Is Ted Cruz Surging or Has the Media Been Gaslighting Us About the Appeal of Beta O'Rourke?

In this Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018, photo, Texas Democratic Congressman Beto O’Rourke, right, passes a “No Border Wall” sign during a visit to the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, a possible location for a border wall. O’Rourke is forsaking a safe seat in Congress and a rising-star career for the longest of odds in an attempt to unseat Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. O’Rourke says that after Donald Trump was elected president, he decided he had to do more in politics than stay put in the House. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)


(No, that isn’t a typo in the headline.)

There is a new Quinnipiac poll out that shows Ted Cruz leading Democrat challenger Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke by nine points.

With just under four weeks to go before Election Day, the Quinnipiac University Poll showed Cruz ahead by 9 percentage points — the same lead Quinnipiac found in a survey of likely Texas voters three weeks ago, suggesting that O’Rourke’s momentum has stalled and that Cruz’s risk is fading.

The 9-point edge in last month’s polls was by far the largest lead the senator had enjoyed in months and it stood out as a potential outlier after a summer of polls showing a much closer contest. The very next day, a Reuters/Ipsos survey showed O’Rourke ahead by 2 points.

The wide range of results has kept campaigns and pundits guessing.

Cruz’s pollster has questioned the methodology and results of polls showing the challenger fighting to a tie. But the incumbent’s campaign has routinely cited the close race to tamp down potentially fatal complacency. As recently as Sunday, Cruz blasted out a donor emails warning of a “2 point race.”

That may be a tougher sell now, with the pressure mounting on O’Rourke to turn his stockpile of cash and adoring throngs into actual votes.

There is a lot packed into that pull-quote. Let me hit my favorite points.

Note the assumption in the article that an earlier poll showing, unsurprisingly, Cruz leading my nine was an “outlier” (I get flashbacks to 2004 and lefties calling every poll that showed Bush beating Kerry an “outlier” whenever I hear that word) while the Ipsos/Reuters atrocity was real. There really hasn’t been a “wide range of results.” The RCP average is Cruz =6.6.

First, there is no universe in which O’Rourke ever led Ted Cruz by 2 points. There is really no universe in which O’Rourke was within five points of Cruz. There may not even be one in which Cruz only leads by nine. This is simply gaslighting driven by polls that were either incompetently conducted or cooked in order to try to create enthusiasm for O’Rourke and the illusion of a horse race. The tell, in this case, is the polling in the Abbott vs. Valdez race for governor. If anyone was going to turn out Hispanic voters and women voters it was never the media darling O’Rourke, it was Lupe Valdez. Valdez, however, has never been closer to Greg Abbott than 19 points. To get Abbott at +19 and O’Rourke at +2 you have to assume that a third of Abbott’s voters are going to split their ticket and vote Abbott for governor and O’Rourke for Senate. This is patent nonsense. To get Cruz at +9 you are still assuming that about a quarter of Abbott voters split their ticket.

What O’Rourke had going for him was that he was a white guy of the same social strata as the tame media that covered him and pretended to have Hispanic roots. He has been kept afloat by that class loyalty. Otherwise, wrecking a car while driving under the influence, running from the cops, and having your daddy, the local judge, pull strings to keep your lily-white ass out of the lock-up when you were 26 years old, would have torpedoed any campaign not run by a Democrat media idol. This is how Matthew Walther describes O’Rourke in The Week:

No single article or tweet could do justice to the brain-destroying tedium of hyperbole, the willful exaggeration, the gushing faddishness, the hipster capitalist complacency, the novelty songwriting contest banality, the experimental filmmaker commercial-directing pseudo-profundity, the sheer late-night TV-level humorlessness of the Beto cult. In a recent column Dana Milbank promised to reveal the ingredients behind “the special sauce that flavors Betomania.” Here they are:

  • “O’Rourke’s cool factor: skateboarding at Whataburger, playing the air drums, doing his laundry on Facebook Live, and scoring appearances with Ellen DeGeneres and Stephen Colbert …”
  • Fifty thousand people attended a — free — Willie Nelson concert at which he appeared.

  • “His partisan jabs are delicate.”

  • He sometimes says “pendejo.”

O’Rourke is not an especially compelling speaker, unlike the young Obama, to whom he is often compared, for reasons that I cannot understand. (A more apropos comparison, in fact, would be with Alan Keyes, the hapless longtime Republican hanger-on who was allowed to serve as Obama’s doomed opponent in his 2004 Illinois Senate race.) Nor is Beto representative of the much-vaunted progressive revival in the party. In fact, he is a proud member of the misleadingly named New Democrat Coalition, the center-right organization founded by Bill Clinton that is “new” in the sense that Pavement’s first two LPs are. Beto has criticized single-payer health care. He does not support a restoration of Glass Steagall or any of the other populist policies that were a cornerstone of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 campaign. He is of the opinion that “standing on a stage” with the leader of Russia, something every president since Franklin Roosevelt has done, is an impeachable offense. He sports a 100 percent lifetime record from Planned Parenthood Action and NARAL. He is a typical neoliberal Democrat.

Nope. The Beta O’Rourke fantasy is media gaslighting of the same type we experienced with Wendy Davis. There was a candidate that the liberal media, both in Texas and nationally, fell in love with. Inordinate coverage was given to an obviously incompetent and flailing candidate. A horse race narrative was developed that energized the credulous to send their money to that candidate. And the utterly predictable ass-whipping took place on election day.

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