Republicans wound up hurting Ted Cruz more than they hurt his opponent.
The unexpectedly close Senate race in Texas got a lot of attention this week as the state’s Republican Party tried to attack Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke, but instead created a social media explosion that blew up in their faces.
The Republican Party of Texas sent a series of tweets this week that featured old photos of O’Rourke doing things like skateboarding and being in a rock band, which seemed designed to embarrass O’Rourke.
But in addition to burnishing Beto O’Rourke’s cool factor, the Texas GOP’s attempted attacks invited an overwhelming response from social media users who couldn’t help but compare O’Rourke’s rock star beginnings with artifacts from the museum of uncoolness that is Ted Cruz’s life.
Activist Jordan Uhl posted a video that featured a high school-aged Cruz making cringe-inducing jokes about world domination.
Since Texas GOP wants to attack Beto by bringing up stuff from his youth, here's Ted Cruz saying he has aspirations of "world domination" pic.twitter.com/fiZQ3zZY9s
— jordan (@JordanUhl) August 29, 2018
The Texas GOP’s tweet of O’Rourke’s band garnered over nine thousand responses, and less than a tenth as many retweets.
Aside from the humiliation, the attacks also demonstrated just how frightened Cruz and Republicans are of the challenge that O’Rourke has mounted. The entire point of these tweets was to highlight the fact that Cruz is begging O’Rourke for debates (the campaigns are close to an agreement on that).
In the spring, it was O’Rourke who was pressuring Cruz for more debates, and the screen time that comes with them. But since then, O’Rourke has surged in the polls. One recent poll has the race in a statistical dead heat, with O’Rourke trailing Cruz by a single point.
In a crowning indignity, Cruz has even begun hoping aloud that Trump will come and save him, after Trump spent the 2016 campaign calling Cruz “Lyin’ Ted,” alleging that Cruz’s father was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and even mocking the physical appearance of Cruz’s wife, Heidi.
The difference between these two men was also dramatically illustrated earlier this month, when Cruz was booed by his own constituents for trying to race-bait against NFL players. Days later, O’Rourke captivated millions with a viral video in which he said he could “think of nothing more American” than exercising the right to protest.
Ted Cruz and the Republicans are running scared in Texas, and it shows.