The reviled GOP senator is warning his party that, even in deep-red Texas, Democratic voters are a real threat.
The Lone Star State is shaping up to be a battleground in 2018. And even Sen. Ted Cruz has no illusions it will be easy for Republicans to coast to victory.
On Friday evening, according to the Texas Tribune, Cruz met with backers from the Fort Bend County Republican Party to address the Lincoln Reagan Dinner, and although he stressed that people who oppose Trump are “stark-raving nuts,” there was a general tone of worry in his message.
There is, Cruz warned his fellow Republicans, “incredible volatility in politics right now” and he knows that’s bad news for incumbents like Cruz.
“Let me tell you right now: The left is going to show up. They will crawl over broken glass in November to vote,” he said.
Cruz has, in general, treated his own constituents with the same obnoxious indifference he gives his own colleagues. He once scoffed that the only Texas voters who boo him are from the “republic of Travis County.”
But in fact, he is a divisive figure even in his home state, with a poll in October putting his approval rating underwater by five points. His Democratic challenger, Rep. Beto O’Rourke of El Paso, who has toured the state campaigning on issues from immigration reform to net neutrality, outraised him at the end of last year without assistance from PACs. Recent polls put the race within single digits, and the Cook Political Report no longer classifies the Texas Senate race as “Solid R.”
Republicans in general are finding themselves on the defensive in Texas, where Trump himself is underwater in some polls, and where Democrats are contesting almost every state and local seat. President Obama’s anti-gerrymandering committee has pledged funding to races in the Texas state legislature.
The Texas GOP is aware that the broader-than-usual Democratic bench, and the growing voter enthusiasm in a state where Republicans rely on low turnout to stay in power, could severely wound their ranks in the fall, which has led them to attempt dirty tricks to purge opponents from the ballot.
A sea change that removes Trump’s enablers from power must break into traditionally red areas like Texas. Cruz sees the writing on the wall and knows that this year all the ingredients are there.