I freakin’ LOVE this time of the year! For a die hard political junkie like me, watching Rachel Maddow tonight is going to be like watching my beloved Cub’s pile out of the dugout at Hohokam Park in Arizona. With the Texas primaries today, the long political winter is over, we can stop talking about last season, and finally focus on the upcoming campaign.
As I watch whatever returns come in tonight from the Lone Star State, I’m going to be narrowly focused on two things, turnout, and the results for Ted Cruz’ Texas US Senate seat. Let me briefly tell you what I’m looking at in each category, and why I think it’s important.
First the turnout. On the Democratic side, there is a swelling confidence brought out by the fact that in early voting the Democrats are posting an other worldly 105% increase over their early votes cast in 2014. If this holds true, and is augmented by a strong voting day turnout, then it is clear that Democratic intensity is everything we’ve been hoping for, and there are several GOP House seats that are vulnerable this year. GOP turnout is also going to be important to me. Right now, it appears that GOP early voting is up by 15% over the 2014 midterms. If this is true, to my mind it’s ominous news for the GOP in general. Donald Trump bragged endlessly about how brilliantly he brought out new, formerly disinterested voters in 2016. If Trump was all-that-and-a-bag-of-chips instead of just the shopping bag they came in, then GOP turnout should be much higher, with loyal voters wanting to increase his leverage in Washington, and signal their love and appreciation for him. A 15% increase is respectable, but not a tinging endorsement, especially when the other side is outpacing you 7-1.
I am also going to be watching the returns on the Cruz Senate seat the way a hawk watches a mouse from 300′ up. I’m going to be watching for two things. If a Democratic candidate without statewide name recognition like Beto O’Rourke can pull in more votes than a sitting Senator like Cruz, the GOP is in trouble in Texas. And if O’Rourke can ride a tidal wave of enthusiasm and log more votes than Cruz and his GOP primary challenger, then the GOP may want to start hoarding lumber to build an ark. Here’s why I think that Ted Cruz is potentially a very vulnerable incumbent.
You have to look back to the history of Cruz’ 2012 Senate run. Going into the primaries, with the exception of Cruz himself, and possibly his wife Heidi, Cruz was nobody’s first choice for Senate, he was a fringe Tea Party candidate, and a heavy underdog. 2012 was a Presidential election year, and Texas had a prime primary voting date, right in the heat of the battle, where it’s delegates could hold great sway. Heavy traditional GOP voter turnout would swamp Cruz. But Texas got itself entangled in a nasty court battle over their new voter ID law, and the primary was delayed for several weeks. By the time Texas finally got to hold its primary, the Presidential dogfight was over with, and voter participation in Texas went down the flusher, allowing Cruz to squeak out enough votes to force a runoff. Then Cruz caught his second break. The runoff was held on a Saturday on one of the hottest days of the year, and other than Cruz and Heidi, the only people who voted were people who were allowed into the school gyms while they were out walking their dogs. Cruz was able to make sure that enough of his supporters were strolling their pooches during voting hours to win the runoff. Cruz then rode Mitt Romney’s coattails to election in November.
The point is that Rafael “Ted” Cruz was not a popular choice for US Senate, he got in by the time honored method of tribalism. And Cruz hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory with his antics in the Senate, especially personally engineering a 17 day government shutdown over Obamacare funding. Personally, I hope that Beto O’Rourke resurrects Cruz’ 2016 Presidential campaign ad about making bacon on the barrel of a semi automatic weapon. In the current gun environment, I find it hard to believe that anybody who doesn’t sign the backs of their checks with an “X”, or thinks that “goober” is an ethnic designation is going to find that little clip amusing. Rather, it will graphically display what an out of touch gun nut Cruz is. Properly exploited, Cruz’ Texas seat could join Flake’s AZ seat, Heller’s NV seat, and possibly even Corker’s TN seat, with a Trump whisperer like Marsha Blackburn expected to win the primary, as prime potential pains in the ass of
Ditch Mitch McConnell and the GOP in 2018.
So, there you have it. Another exciting primary season is finally upon us, and just as with my Cubbie’s, GO BLUE!