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In the Hot Seat: Could Ted Cruz Lose in 2018?

Can Beto O’Rourke pull off a Texas-sized surprise in November?



Something special could be brewing in Texas. Beto O’Rourke, a current member of the House of Representatives, is waging a strong campaign against incumbent senator Ted Cruz.

O’Rourke is likely to be Democratic nominee for the race and is said to have outraised Cruz by almost a million dollars over the past three months. Overall, he has raised over $4 million with about eight months to go before the November election.

Beto O’Rourke speaks at the El Paso Community College SGA Spring Debate. (Image via Flickr)

O’Rourke faces two challengers for the Democratic nomination in Sema Hernandez and Edward Kimbrough. According to recent polls, O’Rourke has the best chance of unseating the incumbent Republican of the three candidates running for the nomination.

In January, Public Policy Polling released a poll that showed Cruz leading O’Rourke by just single digits though similar polling showed that a majority of voters are unsure of who O’Rourke is. The same poll showed that nearly half of Texas voters surveyed have an unfavorable opinion of President Donald Trump.

These numbers are not concrete, but they show that an interesting story is developing in the race for senate in Texas.

Cruz is one of the most disliked public officials in the United States, and for good reason. He was the leader of the government shutdown during the Obama presidency, and boasts many terrible, discriminatory beliefs through his large platform as a well-known politician.

According to a February 2018 study from the University of Texas at Austin, just 32% of his constituency strongly approves of him as a senator.  He may very well face a good challenge from O’Rourke as the resistance against him, the president and the Republican party grows stronger.

O’Rourke has served in the El Paso district since 2012. He currently sits on the Committee on Armed Services and Committee on Veteran Affairs. His voting record aligns closely with that of the Democratic party and seldom sways from the wishes of the party.

If elected senator, O’Rourke says he will fight for equal access to healthcare and immigrant rights. Ted Cruz, of course, lacks empathy for both of these topics.

It may seem like a pipe dream, but many well-known Republican leaders could see their power heavily challenged this election year. If Ted Cruz loses his seat in the senate, the GOP will have an even more difficult time getting legislation through.

With just 51 seats in the senate, the loss of a key party loyalist would effectively render their power in the senate obsolete. Sure, they could theoretically lose Cruz and retain control of the chamber, but with such a slight margin of a majority they need all the help they can get.

Republicans should be worried about Cruz’s electability in 2018.

He, along with many others, is vulnerable to losing. O’Rourke presents Texas voters with a fresh choice while Cruz remains the same stale candidate that’s always been thought of as remarkably unpopular for someone so powerful. Hillary Clinton lost by just nine points in Texas in the presidential election. In contrast, Barack Obama lost by a margin of over 15 percent to Mitt Romney in 2012.

Of course, the differences between the 2012 and 2016 elections are enormous. Many in Texas may have felt horrified by the idea of a Trump presidency and felt compelled to do what was in their power to stop it. At the same time, it could signal a changing tide in the Lone Star state.

Most of the state’s large cities lean Democrat. Austin, Dallas, El Paso, San Antonio and counties along the most southern part of the border all voted Democrat in the last two presidential elections. Cruz lost these same areas in 2012 by fair sized margin and has not likely garnered any new support there given his voting record.

This means that Cruz’s senate seat is in play if O’Rourke continues to prove himself to be a formidable opponent. If voter turnout in the liberal areas of the state increases, then it’s more than reasonable to believe that the election could spell doom for the incumbent.

Of course, nothing is guaranteed. But, Ted Cruz has to be looking over his shoulder as he seeks reelection.

Though it hasn’t happened since the early 1990s, it’s not impossible for a Democrat to represent the state of Texas in the United States Senate. The possibility could become all the more real as the general election creeps closer and the Republican party continues to fail American citizens at every end.

Stranger things have happened.

Lauren Grimaldi is a senior political science student at Roosevelt University in Chicago. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the Roosevelt Torch, the school's student run newspaper. When she graduates in May, she hopes to find work in policy reform, political campaigns, or political writing. Follow her on Twitter @laurengrimaldi_.

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