Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the number two Republican in the Senate, speaks with an aide during a Senate Judiciary Committee markup session to vote on new federal judges, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, June 28, 2018. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Ever since Robert “Beto” O’Rourke put up an astounding fight against Sen. Ted Cruz, the Democrats have smelled blood in Texas’s water and the sharks are once again circling. This time, they’re looking to go after the Senate through Sen. John Cornyn.
According to The Hill, a handful of Democrats have already lined up to take Cornyn out of office:
Seven Democrats have entered the primary, and one more could join in a state that has not elected a Democratic senator in more than three decades. Among the candidates are MJ Hegar, a military veteran who narrowly lost a House race last year and Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards.
The optimism is being driven by trends that appear to favor Democrats, including a growing diversity and a surge in transplants from neighboring blue states like California. Polls also show some signs of weakness for Cornyn as well as President Trump, further raising hopes of a win in a state that has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since Lloyd Bentsen in 1988.
Even The Hill concedes that this race will be an uphill battle, possibly one that’s even tougher than the attempt to unseat Cruz. Former Republican adviser to Cruz David Polyansky made it clear that it’s more than just running a good race, it’s Democrats overcoming their own primary battle, which may become difficult with so many lining up to take part.
“They’re going to have to spend so much time and energy headed through the early part of next year not focused on Senator Cornyn, but focused on each other,” David Polyansky, former chief of staff and adviser to Cruz, said in an interview with The Hill.
“By the time May rolls around, they’re going to have a really short window to launch a statewide campaign that cleans up the carnage of not only a large but likely aggressive primary battle,” he continued.
But can Democrats win despite their positivity?
The answer is anything is possible, but with Cornyn, it’s not likely.
Democrats have many hurdles to overcome, themselves notwithstanding. Cornyn is a central political figure in Texas who has achieved a 37 percent approval from voters that outweighs his 31 percent disapproval. While it’s only a six-point difference, most other voters seem neutral about him at 33 percent according to an Emerson College/Dallas Morning News poll.
Democrats will have to attempt to win over these neutral voters in order to win, but winning them over will be a task in and of itself, especially with so many Democrats fighting amongst themselves. Furthermore, you have a rising tide generated by President Trump elevating all Republican boats.
The Democrats’ main hopes revolve around recent transplants from coastal areas to Texas who they hope will bring their blue-state voting habits with them. Herein lies Cornyn’s biggest threat. New York and California have been seeing hundreds of thousands of people flooding into Texas for years.
A chunk of those people fled here to escape the oppressive regulations put on them by coastal states, but that includes companies who brought their blue state employees with them who only moved because they had to. While some may have learned the lesson that Democrat economic policies don’t work, it’s a safe bet to say some didn’t. It’s not at all out of the realm of believability that they’d want to turn their new home into a fresh shade of purple, if not blue altogether.
It’s a very legitimate threat, but motivating them will be something the Democrats will have to put a lot of time and effort into, and it will be much harder than it was in 2018.
The reason O’Rourke came so close to beating Cruz was multi-faceted. O’Rourke was a young man who had no shortage of similarities with Barack Obama and played well on camera. He was easily marketable, not just to Texas Democrats, but the nation. Add to that his opponent, Cruz, who is one of the most hated figures by the left. Between his support for Trump and his Christian stances, Democrats from all over the United States salivated at the idea of bringing him down and put a lot of time, effort, and especially money into his defeat.
They still lost despite it all.
Not that they won’t put effort into demonizing Cornyn to generate the same effect. As my colleague Streiff wrote recently, CNN is already trying to label him a white supremacist.
This time, we have a less nationally recognized candidate in Cornyn who already has a pretty solid political fortress in Texas. The national support won’t be as present as it was in 2018. It’s important to remember that O’Rourke wasn’t really a candidate with much of a record to speak of. The majority of his popularity was actually a result of hatred for Cruz from Democrats. Without that hatred, Democrats will have a momentum problem.
On top of that, Cornyn’s opponent will be someone who survived a gauntlet of other Democrat candidates to become the chosen challenger, but no one can overcome that many opponents without making enemies and creating friction along the way. Expect fallout from Democrats over a race that will likely get very contentious.
With less support and funds, it’s likely that Cornyn will come out the victor.
That said, Texans shouldn’t get comfortable. The blue injection Texas has gotten shouldn’t be underestimated and Republican voters shouldn’t get lazy. Getting out there to vote will be more important than ever if Texas is to keep its nice shade of crimson. Should the turnout falter, Democrats may finally have their foothold.