his nickname sounds Hispanic.
Beto is a typical liberal Democrat who represents El Paso, an area of Texas with a strong majority of Hispanic voters. In his three terms in Congress, Beto has not strayed from party orthodoxy and certainly does not share the same ideology of most Texas voters. Thus, it will be necessary for the media to focus on his looks and his swagger, just like Barack Obama. The media will also help paint a picture of O’Rourke not as a liberal, but as a moderate who can appeal across racial, gender and partisan lines.
Beto also has the good fortune of opposing Cruz, the U.S. Senator almost all members of the media truly loathe. Cruz is a strong conservative and does not play by the rules in the U.S. Senate. Thus, he is also hated by many members of the GOP delegation in Congress. Hopefully, Republican Party donors do not share such antipathy toward Cruz and will generously support his campaign.
It seems that the Cruz campaign has plenty of work to do. In the last quarter, O’Rourke raised $38.1 million, easily outpacing the relatively anemic $12 million haul collected by Cruz. Overall, O’Rourke has raised $61.2 million compared to only $24.9 million for Cruz. The $86 million raised in this race makes it the most expensive U.S. Senate race in U.S. history.
Democrats have not won a statewide race in Texas since 1994; however, since that time there have been significant demographic changes. The population has increased by over 10 million people and now over 28 million people live in Texas.
Many of the new arrivals are of Hispanic origin and vote Democratic. Today, there are over 11 million Hispanics living in Texas, approximately 40% of the state’s population.
This creates a challenge for the GOP in Texas. The party must solidify its base, while trying to appeal to the booming Hispanic electorate in the state. It should be easy for Cruz, since he is legitimately Hispanic. His father was born in Cuba, whereas Beto only has a Hispanic nickname.
Despite being at a financial disadvantage, Cruz is ahead in two recent polls. The latest Quinnipiac University poll showed Cruz with a 9-point advantage, while the latest NY Times poll showed O’Rourke behind by 8 points.
While Beto has more money and much better press coverage than Cruz, he is still losing in the polls. It shows that the voters of Texas are looking past the glitz and examining where these candidates stand on the issues. This is a good sign less than a month before the mid-term elections.