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Home POLITICS Democrats need more than Beto O'Rourke if they want to change Texas

Democrats need more than Beto O’Rourke if they want to change Texas

Once again, everyone can not Stop talking about Beto O’Rourke.

FiveThirtyEight’s polling average shows a single-digit contest in the Texas gubernatorial race between O’Rourke and Republican incumbent Greg Abbott. Earlier this year, O’Rourke made headlines for his fundraising recordand the consequences of a succession of high-profile events in the state: the activation of a pre-existing state law abortion ban, continued tensions in the electrical network and a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, one of the deadliest school shootings in US history, is giving him an unexpected advantage against Abbott. As a result, this election for governor could be one of the most competitive in Texas since Democrats last took office in the 1990s.

Let’s be real about one thing, though: The overall electoral environment might be looking up for Democrats, but O’Rourke remains a long shot. FiveThirtyEight’s 2022 midterms forecast gives Abbott a 95-in-100 chance of beating his ubiquitous Democratic challenger. But is it possible that after his closer than expected Running for the Senate against Ted Cruz in 2018 and rising to national prominence after a nearly eight-month campaign in the 2020 presidential election, could a narrow loss to Abbott in November be a victory for Texas Democrats a long term?

The idea that O’Rourke could be laying the groundwork for future Democratic victories in Texas is not crazy. After all, other southern states like Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina have become somewhat more competitive in recent election cycles. But another close statewide race for O’Rourke this year doesn’t necessarily mean Texas is about to turn blue, or even purple. That’s because O’Rourke is, well, O’Rourke, and without stronger campaign infrastructure across the state, it will be difficult for most Texas Democrats running in statewide elections to replicate his level of fundraising. funds and fanfare. And, crucially, Texas remains a trending red state.

O’Rourke’s campaign style is hard to emulate because, for one thing, he’s become a celebrity candidate since his 2018 run, and he has a knack for making headlines. when he is not standing up to troublemakers at campaign events interrupting Abbott at a press conference in Uvalde, where 19 students and two teachers died in a mass shootingO’Rourke has made a name for himself weaving his Toyota Tundra across the state, taking selfies with voters and throwing bombs s to power up your base.

As the graph below shows, public curiosity about O’Rourke has waned since his 2020 run, according to Google Trends data, but he may still command national attention.

But politicians can only get so far on personality alone, and O’Rourke is no exception. However, that does not mean that he is not a strong candidate. A respondent sent in late August and early September by the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin it gave Abbott only a 5 percentage point lead over O’Rourke. And another more recent survey of Quinnipiac University made in late September gave Abbott a slightly larger 7-point lead.

Still, O’Rourke is unlikely to be able to build a lasting campaign infrastructure for future Texas Democrats to replicate if they want to run statewide. That’s because of a major problem: an apparent lack of organization among the Democratic Party in Texas. To take advantage of O’Rourke’s 2018, and likely 2022, margins against incumbent Republicans, the party would need to build and maintain a strong campaign infrastructure well beyond this year’s midterm elections.

“One of the problems for Democrats here is that there has been a lot of turnover in their candidate pool,” said James Henson, executive director of the Texas Politics Project. “To me, that’s a pretty big indicator that there really isn’t an established institutional base in the Democratic Party here in the way that you do see him on the Republican side.”

In addition to problems with hiring and rotation facing Democrats running in major Texas races except O’Rourke and former oil executive Mike Collier, who is defying government lieutenant dan patricio again after losing to him for 5 points in 2018 – the party has nominate inexperienced candidates against formidable Republicans and has no presence in a sizable portion of the state. Case in point: More than 50 of the 254 counties in Texas have no party or organized county leaders, according to the state Democratic Party website. A notable number of those counties are also in rural parts of the state, and even in 2018, O’Rourke garnered the support of only 24 percent of voters living in the 186 rural counties of Texas, according to The Texas Tribune. Cruz, on the other hand, got more than 75 percent of the vote there.

Furthermore, Henson told me, there is no obvious successor who can build and improve the infrastructure that the O’Rourke campaign has created. “In the past, there have been times when successful campaigns have, at least indirectly, provided people with a model of organization and professional skills,” Henson said. “But that just isn’t happening here in Texas.” In 2018, O’Rourke’s close race against Cruz helped Democrats Lizzie Fletcher of Houston and Colin Allred of Dallas flip two congressional districts by unseating a longtime Republican incumbent. The Democrats had net gain of 12 seats in the Texas House of Representatives also. But then in 2020, Texas Democrats leather shorts of their electoral objectives.

There are other reasons, however, why a close victory for O’Rourke doesn’t necessarily speak to the political future of Texas Democrats. For one thing, the brand of the Republican Party remains strong in Texas. When it comes to key political questions, polls suggest voters still overwhelmingly trust Republicans over Democrats. The Texas Policy Project’s August-September poll, for example, showed that voters were more likely to trust Abbott than O’Rourke in handling issues like the US-Mexico border situation and the economy. However, voters trusted O’Rourke more on abortion.

Yet while voters were divided on who could best handle gun violence, Texans said main problems facing the state were border security, immigration, corruption/political leadership, and inflation/rising prices; abortion and gun control/gun violence were lower on his list. That means any Democrat running after O’Rourke would need to win the trust of voters on these issues, and that’s a tall order given that even O’Rourke has had limited success.

over it Demographic Changes in Texas that at one point may have been seen as good news for Democrats may not end up working in their favor. The state’s Hispanic population is growing, but demographics are not the destiny of American politics, and those voters could be a hard block for Democrats to make more gains, especially after Texas border counties moved sharply to the right in 2020. Voters in other rural parts of the state have also been tough for Democrats to win, and despite the campaign of O’Rourke in rural counties, it is unclear if even he is making significant progress.

And so far, O’Rourke hasn’t necessarily provided a foolproof model for winning Republican and independent voters, whose support he would need to beat Abbott in what is still a trending red state. O’Rourke may be a major presence in Texas, but he’s really not that popular. A September survey of the University of Texas at Tyler for The Dallas Morning News, for example, found that nearly half of the state’s registered voters (47 percent) had a somewhat or very unfavorable opinion of O’Rourke compared to 40 percent who viewed him positively. He also did not fare well with independent voters: 46 percent had an unfavorable opinion of O’Rourke versus 34 percent who had a favorable opinion.

The poll did not ask respondents to rate Abbott’s favorability, but exactly half of voters said they strongly or somewhat approved of his job performance as governor; meanwhile, 47 percent said they disapproved. Those numbers have also given O’Rourke’s opponents a run for their money. Since his presidential campaign, he has provided Republicans with a useful foil for inspire your own participation.

In short, for Texas Democrats to succeed statewide, they should have a healthy mix of O’Rourke’s popularity, appeal to a broader swath of voters, and ideally not be a boogeyman or a bogeywoman for republicans. That’s a big question in a state that hasn’t fielded particularly strong Democratic candidates beyond O’Rourke in recent state election cycles.

Of course, since the Democratic nominee is O’Rourke, a microcelebrity in the state and across the country, the race could be close. That said, his run likely won’t say much about Texas Democrats’ bigger ambitions to turn the state around because there’s still a lot of work to do before they get there.

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