SAN ANGELO, TX — The only thing standing between Democrat darling Beto O’Rourke and the White House is the severely divided and almost mortally wounded Republican Party of Texas and right now, that’s not enough.
Forget that Robert Francis O’Rourke lost to Senator Ted Cruz.
Forget that O’Rourke was no more influential in the U.S. House of Representatives in his three terms than a piece of furniture.
And forget that Beto’s campaign strategy was doomed from the start.
O’Rourke easily raised and spent $80 million in his losing effort. But his grassroots social media campaign registered hundreds of thousands of new voters. As it turns out, the vast majority of those newly registered voters were millennials who didn’t bother to cast a ballot. Yet his Kennedy-like appeal ignited hopes and dreams Texas Democrats to a level not seen in 24 years.
The 46-year-old Irish Catholic convinced Hispanic Democrats in El Paso that he was one of them in a way Barack Obama, in the 2008 Democratic Party primary, convinced the faithful across the country that he was genuine and a better choice than their ‘most qualified’ candidate ever in Hillary Clinton.
O’Rourke drew huge crowds in large cities and in mid-sized counties and in rural coffee shops and cafes across Texas. His striking good looks and Kennedy-esque demeanor wooed women of all ages. Many described Beto as the next Jack Kennedy.
O’Rourke’s populist message resounded with millennials who admitted they knew next to nothing about politics or government but liked how Beto looked, sounded and acted. "Beers with Beto" was a common gathering theme during his visits to all of Texas’ 254 counties. His easy use of the ‘F’ word and regular profanity would’ve been shunned just four years ago, but the new generation of social media addicts embraced his unorthodox hipster style.
But with all the enthusiasm O’Rourke generated and the hundreds of thousands of millennials he registered to vote to include the $80 million he raised and spent, he still lost the senate race. Liberal leaning Texas media analysts and national media pundits would have you believe the race was close. It wasn’t. While Robert Francis lost his race against incumbent Republican Senator Cruz, it wasn’t like Cruz ran away with the election either. Republican insiders were predicting Cruz would easily win by double digits. When the final results were canvassed, Cruz won by a mere two percentage points.
Better luck next time Beto. That was sarcastically shouted in hundreds of Texas Republican victory parties election night and beyond. But when the dust cleared and all the counting was done in all the races up and down the ballot, Beto’s battle was clearly lost, but the shattered remains of his loss piled up like unused confetti on the floors of dozens of incumbent Republican office holders who were defeated by the Beto effect on election night.
O’Rourke won the war.
Beto lost his battle but the Beto effect won Texas. Red Texas. Republican Texas.
Sure, every statewide office is still held by a Republican after election day. And the leadership of the sharply divided Republican Party of Texas breathed a deep sigh of relief. But what Beto did was gut the Republican Party of Texas stronghold on Texas down ballot court races. The Beto effect flipped the Texas Courts of Appeals. Beto flipped the largest county in Texas. Harris County, where Houston is, elected a Democrat County Judge. Ft. Worth’s Tarrant County was the largest Republican County in Texas to turn from red to blue, Republican to Democrat on Beto’s coattails.
The biggest win was the Texas Third Court of Appeals based in Austin. This court hears civil and criminal appeals from the third district of Texas which includes all lawsuits against the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature and challenges to the laws coming from it. The six-member court lost all four seats up for election. All of the Republican incumbents lost their seats to Democrats. That means that in a state with a Republican Governor and a Republican Legislature, every lawsuit challenging legislation passed or bills signed into law will now be heard by a Democratic Party-controlled Appeals Court.
How significant was the Beto effect?
Every major city and county in Texas is now in Democrat hands. Houston in Harris County; San Antonio in Bexar County; the State Capitol of Austin in Travis County; El Paso in El Paso County; Dallas in Dallas County; and now Ft. Worth in Tarrant County. If you look, a red and blue map of Texas before and after the November 2018 general election, the results are dramatic.
The Beto effect looks like a double-edged broadsword driven north from Laredo through the heart of Texas that also carved out a significant number of counties along the Mexican border, up the coast to Houston, and from Houston up I-45, and from Laredo up I-35 through the Metroplex including Ft. Worth and Dallas. That was a fatal blow to Republican Texas.
That’s why Barack Obama met with Beto O’Rourke (B.O. met with B.O.?). Forget that both are considered good looking populists. Forget that Obama and O’Rourke share almost meaningless legislative accomplishments before their first run for the Presidency. None of that matters. It’s all about the perception, momentum and numbers.
The Republican Party of Texas is divided, as it always has been. But there’s a difference now. RPOT Chairman James Dickey is a TEA Party leader. He has aligned with Michael Quinn Sullivan’s Empower Texas group of Republicans who have been fighting to take over the party from what Tom Green County Republican Party Chairman Jeff Betty calls "real" Republicans, or the mainstream. Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick is the TEA Party champion and ET leader.
Patrick and Governor Greg Abbott will be sworn in during a day long gala at the Capitol in Austin Jan. 15. including a BBQ and Performances from country music legend George Strait and fan favorite Aaron Watson. The Swearing in ceremony is free. The BBQ and Inaugural Ball featuring Strait and Watson is not.
The Republican Party of Texas through the State Republican Executive Committee (SREC) has been taken over by the ETs and the effects were felt on election night. Real Republicans don’t like ETs. Real Republicans don’t support ET candidates. And unless Texas ETs and real Republicans can come together in the 2020 Presidential primary, a divided Texas GOP will surrender the state to Beto and the Democrats.
While the RPOT is well aware of history, Democrat Ann Richards was Governor of Texas from 1991 to 1995. George W. Bush was Governor from 1996 to 2000.
The state of California has officially moved up its primary to March 3, 2020 which is Super Tuesday in an effort to be more influential in the selection of Democratic and Republican party candidates for President. That is significant because it forces candidates to campaign in a large state on the west coast at the same time they are campaigning in the small early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
Beto O’Rourke has momentum, name recognition, the ability to raise massive amounts of money and the support of Hollywood Celebrities and the media. That gives O’Rourke the edge that every Democrat has enjoyed since Obama in 2008 and so much more.
Where Texas goes politically in 2020, so goes the nation. Texas Republicans have a choice. Texas Republicans have a chance. If divided Texas Republicans can’t unite over the next 14 months, they will give Texas to Democrats in 2020 and Beto O’Rourke will be the next President of the United States. And the Republican Party of Texas will be solely to blame.