Elections

Here’s how Ted Cruz won Texas despite Beto O’Rourke taking Tarrant County

Ted Cruz called it.

The state’s junior senator predicted that Democratic turnout in the red state of Texas would be massive this year for the midterm election.

And it was, enough to make his re-election bid against Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke likely too close for comfort.

In the end, just about 200,000 votes in a state with more than 15.7 million registered voters separated the two, giving Cruz the win.

While O’Rourke won the vote in the largest urban areas of the state — often described as blueberries in the tomato soup that is Texas — Cruz made up for it by winning rural areas and counties in every corner of the state.

O’Rourke did claim the prize both candidates fought for in Tarrant County, a Republican county that clearly at least leans Democrat now.

“Cruz ran up the score really big in the very rural parts of the state,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at SMU. “Whether in the Panhandle, west or east Texas, he won by margins of 3- or 4- or 5-to-1.

“That was enough, even with Beto doing well in urban areas.”

Red counties

One look at the Texas map showing which counties supported each candidate in the U.S. Senate race shows a lot of red and a little bit of blue.

North, east, south, west, Cruz won county after county, some by small margins, some with big margins.

Take West Texas, where he handily won in Ector County, home to Odessa, by more than 10,000 votes. In East Texas, he won by more than 12,000 in the small county of Angelina, home to Lufkin.

Look south and there’s Aransas County, outside of Corpus Christi, where Cruz won by more than 4,000 votes. In the Panhandle, Cruz bested O’Rourke by more than 8,000 votes in Potter County, home to Amarillo.

And in the Hill Country, voters in Kerr County, for instance, supported Cruz by a more than a 3-to-1 margin.

“Beto had to overcome a barrier of about a million more Republican voters — and that’s a tall mountain to climb,” said Nancy Bocskor, the new director of the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at Texas Woman’s University. “The city and suburban voters, even with a slew of new young activists, were not enough to overcome the voters in rural counties.

“Beto ran so far to the left on issues such as impeachment of President Trump that some voters were not comfortable with that drastic of a change,” she said. “But Beto will continue to be the face of a growing purple state and one that mirrors the rest of a very divided nation.”

Blue counties

O’Rourke found significant victories in the largest, most urban areas of Texas.

In Harris County, encompassing Cruz’s hometown, he won by nearly 200,000 votes. In his own hometown of El Paso County, he won by around 100,000 votes.

He won in Travis County, home to Austin, by more than 230,000 votes; in Dallas County, by more than 230,000 votes; and Bexar County, by more than 100,000 votes.

(Cruz predicted that Travis County would go for O’Rourke, saying before the election that he believed the Hippie Hollow nudist park in Austin will be empty on Election Day because “every one of those folks will be down there voting to turn Texas blue.” )

O’Rourke won in Nueces County by less than 3,000 votes and Jefferson County by less than 1,000 votes.

Tarrant County

Even Tarrant County, a reliably red area, gave O’Rourke a narrow victory with just about 3,800 votes to spare.

“It was a big change, with a lot more Democrats showing up in Tarrant County than were believed to be there,” Jillson said. “Democrats came out for Beto O’Rourke and they came out against Donald Trump.”

Local Democrats became encouraged when they saw crowds growing at O’Rourke rallies — and a big bump in block walking and other voter outreach.

“They felt less alone in Tarrant County and they came out in big numbers,” he said. “This does not mean that Fort Worth, Tarrant County, has become a blue enclave. But in a good Democratic year, it can go Democrat. In other elections, Tarrant will revert to Republican.”

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley
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