News & Politics

Beto O'Rourke Smashes Fundraising Records But Cruz Comfortably Ahead in Polls

Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas gestures as he speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Two new polls came out in the last few days showing Republican incumbent Senator Ted Cruz still comfortably ahead of Democratic challenger Rep. Beto O’Rourke in Texas. The new Quinnipiac Poll gives the Republican a nine-point lead with less than a month before election day, while the latest New York Times poll has Cruz up by 8.

But O’Rourke is raising eyebrows with his haul of $38.1 million in cash last quarter. That represents the largest single amount of money ever raised in a political campaign in one quarter.

CNN:

O’Rourke’s campaign has obliterated fundraising records throughout the race, even as polls have consistently shown Cruz with a comfortable lead in the high-profile Senate contest. Last quarter, O’Rourke made headlines with what was then a record-breaking haul of $10.4 million.

Cruz’s campaign had an impressive third quarter itself, raising in $12 million between July and the end of September. Neither campaign has yet announced their cash-on-hand total at the end of the third quarter, though O’Rourke led Cruz by over $4 million at the end of the second quarter.

The O’Rourke campaign, which has rejected PAC money, announced that the $38.1 million haul was “powered by 802,836 individual contributions,” and said that the “majority of the fundraising c[ame] from Texas.”

“The people of Texas in all 254 counties are proving that when we reject PACs and come together not as Republicans or Democrats but as Texans and Americans, there’s no stopping us,” O’Rourke said in a statement. “This is a historic campaign of people: all people, all the time, everywhere, every single day — that’s how we’re going to win this election and do something incredible for Texas and our country at this critical moment.”

Even as O’Rourke has enjoyed a fundraising bonanza driven by a series of viral campaign moments and the national media spotlight, the fundamentals of the race continue to favor Cruz. CNN rates the race as lean Republican.

Until a few years ago, fundraising was a fairly reliable indicator of candidate strength. It wasn’t true all the time, but it used to be that a candidate who raised the most money generally came out on top on election day. Money bought ads and organization and the more you had the better your chances.

What’s happened is that online fundraising has leveled the playing field and even marginal candidates can now raise a lot of cash.  You no longer need a lot of money to raise a lot of money.

Beto O’Rourke is not a marginal candidate, but he’s a lot more popular among national Democrats than he is among a majority of Texas voters. Senator Cruz is leading and likely to win — if not comfortably — because there are a helluva lot more Republicans in Texas than Democrats. And that usually makes the difference in a midterm election.

In the other big statewide race in Texas, Republican incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott leads former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez 58 – 38 percent among likely voters. This is more good news for Cruz, who could use a proven vote getter like Abbott on the ballot with him.