After declining to endorse Donald Trump at the Republican convention in 2016, Sen. Ted Cruz laid low for a while. The conservative firebrand meekly returned to the Trumpian fold, while keeping a much lower profile in Washington after Trump’s victory. He lost some support from his base, while trying to navigate a new political world where—at least in 2016—Texas was a more competitive state for Republicans than Iowa.
But Cruz’s early pugnacious strategy for his reelection campaign hints that Texas isn’t changing as much as optimistic Democrats believe. Despite energized Democratic turnout in the state’s primaries, Republicans also saw a healthy uptick in turnout compared to 2014 and maintained their sizable partisan advantage. Cruz locked down 85 percent of the GOP primary vote and received nearly twice as many votes as his Democratic opponent, Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a sign that base voters are still standing by their man. And most importantly, Cruz’s early message in the general election suggests that taking a hard line against immigration reform and gun control is still a winning strategy in Texas.
Cruz’s first ad—a radio buy designed to draw outsized media attention—is filled with the rhetorical staples that play to his base. “Liberal thought is not the spirit of a Lone Star man,” the jingle begins. It then accuses O’Rourke of supporting “open borders” and “tak[ing] our guns away.” Any hints that Cruz would be moderating his positions to capture support from disaffected suburbanites in Dallas and Houston were quickly erased.
And despite signs that support for gun control is on the rise after the Florida school shooting, Cruz has not felt any need to moderate his position. After winning his primary, Cruz relished in scrapping with two cable news hosts—MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough and CNN’s Chris Cuomo—over gun control. Democrats, meanwhile, are concerned about veering too far left: In one of the pivotal House battlegrounds, party leaders are working aggressively to stop progressive activist Laura Moser from winning a suburban Houston primary. They’ve argued she’s unelectable because of past writings about rural Texas, but her unapologetic anti-gun posture is surely another challenge for persuading swing voters.
In the three most competitive House races in the state—the reelection campaigns of Republican Reps. John Culberson, Pete Sessions, and Will Hurd—the GOP news was also encouraging. Republican turnout exceeded Democratic turnout in two of the three districts, even though Democrats were the ones with competitive primaries. Despite their warnings, Democrats failed to stop Moser from placing in a runoff in the Houston-area Culberson district, raising the odds that Republicans hold an otherwise vulnerable seat.
Republicans in Texas also showed some good judgment in choosing candidates. In a Houston-area seat, they backed a Navy SEAL with an inspirational story (Dan Crenshaw) over an ill-prepared candidate endorsed by the governor who spent millions of her own fortune (Kathaleen Wall). The front-running Republican for the seat of retiring Rep. Lamar Smith is Cruz’s former chief of staff (Chip Roy), an experienced legislative player.
Not all waves are created equal in every part of the country. In their 2010 landslide, Republicans dominated in the Midwest and South but failed to win key Senate races out West. Similarly, Democrats could win back the House by scoring big in the Northeast and California alone, while simply doing adequately everywhere else. Georgia’s special election last year proved the limitations Democrats will face in Southern suburbs where Republicans traditionally dominated before Trump’s arrival on the political scene.
The results from Texas show Democrats making important inroads, but that won’t necessarily translate to many victories come November. Democrats look well positioned to win a House majority in November—but don’t expect Texas to be turning blue anytime soon.
What We're Following See More »
In a lengthy Facebook post, Mark Zuckerberg responded to reports that Cambridge Analytica had accessed the personal data of 50 million users, and kept the data after being told by the social media company to delete it. "I started Facebook," wrote Zuckerberg, "and at the end of the day I'm responsible for what happens on our platform ... While this specific issue involving Cambridge Analytica should no longer happen with new apps today, that doesn't change what happened in the past." On Monday, Sen. Mark Warner, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, called for “Mr. Zuckerberg and other CEOs” to testify "about social media manipulation in the 2016 election."
"The White House is backing a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill despite opposition from some House conservatives ... 'The President and the leaders discussed their support for the bill, which includes more funds to rebuild the military, such as the largest pay raise for our troops in a decade, more than 100 miles of new construction for the border wall and other key domestic priorities, like combatting the opioid crisis and rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure,' White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement." The details of the bill are expected to be released later today.
The Federal Reserve bumped the key rate from 1.5 to 1.75 percent, "the highest level since 2008 but still low by historical standards." The board "signaled it would raise rates two more times this year, part of an ongoing move away from the extraordinary measures it took to boost the economy during and after the great recession."
"Administration officials said they expect Congress to pass a stopgap bill to avert a third government shutdown this year as lawmakers scramble to finalize a must-pass omnibus spending bill. White House legislative affairs director Marc Short told CNN Tuesday that negotiators are getting closer to reaching an agreement, but there are "too many obstacles to tackle" for the omnibus bill to make it out of the lower chamber by Thursday."