Sen. Ted Cruz, the man who went to Washington to make waves, is feeling an undertow back home.
The militantly self-assured Mr. Cruz went to Washington to splash salt water in others’ faces. Now he squints into some nasty spray.
Could he be the first Texas Republican to lose a statewide office since 1994?
The odds against it remain great, but the polls, the crowds and — most amazingly — the campaign dollars say, “Wait a minute.”
A recent Texas Lyceum poll shows El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke trailing Cruz by 2 points.
Meanwhile, O’Rourke raised $6.7 million in the first quarter, more than twice Cruz’s haul.
How so? To expedite matters, try one word: Trump.
The more truthful explanation is longer. It is two words: Beto O’Rourke.
The man is waging the most dogged campaign imaginable while impressing giant crowd after giant crowd with his presence and low-key eloquence.
O’Rourke has come a long way from an unknown to a major threat to Cruz. Relative to voter attitudes, he has a long way to go still.
Considering how close the race has become — another poll shows O’Rourke trailing by 6 points — the fact that most Texans already have an impression of Cruz and that 43 percent (according to a Quinnipiac poll in July) were still forming an opinion about O’Rourke shows that with his resources, O’Rourke can close that gap handily as more people get to know him.
Here are four good reasons why Cruz should worry — some obvious, some not so obvious:
(1) A lying, racist, sexist president: He who makes sport of misrepresenting the truth, who inflames people of color, and who lives a life of misogyny is harming his party nationwide. To those skeptical of a “blue wave” in November: It’s already happening.
In addition to high-profile pick-ups like Doug Jones’ U.S. Senate victory in Alabama and Conor Lamb’s Congressional win for Pennsylvania’s 18th District seat, Democrats have flipped 43 GOP-held seats in state and local races across the country.
(2) Angry voters: The poli-sci rule of thumb is that in low-turnout elections, which off-year elections tend to be, the accent is on the angry vote.
We can attribute the GOP takeover of the House in 2010 and the Senate in 2014 to that dynamic, with the angry white voters of the tea party fueling the takeover of Congress.
We are seeing the same thing right now among angry progressive voters, motivated by their revulsion toward Donald Trump and the sycophantic behavior of his Republican enablers.
According to Pew, turnout by Democrats in primaries this year is 84 percent higher than this point in 2014.
(3) The Lupe factor: The outlook doesn’t look good for Texas Democratic gubernatorial nominee Lupe Valdez in her race against Gov. Greg Abbott. However, her nomination provides a silver lining for O’Rourke and other Democrats running.
To whatever degree it manifests itself, Valdez’s presence on the ballot is going to boost turnout by Latinos in Texas, absolutely crucial to Democrats’ chances.
(4) The voter hassle boomerang: Could it be that Republicans’ propensity to make it inconvenient to vote will blow up in their faces in November? Yes, it could.
When it comes to voting rights, Texas is one of the nation’s greatest scofflaws. Just ask federal judges.
The latest run-up with the law: In April, U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled that Texas had violated the National Voter Registration Act by failing to register residents to vote when they updated their drivers’ license information online.
Generally it serves Republican interests to suppress turnout. However, in 2018, with swarms of Democrats ready to wade through molten lava to register their anger at the polls, it won’t serve the party of Trump at all.
If off-year election history is our guide, Republicans soon could be asking, “Why didn’t our people show up?”