White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney said Saturday that Senator Ted Cruz could lose his re-election bid in Texas against Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke.
“There’s a very real possibility we will win a race for Senate in Florida and lose a race in Texas for Senate, O.K.?” Mulvaney told GOP donors in a closed-door meeting. “I don’t think it’s likely, but it’s a possibility. How likable is a candidate? That still counts,” Mulvaney added.
The Republican holds a slim lead on O’Rourke in the traditionally red state, according to RealClearPolitics’ poll aggregator, despite first being elected to the Senate in 2012 by 16 percentage points.
Mulvaney also referenced the tight Senate contest in Florida between incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and Republican Gov. Rick Scott. RealClearPolitics’ poll aggregator has Rick up with an almost 2 percentage point advantage.
The takeaway here is that it is unlikely O’Rourke can overcome Cruz’s sizable advantages. Texas is still a Republican state and it’s very difficult to imagine a liberal Democrat defeating a conservative Republican.
But Mulvaney has a point. “Likability” is still a key metric for a candidate running for any office. As solid as Cruz’s conservative credentials are, as formidable his debating skills, he is perceived as overly ambitious and a political opportunist. There is some lingering resentment among Texans from his presidential run, and Trump supporters can’t forget their man’s “lyin’ Ted” insults.
But the closer we get to the election, the wider Cruz’s lead is likely to become. His Republican support should firm up and O’Rourke will be defined as “too liberal for Texas.” It will be a closer race than it should be, but Cruz should win.
The Florida race is key to the GOP holding the Senate. Bill Nelson is old and seen as out of touch by many voters. Scott has ethics problems but offers change. If the GOP can flip the seat, it would make it virtually impossible for the Democrats to take control.
Mulvaney had something interesting to say about the Democrats’ “enthusiasm”:
Although the party may have selected weak candidates or failed to field candidates at all, Mulvaney was optimistic the GOP would prevail in November after the 2018 midterm elections.
“It’s hard to draw people into a movement of hate,” he added. “I don’t think I have seen, yet, people who used to be Republican or people who have never voted before or haven’t voted in a long time, showing up at these events.”
Republicans did extremely well in the 2010 and 2014 midterms, not because people hated Obama but because they had a winning issue: the failure of Obamacare. The Democrats have no such issue, only hysteria and hatred of Trump.
Can people be driven to the polls because they hate the president? We’ll find out on Election Day.