I’m touring Europe with a rock ‘n roll band, and I won’t be in the U.S. on Election Day. So if everything burns to the ground, good luck to you all. But our band is based in Austin, TX, and in a few cities, fans have approached us after the show and talked to us about, of all things, Beto O’Rourke. So either we’re that bad or Beto is that good.
This is a very stupid thing to do, but I do a lot of stupid things, so today I’m going to go out there and make the argument that Beto O’Rourke will beat Ted Cruz on Tuesday, possibly in what would be considered a blowout for Texas.
Here’s my reasoning: I don’t just base this on recent polling (a number of them now show the two within the margin of error), but on the recent trends we’ve seen in those polls. The steady drift toward Beto is compounded by a surge in voter enthusiasm, both in the state and the country generally, and it’s my bet the polls still haven’t revealed the true depth of Beto’s support. Further, Texas is two states: The deep blue cities on one hand, and deep red exurbs and small towns on the other. It’s therefore worth noting that this voter enthusiasm is itself compounded by the people expressing it—people who who aren’t usually active in midterm elections, specifically young voters and Hispanics. And then, of course, there are the women. If these groups come out in strong numbers — especially in heavily populated, heavily Democratic areas such as North Texas, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin — Beto will win, and easily.
The data bears me out. In areas critical for Beto, early voting turnout rivaled that of the 2016 presidential election. Further, that turnout more than doubled early voting in the two previous midterm elections, 2014 and 2010.
This could all be wishful, biased analysis. After all, if Beto wins, Democratic organizations will pour millions and millions of dollars and other resources into Texas for 2020. And Texas going blue in 2020, which it really might, is the only hope I have right now for American democracy.
Now for a bit more support.
First, let’s look at why I’m probably wrong.
The poll aggregating firm FiveThirtyEight still only gives Beto a 22% chance of winning. Sigh.
BUT. FiveThirtyEight projects about seven million Texans will vote, compared to the 8.5 million who voted in 2016. But in several parts of the state we’ve seen early voting turnout — specifically in heavily populated areas critical for Beto — has been closer than FiveThirtyEight’s projected ratio. There’s also the conventional wisdom that Texas is so deeply dyed red that Democrats are getting ahead of themselves, and it will be some time yet before the state flips. This might be true: The state sure didn’t live up to the hype in 2016, picking Trump over Clinton 52-43.
But listen. Ted Cruz is one of the least likable people on the planet. Just ask his wife. And he’s only been elected to one term, which he has served in a Congress that currently has a 17.8% approval rating. Whatever advantage he has an incumbent is considerably weaker than your average Senator.
Let’s see how Beto himself is doing. First, according to Change Research, his favorability rating is even with Cruz at 50%. The most recent Emerson poll shows Beto within the margin of error (±3), with two percent (incredibly) still undecided. The experts at Cook Political Report have Beto up on Cruz by more than one point. Even the notoriously red-shifted Rasmussen polls have Beto within three.
Again, Trump won Texas 52-43.
That Change Research poll cited above has Beto and Cruz running a dead heat. The group also remarks on what they call “a notable shift” in results in Beto’s favor. Perhaps most important of these shifts is what’s going on with the base. Cruz leads Beto 95-4 in the group Change classifies as “pure Republicans” who voted Trump in 2016. But Beto by contrast has wrapped up more than 99% of Clinton voters, more than 90% of Stein voters, and leads Cruz by double-digits in Johnson voters. Though that difference might seem small, it doesn’t look that way to Texas Republicans, who will certainly worry that the base seems to have sprung a leak during the Trump presidency.
Then again, we have the unquantifiable element: Whether these polls accurately anticipate not just how many people show up Tuesday, but who they are. Early voting is often written off as just people who would vote anyway casting ballots ahead of time, but Bloomberg noted Sunday indications that “the voter surge this year isn’t just cannibalizing Tuesday voters, but instead bringing out new voters who wouldn’t normally vote in a midterm election.” This is what Beto wants to hear, and it’s probably why he said at a rally last Friday, after early vote totals were in, “If this continues, we win.”
And he should win. Beto O’Rourke — a U.S. Representative from El Paso — is a savvy, passionate candidate who has defined himself as what I can only describe as a reasonable partisan. He’s been honest about positions his opponents would shade as extreme, but he defends those positions with nothing resembling extreme rhetoric. In a remarkable demonstration of commitment to all voters, not to mention sheer mental and emotional stamina, he wheeled across the state this year, visiting all counties and holding as many town halls as he could. His charm and lucidity have drawn obvious comparisons to Barack Obama, comparisons that in all reality aren’t hyperbolic.
And even if Beto loses — which, again, he won’t (gulp) — he’s already achieved what no Texas Democrat has in decades: A real chance of winning. Perhaps the most impressive of all of Beto’s numbers is that, according to FiveThirtyEight, Texas leans more Republican than the rest of the country by about 17 points. Beto has all but overcome that gap. Republicans should be alarmed at what’s already happened. And they are. Ted Cruz — along with fellow idiot crapface James O’Keefe — has recently launched desperate race-baiting attacks based on nothing but right-wing conspiracy theories.
So yeah, I’ll say it: This election will reveal that Texas has finally made the left turn we’ve said it would for years. Beto by 1.5. Maybe 2.
Learn more about Beto here. Millions of people across the country would love to vote for him. We lucky ducks in Texas get the chance. So for pete’s sake, and the sake of the United States, PLEASE vote on Tuesday. Especially if you live in Texas and have never voted before.