Incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) fended off a surprisingly fierce challenge in Tuesday’s midterm election, defeating progressive El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) in a contest that captured the imagination of Democrats around the country.
Polls favored the sitting senator throughout the race, but tightened over the last few days, giving some on the left increased hope that O’Rourke might be able to break Democrats’ 24-year losing streak in in the Lone Star state. Buoyed by record voter turnout — more than double, in many parts of the state than the 2012 midterm elections — O’Rourke is fell short of what would have been a stunning rebuke to President Trump, and to Cruz who embraced him.
The loss is particularly gutting for Democrats, given how much money the charismatic congressman managed to raise. O’Rourke took in more than $69 million over the course of his campaign, a record for a Senate bid, and a particularly impressive figure given his refusal to accept donations from corporate PACs.
In the end, O’Rourke’s cash advantage wasn’t enough to overcome the advantage Republicans have in sheer numbers in Texas, where the party regularly beats Democrats in statewide races by a million or so votes. O’Rourke did manage to narrow the margin significantly, offering a glimmer of hope that at some point in the future, some Democrat might be able to do what he couldn’t this time.
O’Rourke, who developed a national following over the course of his 22-month campaign, has tamped down speculation that he might run for president in 2020. He says that he’s been on the road too long, away from his family, to dive back in campaigning so soon.
Speaking to Rolling Stone a few weeks before the election, O’Rourke was eager to return to his home in El Paso, and spend time with his wife and three children.
“I’ve missed a ton of birthdays. Amy and I just celebrated our wedding anniversary in two different cities,” O’Rourke said. He was looking forward to the day after election day, when he said, “We’re all going to be in the same house. Win, lose or draw, we’re going to be together — and that’s what counts at the end of the day.”