CEDAR PARK, TEXAS — RSVPs for a political town hall in Cedar Park to be hosted state Rep. Beto O’Rourke on Wednesday have gained momentum hours before the event.
The Democratic challenger El Paso, Texas, hoping to wrest control of the Senate seat currently held by Ted Cruz is coming to Cedar Park on Wednesday, riding a cresting wave of popularity. At last check, more than 570 people had expressed an interest in going to the local gathering on a Facebook event page with another 2,400 expressing an interest in attending. The portal for securing tickets shows more than 1,530 attendees confirmed.
The high interest is rooted in O’Rourke’s impressive gains in pre-election polls showing him within striking distance of matching Cruz in popularity among voters. Anywhere else, such a close contest might not be too uncommon. But in deep-red Texas, O’Rourke’s rising popularity is being viewed as something of an anomaly in state politics.
In short, O’Rourke has emerged as something of a poster boy for a much-hoped-for “Blue Wave” of Democratic wins in the midterm elections.
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A newly released Marist College poll shows Republican Sen. Ted Cruz with a 49 percent to 45 percent advantage over his Democratic opponent in the Texas Senate race. Another voter survey, the Quinnipiac university poll also gives Cruz a small yet clear advantage in the developing contest.
On Monday, another survey was released painting the race as being even tighter. The Emerson College poll, released Monday morning, has the Democratic challenger trailing Cruz by just a single point, 38-37. The results were yielded after a survey of 550 registered voters questioned between Aug. 22 and Aug. 25, with 21 percent of those polled still undecided.
Another intriguing aspect of the race resulting in hope for Democrats but prompting hand-wringing among conservatives is the amount of money O’Rourke has managed to raise. Between Jan. 1, 2017, and July 31, 2018, O’Rourke has assembled quite the war chest in raising $8 million more than Cruz, according to a Texas Tribune analysis of O’Rourke’s and Cruz’s campaign accounts and other entities that are part of Cruz’s fundraising network. All told, O’Rourke has raised $23.6 million to the incumbent’s $15.6 million.
This, again, is unheard of for a Democratic challenger in deep red Texas.
Yet despite the closeness of the race so far and the robustness of the challenger’s coffers, many political pundits already are predicting Cruz — the junior senator who’s held the senatorial seat since 2013 who also ran for president in the 2016 election — will likely clinch the contest come November.
But what’s impressive about this race to even the most hardened political observers is its competitive nature — which could bode well for the Democrats even if O’Rourke fails to clutch the brass ring. The contest is the first major Senate race to be competitive in a generation. That’s not a typo: In a generation. Stated another way: Democrats haven’t come within 10 points of winning either of the two Senate seats in Texas since 1988.
The race also is distinguished by the candidates’ personality contrasts. The two couldn’t be more different — Cruz more button-down and wonky compared to the more youthful O’Rourke known for his musical penchant given a past stint in a post-hardcore band. The latter also was recently filmed skateboarding outside a Whataburger in McAllen, Texas —something Cruz is never likely to be seen doing, anywhere.
Even if O’Rourke were to ultimately lose the contest given a political landscape long dominated by the GOP, some observers believe his coattails could be strong enough to propel a handful of House candidates to office.
Which brings us back to the town hall in Cedar Park. The dynamics explained above should make for a 1-12 hour discussion suffused with exuberance among progressives. And, really, who knows what might happen come November. In the current political age, more implausible things have happened. So anything is possible.
The town hall is scheduled on Wednesday, Aug. 29 from 9:30 a.m. to 11 am. at the Cedar Park Recreation Center, 1435 Main St. For tickets, click here.
>>> Top image: Getty Images file photos, Scott Olson, Joe Raedle