U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is preparing Texas Republicans for a turbulent election year amid super-charged Democratic enthusiasm — including in his own re-election campaign.
Traveling the state for GOP events this weekend, Cruz portrayed an uncertain midterm environment that could go down as disastrous for Republicans if they don’t work to counteract Democratic energy throughout the country. Cruz has spent previous election cycles airing similar warnings against GOP complacency in ruby-red Texas, but this time it hits much closer to home for him — he is facing a well-funded re-election challenge from U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso.
Addressing the Fort Bend County GOP on Friday night, Cruz warned of an “incredible volatility in politics right now,” calling Democrats “stark-raving nuts” in their opposition to Trump. He pointed to Trump’s recent State of the Union address and Democrats’ reluctance to applaud, saying the scene “underscores the political risk in November.”
“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.”
Yet Cruz maintains a big cash-on-hand advantage, closing out 2017 with $7.3 million in the bank, his campaign said late Sunday. O’Rourke, who revealed his haul a short time earlier, has $4.6 million to spend, according to his campaign.
Still, O’Rourke’s $2.4 million haul shows his fundraising is gaining steam — it’s his biggest fundraising quarter since launching his bid in March. O’Rourke said the figure was accompanied by a spike in the number of individual contributions that his campaign received — from almost 33,000 in the third quarter to over 55,000 during the most recent period, he said in an interview.
“The fact it’s the most we’ve raised and that we are adding tens of thousands of more individual contributions shows that the interest in the campaign is only increasing,” O’Rourke said in an interview. “And the fact that most of that is Texans is really, really encouraging.”
And yes, the enthusiasm is real:
O’Rourke is indeed getting a push from numerous pop-up, grassroots groups across the state, some that organized even before his Senate bid began.
Such is the case with DFW for Beto, an outfit that in the past year has planned numerous campaign events, registered hundreds of voters and worked to mobilize North Texas residents to sweep the underdog candidate into the Senate.
“We didn’t start it. We didn’t ask anybody to start it. They did it, and they are running their own show,” O’Rourke told The Dallas Morning News. “They have already decided that this is the year. They will not be on the sidelines for this. They will get involved.”
It’s more than luck.
O’Rourke’s chances of unseating Cruz rest with the extraordinary volunteer army that has been hastily amassed throughout the state.
Although O’Rourke has two challengers in the March 6 Democratic primary and Cruz has four in the GOP primary, the race already appears to be on between the two men. And O’Rourke will need all the help he can get against Cruz, known for his formidable political ground game.
The volunteer effort complements O’Rourke’s field and grassroots efforts waged by his official campaign, though top aides for the congressman declined to give specifics about their overall grassroots effort and how many voters they have reached.
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