The polls in the U.S. Senate race in Texas between Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke show the race is tightening and it looks like Cruz is starting to panic. He just released a series of new TV ads that are supposed to help him cruise to an easy reelection victory but instead they have backfired spectacularly and have been helping O’Rourke instead.
Cruz’s latest series of ads were released in early August and portrayed the younger Democrat in very unfavorable ways.
By attacking the squeaky-clean and telegenic O’Rourke the new ads created a wildly successful fundraising campaign for the Democratic challenger. The ads completely energized O’Rourke’s enthusiastic supporters, who worked together, raising nearly $1.3 million in a just one weekend.
In response to Friday's attack ads, you just raised $1,274,528 over the weekend. No PACs, just people — making 39,000 contributions at an average of $32. pic.twitter.com/FTcP7ytwu3
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) August 6, 2018
That kind of response is not what Cruz was hoping for and it undoubtedly is creating fear not only in the Cruz campaign but among Republican strategists all over the country.
According to OpenSecrets when Cruz won his first Senate race in 2012 his Democratic opponent raised just $700,000 in the ENTIRE election. This year O’Rourke has proven to be an incredible fundraising machine and Cruz is growing desperate.
The O’Rourke campaign said all of the money raised from Cruz’s TV ads will be spent on positive television ads of his own, which he plans to air in all 20 Texas media markets. O’Rourke had previously suggested he might not have a television presence this year so his new campaign is a major shift in strategy.
Cruz’s attack ads attempted to paint the young Democratic representative from El Paso as “extreme” and “too reckless for Texas.”
In one especially ridiculous ad Cruz says that O’Rourke wants to legalize heroin, which is untrue.
One thing that has surprised Cruz is that his opponent was prepared for the attack ads and immediately responded in a positive way that turned out to be very effective. As soon as the ad started airing O’Rourke went on Twitter and posted a video of him speaking to his supporters earlier in the summer predicting exactly the line of attack that Cruz took.
“They will tell you, because I want to end the war on drugs and end the prohibition on marijuana, that I want to do some terrible things like legalize crack cocaine and give your kids heroin,” O’Rourke says in the video. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”
June 29, San Antonio pic.twitter.com/YIVMzuhILf
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) August 3, 2018
This isn’t the first time Cruz has attempted to use fearmongering tactics to bring down his opponent. He once suggested O’Rourke was being dishonest and trying to hide something from voters by using his nickname, “Beto,” instead of his full name, “Robert.” Ironically Cruz did the same thing since his name really isn’t Ted, it’s Rafael. This shows how lame Cruz’s attack ads really are.
Cruz also attempted to mimic Donald Trump’s race-baiting against NFL players who kneel during the National Anthem to protest police violence but he was booed by his own constituents.
Polls all year have shown that Cruz is struggling in the race, which gives O’Rourke an opening for an improbable victory. O’Rourke’s fundraising has been incredible, and in the second quarter of the year alone he raised over $10 million, compared to just $4 million for Cruz. He also had great fundraising numbers in the first quarter.
The fact that O’Rourke is now taking on the incumbent on the television battlefield, and has the money to fight him through election day, is really bad news for Cruz. The TV ads will help O’Rourke reach many new voters, force Cruz to spend more money than he had planned, and take away the advantages of incumbency.
Optimistic Democrats are hoping that the latest Cruz ad fiasco will send his campaign into an “expensive, panicked death spiral” leading to an upset victory for their candidate.
One thing we know for sure is that if Beto O’Rourke upsets Ted Cruz in November the chances of Republicans holding on to control of the U.S. Senate will disappear — along with Ted Cruz’s political future.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.