Tag Archives: Beto O’Rourke

O’Rourke making a return to the Panhandle

I’m thinking a good friend and former colleague is right about Beto O’Rourke’s unfolding political strategy.

The Democratic challenger to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is crawling back into the belly of the beast — so to speak — in May. O’Rourke is planning an Amarillo town hall meeting on May 13. I understand details are coming out soon.

My old pal theorized during a recent visit my wife and I made to the Golden Triangle that O’Rourke, who hails from El Paso, is seeking to cut his expected losses in heavily Republican rural Texas. Meanwhile, the Democratic congressman is hoping to hold on to his base of progressive support in urban Texas.

So, the theory goes as explained to me by my buddy: If O’Rourke can avoid getting skunked in the country and hold his own in the big cities, he wins the November election against The Cruz Missile.

Indeed, the idea that O’Rourke is coming back yet again to the unofficial heart of Texas Republicanism tells me that the young man is serious about this part of the state.

I’m sure he’s been told the story — or the myth, depending on your point of view — about how President Lyndon Johnson closed the Amarillo Air Force Base in the late 1960s because so many Panhandle counties voted for Sen. Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election.

Fact check: Of the 26 counties comprising the Panhandle, exactly eight of them went for Goldwater. That was eight too many to suit the Texan who was serving as president of the United States, or so the legend goes in these parts.

I won’t argue the point here about whether LBJ was pi**** off enough to put thousands of Texans out of work by closing the air base.

The point, though, is that a young Democratic candidate for statewide office is coming here to make his case for why he should be elected over a Republican incumbent U.S. senator.

Yes, I want him to win. Now that we have (re)established that bias, my hope is that his political brain trust isn’t sending him on a fool’s errand with a town hall meeting in the belly of the beast.

Is it possible for a huge upset in Texas?

I’ll say it once more with feeling: I want Beto O’Rourke to win the U.S. Senate seat now occupied by Ted Cruz.

O’Rourke is the Democratic challenger to the Republican incumbent.

There. That’s out of the way.

A new poll by Quinnipiac University suggests that this moment, O’Rourke is well within striking distance of shooting down the Cruz Missile. The poll puts Cruz a 47 percent, with O’Rourke at 44 percent; the margin is well within the poll’s 3.6-percent margin of error.

I’m not going to pop the bubbly. It’s only mid-April; the election will occur in November. That’s about a thousand lifetimes, politically speaking.

Texas remains a heavily Republican state. I get that it always remains a huge hurdle for a Democrat to win a statewide race in Texas, something that hasn’t happened since 1994.

With all this talk of a “blue wave” getting ready to sweep over Congress in this year’s midterm election, I am left to wonder if that so-called Democratic wave is going to wash over Texas this fall. If it does, and O’Rourke at least keeps this contest competitive, then it well might portend something quite significant happening around the rest of the country.

To be truthful, it concerns me that Texas has been so maddeningly non-competitive in these statewide races. It really isn’t critical that Texas flip completely from Republican to Democratic leanings. What I would prefer to see is a competitive political climate that keeps the major parties more intellectually honest.

I don’t like one-party dominance. I don’t like it now and I didn’t like it in the Golden Triangle, where Democrats once ruled supreme over the political landscape. That has changed in that corner of the state. I wish it would happen in the Texas Panhandle.

I also am hoping it can happen in at least one highly visible statewide race: Beto vs. the Cruz Missile.

But … yes, I want Beto to win.

Time for another bumper sticker?

It’s been 50 years since I plastered a political sticker on the bumper of my car.

I owned a 1961 Plymouth Valiant in 1968. I adorned it with a “Kennedy” sticker to express my support for Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s run for the presidency. I wasn’t even old enough to vote. It all ended tragically, as you no doubt know.

I’m giving thought to doing so again in 2018. I support Beto O’Rourke’s candidacy for the U.S. Senate against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz.

However, I’m a bit queasy about it, given the intense division that exist in this country. Yeah, yeah. I know that 1968 produced an even deeper schism, given the intense feelings about the Vietnam War.

This, though, seems different. It’s even more intense. It’s as visceral as it was back then.

Not only that, I happen to reside in a deeply Republican state full of folks who are unafraid to challenge those of the “other” party. The same holds true for Democrats in their feelings against Republicans. Not only that, we are headquartered in the most Republican-friendly region of this GOP state.

Dare I plaster my political preference on a car and expose it to angry response? Hmm. I’ll have to give that just a bit of thought before I take the partisan plunge once again.

O’Rourke winning money battle against Cruz

Beto O’Rourke appears to be winning one aspect of the upcoming electoral fight against an incumbent U.S. senator from Texas, Ted Cruz.

It’s the fight for campaign cash.

Will it translate to victory in the bigger, more important battle — the one for actual votes this fall? Well, that remains to be seen.

The Texas Tribune reports that Cruz, the Republican incumbent, is going to declare that he has raised less than half of what O’Rourke, the Democratic challenger, has raised in the first quarter of 2018.

I won’t spend a lot of time analyzing the battle for cash. Here, though, is a thought that came to me from a retired journalist friend of ours who offered this tidbit during our recent visit to the Golden Triangle.

O’Rourke’s goal has to be to cut his expected losses in rural Texas while maintaining his expected hefty margins in urban Texas.

The Cruz Missile has already put the warning out to his GOP faithful that the “far left” is energized against him — and against Donald Trump, whom the far left hates with a passion, according to Cruz.

Our friend, who’s watched a lot of election cycles in Texas over the span of many decades, believes that O’Rourke — a congressman from El Paso — needs to continue plowing the rural field in the hunt for votes. That seems to explain why O’Rourke has spent so much time in places such as Pampa, Canyon, Amarillo and throughout the reliably Republican Texas Panhandle.

In a certain fashion, if that is the strategy that O’Rourke is employing in Texas, it seems to mirror the national Democratic strategy that enabled Barack Obama to win two presidential elections and for Hillary Clinton to win the popular vote by 3 million ballots while losing the Electoral College to Trump. If you look at the county-by-county breakdown nationally, you see that Republican presidential candidates in 2008, 2012 and 2016 all won vast expanses of rural America; Democrats, though, harvested tremendous numbers of votes in urban America.

One can boil that down to a Texas strategy, too, I reckon, given this state’s huge urban centers in San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas/Fort Worth.

Thus, it becomes imperative for O’Rourke to somehow cut deeply enough into the losses he can expect in the Piney Woods, the Rolling Plains, the High Plains and the Permian Basin to give him some breathing space as he shores up the support he can expect in Big City Texas.

I do hope the young man spends his campaign cash wisely.

Cruz vs. O’Rourke: a fight to watch

I’ll lay this out there right away: You know where I stand regarding U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, whom I have dubbed “The Cruz Missile.”

For those of you who don’t know, I’ll just say this: I do not support him. There. That’s out of the way.

I’m going to watch his fight for re-election with intense interest. He has a Democratic challenger who hails from way out yonder, El Paso. Beto O’Rourke is a member of the U.S. House. He wants a promotion to the other end of the U.S. Capitol Building.

I am not going to predict how this year’s election will turn out. I’m not smart enough to make such a prediction. Yes, I consider The Cruz Missile to be the favorite. Texas is seriously Republican. Our voters are more conservative than liberal. Cruz is banking on the voters’ party loyalty.

But wait! O’Rourke is raising lots of money. He has raked in more campaign cash than Cruz. It’s coming from somewhere. He is tapping the state’s pockets of progressive voters.

Political observers do suggest that O’Rourke needs to build his brand. He needs to establish a political identity. Many of us know how to ID Cruz. I consider Cruz to be a front-running media hog. He loves the spotlight. He’s good at basking in it. He ran for president in 2016 after serving just partly into his first term as a senator; that’s not a strike by itself against him, as Barack Obama did the same thing in 2008.

If there is a “blue wave” set to sweep across the land in the 2018 midterms, I suspect that the Cruz-O’Rourke contest will determine just how angry voters are at the manner in which Republicans have governed the nation. We’ll know whether that wave is for real or whether it’s a mirage created by wishful thinkers.

My heart hopes that Cruz gets the boot. My head prevents me from suggesting it will happen.

It will be among the critical U.S. Senate races to watch.

More money: Does it equal more votes?

Beto O’Rourke is raising more campaign money than Ted Cruz.

Yes, that is correct, according to the Texas Tribune.

The Democratic challenger for the U.S. Senate is outraising the Republican incumbent … in heavily Republican Texas!

I know what many Texans are thinking about now: This means Beto is going to win the election this fall; Cruz is toast; he’s a goner; he’s done.

Not so fast, dear reader.

I’ll stipulate that I am no fan of The Cruz Missile. He has p***** me off plenty during his six years in the United States Senate. Cruz is the latest version of former Sen. Phil Gramm, of whom it used to be said that “the most dangerous place in Washington is between Gramm and a TV camera.” Replace “Gramm” with “Cruz” and you get the same punchline.

As the Tribune has reported: Over the first 45 days of 2018, O’Rourke raised $2.3 million — almost three times more than Cruz’s $800,000. 

Hurray for O’Rourke, right?

The Tribune also notes: While this is a sign of momentum for O’Rourke, it’s worth considering that this race, in a state as big and expensive as Texas, could cost into the tens of millions. Moreover, Cruz is likely to have a deep well of super PAC money to help him in the fall, while O’Rourke early on in his campaign pledged to not accept corporate political action committee money.

Hey, I want O’Rourke, a congressman from El Paso, to win this fall as much the next guy.

It’s good to remember that Texas Republicans are a dedicated bunch. They go to the mat for their candidates no matter what.

It is true that O’Rourke has spent a lot of time at town halls, talking to folks at plant gates, grange halls, saddle and tack shops, shopping malls — you name it — he still is campaigning in a state that hasn’t elected any Democrat to statewide office for two decades. He also has familiarized himself with the expansive landscape of the Texas Panhandle, which is Ground Zero of the Texas Republican political movement.

Now that I think about it, this might be the year for that lengthy streak to come to an end.

Maybe. Perhaps.

Cruz sounds the alarm … but is it a false one?

Ted Cruz is trying to rally Texas Republicans, as if they need any rallying.

The U.S. senator I have dubbed “The Cruz Missile” might be in for the fight of his life this year. He’s got a serious Democratic challenger waiting in the wings and, according to The Missile himself, the challenger has a Democratic constituency that is “stark-raving nuts” in its loathing of all things relating to Donald Trump.

I have made no secret of my own disdain for Cruz, not to mention the president of the United States. From the moment he stepped into his Senate seat in 2013 he has sought, in my mind, to make a name for himself. He hasn’t spoken on behalf of all Texans. He has spoken only for those who support his view that the Affordable Care Act needs to go and that the nation needs to build a wall along our southern border.

But he’s trying now, according to the Texas Tribune, to gin up enthusiasm among Texas Republican voters ahead of the upcoming midterm election.

Why is The Cruz Missile trying to light that fire? For starters, he is facing a well-funded opponent this fall in the form of U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, an El Paso congressman who — and this interests me greatly — has made many forays into deeply Republican Panhandle communities in search of votes.

O’Rourke is raising a lot of money and he has his own base of supporters in the Panhandle fired up about his chances of knocking The Cruz Missile out of orbit this November.

We’ll have to see about that.

But O’Rourke and other Democrats have fired up Cruz enough for him to rally the GOP faithful. As the Tribune reports, Cruz made a series of political appearances this weekend: “Let me tell you right now: The left is going to show up,” Cruz said, delivering the keynote address at the party’s Lincoln Reagan Dinner. “They will crawl over broken glass in November to vote.”

The Tribune also reports: Cruz is feeling the heat in his own bid for a second term. O’Rourke, who has sworn off money from political action committees, outraised Cruz in the last three months of 2017, $2.4 million to $1.9 million. It was the second quarter in which O’Rourke’s haul was bigger than that of Cruz, who still maintains a healthy cash-on-hand advantage.

A lot of political observers believe we could be heading for one of those “wave elections,” where the out-party delivers serious political damage to politicians of the majority party. It happened in 1994, and again in 2010 and 2014.

I’ll simply add this bit of context: If Ted Cruz finds himself in any peril in this deeply Republican state, then you know the rest of the country is about to get drenched in a political tidal wave.

Welcome back, Beto!

I’m getting a little ahead of myself, but Beto O’Rourke is making himself quite at home in what might be considered “enemy territory.”

O’Rourke is the Democratic member of Congress who wants to succeed Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz at the end of next year.

He keeps coming back to the Texas Panhandle. He’ll be here Tuesday, conducting a town hall meeting beginning at 6:30 p.m. at Austin Middle School in Amarillo.

What’s the deal? O’Rourke represents an El Paso district in Congress. He’s got a Democratic Party primary yet to win. He has returned back home to Texas during the August recess to resume his full-time campaign for the Senate seat occupied by Cruz.

O’Rourke has developed quite a fan following among local Democrats — yes, there are actually living, breathing Democrats in the Panhandle. They can’t get enough of this young man.

I’m curious about a couple of things regarding Rep. O’Rourke.

First, how much time is he going to spend mining a limited number of Democratic primary votes when there exist so many more in larger urban regions in, say, Dallas and Tarrant counties, in Bexar County, in Travis County, Harris County and, oh yes, El Paso County? Hey, it’s a big state and he’s got to get from place to place in a big hurry.

Second, if the young congressman gets nominated by Democrats next spring, will he come back to the Panhandle when the general election campaign kicks into high gear?

You and I know the rule of thumb regarding partisan Texas politics: Democrats generally have given up on the Panhandle, while Republicans take this region for granted. Just as national politicians campaigning for president focus on “battleground states” and ignore the trusty Red and Blue states, the same can be said for the intrastate campaign in Texas.

Do candidates for statewide office spend as much time in regions where the outcome is preordained? If I would run a Texas-wide campaign, I would focus my attention on those “swing regions” and seek to gin up turnout among my own partisans, be they Democrats in Austin and the Hill Country or Republicans in Amarillo and throughout West Texas.

I hope I’m wrong about Beto O’Rourke. Just maybe the young man will possess the energy and pizzazz to spend more general-election time far from his base of support.

You know, too, that I am no fan of the Cruz Missile.

Enough said.

Castro clears the decks for Beto O’Rourke

I swear I thought I could hear the faint chants way off in the distance.

“BE-TO, BE-TO, BE-TO … “

And on it goes.

They could be coming from breathless Texas Democrats who have worked themselves into a tizzy over news that U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro has decided to forgo a challenge to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in next year’s mid-term election.

Thus, the way is cleared among Democratic Party loyalists to rally behind the candidacy of U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who’s been barnstorming our massive state of late, acquainting himself with Democrats who want little better than to oust Cruz, the fiery Republican senator who I’ve dubbed — in not-so-friendly terms — the Cruz Missile.

O’Rourke, who hails from El Paso, stopped in Amarillo over the weekend for a meet-and-greet at a local restaurant. From what I have heard, the crowd to meet him was enormous, meaning that O’Rourke’s advance team — with a lot of social media help from a group called Indivisible Amarillo — did a good job of filling the room.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and let’s heed a dose of sobering reality — if you’re a loyal Democrat we used to refer to in this state as “Yellow Dogs,” meaning they’d rather vote for a yellow dog than vote for a Republican.

Texas flips from D to R.

Texas is a seriously Republican state. It has flipped just in the span of a few years from being reliably Democratic. The Cruz Missile represents the colossal strength of the state GOP. He is one of a complete slate of statewide elected officials who wear the Republican label.

Cruz will be difficult to beat, so let’s not believe that just because there might be an attractive and articulate challenger from the other party that it guarantees a neck-and-neck race. Do you remember another Democrat who was thought to be a serious challenger to the GOP vise grip in Texas? Her name is Wendy Davis, the former state senator from Fort Worth. She was supposed to present a serious challenge to then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott in the 2014 race for governor; she lost by 20 points.

I am not crazy about one-party control at any level. I prefer a competitive two-party system. A healthy minority party puts the majority party on notice to defend its positions; a competitive environment makes incumbents accountable for the statements and the decisions they make on our behalf.

Maybe we can restore some level of competitiveness to the Texas political battleground. For the sake of those anxious Democrats around the state — and in the Texas Panhandle — I hope it’s O’Rourke who can make Cruz answer for his grandstanding and his transparent self-centeredness.

O’Rourke trying to make a fight of it for U.S. Senate

I am going to give credit to a young member of Congress who wants to upgrade his status as a public official.

Beto O’Rourke is a Democratic congressman from El Paso. He’s running for the U.S. Senate seat occupied by Republican Ted Cruz.

What deserves a word of praise is that O’Rourke is coming here, to Amarillo, the unofficial “capital city” of the most Republican region of one of the nation’s most Republican states.

He’s scheduling a meet-and-greet this coming Saturday at Abuelo’s Restaurant. He’s going to shake a few hands, get his picture taken with individuals, perhaps answer some questions from those coming to meet the young man.

OK, I get that the election is more than a year away. O’Rourke might not even win his party’s primary next spring; another young up-and-comer, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro of San Antonio is thinking about challenging Cruz.

That’s a decision to be made by others.

But I’m struck by the idea that a Democrat would come here. I understand this isn’t the first time O’Rourke has ventured this far north since announcing his candidacy. I’ve long lamented the idea that Democratic candidates have given up on the Panhandle while Republican candidates take this region for granted.

This ain’t necessarily a battleground region within Texas, if you get my drift.

Am I going to assert that some back-slapping at a popular eatery in Amarillo is going to turn this region into a critical front in the fight for political supremacy? Oh, no.

I do have to give Rep. O’Rourke some props, though, for spending some time among Panhandle partisans. Just maybe we can restore some competitiveness to these statewide races.

There once was a time, as the late U.S. Sen. Lloyd Bentsen used to say, that “politics in Texas is a contact sport.” It hasn’t been that way for more than two decades, since the last time a Democrat was elected to a statewide office here.

I am left to wonder — indeed, hope — that Beto O’Rourke is ready to return some of the rough-and-tumble to Texas politics.