A 2018 retrospective
A wall of text on 2018:
1. I've said consistently and repeatedly that I thought Ted Cruz was vulnerable to the right candidate in 2018. I also frequently said that Beto wasn't that candidate. I was right. Honestly, Beto never ran a strategy that could get a plurality of the vote in Texas.
Not even in a relatively good year for Dems. Sure he got close, but every single percentage point is quadratically harder.
2. But to be fair, given that Beto ran like he was a statewide candidate in California, I wouldn't have expected him to get within 3 points. He ran a strategy that normally tops out at 45% and then added a couple points from a favorable election year and good turnout.
So maybe Ted Cruz was even more vulnerable than I thought. There's no doubt that he's not popular after 4 years of changing his position to whatever will win the next election, plus attacking Republicans more than Democrats. Also using "tough as Texas" as his tagline almost seemed like Beto wrote it to remind voters about how Ted completely failed to stand up to Trump and defend his wife and father.
Yet Beto honestly did a terrible job of reminding voters of what they dislike about Ted. To a large degree, that probably doesn't matter but he definitely overcalibrated for "getting fawning media coverage from national outlets" versus "winning an election in Texas."
Huge missed opportunity for Democrats on both a state and national level. Cruz likely won't be as vulnerable in 6 years.
3. What if Beto had spent his money more wisely? All that money on yard signs and on poorly targeted online ads (Beto spent lots of money on impressions that I saw and it wasn't all remnant ads) wasn't cheap. If I recall correctly, Cruz actually spent more on TV in the final weeks, despite Beto raising multiples of Cruz's money. Odd.
4. Getting crazy amounts of money from people who dislike Ted Cruz was never going to be the hard part. Getting crazy good coverage from the media who all dislike Ted Cruz was never going to be hard part.
Getting those things and then not believing your own hype...well if you are effing Beto O'Rourke, then that is the hard part.
5. Beto is probably the reason that some Dems won their elections. But let's not forget that this is late in the redistricting cycle where districts are not demographically what they were when they were drawn nearly a decade ago.
How much Beto turning out extra liberal voters actually mattered is more complicated than it initially appears because of the next couple points:
6. First midterms are generally going to be favorable for the opposition party. Duh.
7. As a brand new Republican after decades as a New York Democrat, Trump re-aligns demographics even more than a new president normally does. The Republicans who lost were in normally GOP areas where Trump is far less popular than a normal Republican would be.
Trump is not popular in the suburbs of major cities. We saw this in 2016, and we saw it again in 2018. [By the way, these were also areas in which Ted Cruz underperformed in the 2016 Texas presidential primary].
Did I think Culberson would lose? Months ago, no, I absolutely didn't, but given his neglect of constituent services (I speak from experience) and his general lethargy on the campaign trail plus the fact that he went native and moved to Washington, DC....well, I ain't shocked. The real question is whether CD7 stays blue in 2020, and I highly doubt that.
The Houston metro has had so much Republican dead wood in our congresspeople and state reps that a nice wakeup call to do. their. jobs. is hardly the worst thing in the world.
Could the Dallas and Harris county parties have done better? Definitely maybe, but much of this was written in stone when you had Trump at the top of the ballot in his first mid-term where you had a vulnerable and polarizing Ted Cruz running against someone focused on ginning up liberal turnout instead of winning.
But hey, to quote Ted Cruz's daily intonation in 2015, "Donald Trump is terrific!"
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