Can Democrats do the impossible?

 

The question for Texas Democrats, basically, is simple: can they do the impossible?

No, say Texas Republicans, still confident that a state which last elected a statewide Democrat in 1994 won't elect one in 2018. If there's a Blue Wave coming, they don't see it.

One sign Democrats are getting more hard-nosed is that Beto O'Rourke, their hope to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz,. has dusted off President Donald Trump's 2016 nickname for Cruz of "Lyin' Ted."

"Sen. Cruz is not going to be honest with you," O'Rourke charged during their final debate Oct. 16 in San Antonio. "He's going to make up positions and votes I've never held or ever taken.

"He's dishonest. That's why the president called him 'Lyin' Ted,' and it's why the nickname stuck – because it's true."

O'Rourke has made ads featuring that exchange, noting that Cruz voted repeatedly to dump ObamaCare, including the prohibition for insurance companies to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

O'Rourke's 20-month non-stop tour of all 254 Texas counties, reaching out to people of all political persuasions, plus an enormous volunteer recruitment effort to get out the vote, has been impressive.

That, plus his out-raising Cruz in donations, while refusing political action committee money, has drawn national attention to the race. His July-through-September haul of more than $38 million, from more than 802,000 contributors, set an all-time record for most funds raised in one quarter for a U.S. Senate race.

Whether that national notoriety and volunteer recruiting can actually get out the vote in the state with the lowest voter turnout in the nation can boost Beto's vote enough to win remains to be seen.

 In the last mid-term election in 2014, about 4.75 million people voted, Republicans won every statewide race in the high 50s percentagewise, or more. U.S. Sen. John Cornyn got 2.86 million votes, or 61.6 percent.

In presidential year 2016, the total Texas vote was 8.97 million, an increase of 92 percent over 2014. Republican Donald Trump's 4.69 million beat Democrat Hillary Clinton's 3.88 million by 9 percent. 

For O'Rourke to win in 2018, he's got to hope for a presidential-year turnout by the Democrats for him, while the Republicans post just a normal turnout for a mid-term election for Cruz 

Now, will O'Rourke's organizational effort, Democratic antipathy for Trump -- and Cruz -- plus the #MeToo anti-sexual harassment movement that has energized women, provide some coattails for other Democrats on the ballot?

Several of those Democratic congressional candidates have outraised their Republican opponents, including some Republican incumbents. In the Houston area, for instance, Democrat Sri Kulkarni has outraised 10-year incumbent Republican Pete Olson, and been endorsed by the Houston Chronicle.

Down the ballot from the governor's race, Democrats have a stronger-than-usual ticket, against some wounded Republican officeholders. They hope to re-attract voters who might have veered to Abbott for governor back to the Democratic column.

In the lieutenant governor's race, for instance, Houston businessman Mike Collier got the endorsements of the Houston Chronicle and Dallas Morning News, over controversial Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, to be the Texas Senate's presiding officer.  

For attorney general, Democrat Justin Nelson is the only statewide Democrat besides O'Rourke to raise enough money to have television ads. 

Nelson, a law school adjunct professor, stresses that incumbent Ken Paxton has three indictments pending against him, including two for fraud, and faces potential punishment for 5 to 99 years in prison.  

The Houston Chronicle's endorsement said "The election for attorney general offers the single best reason for a Texas Republican to cross over and vote for a Democratic candidate.”

Nelson was one of half a dozen Democratic statewide candidates to take part in a 10-day Fair Shot Bus Tour of 40 cities, 4,700 miles, and 47 get-out-the-vote events "to meet with Texans, share our vision, and fire up Democrats," the Texas Democratic Party said.

On Nov. 6, we'll learn how fired up they got.

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