Of all the competitive U.S. Senate races around the country right now, the one receiving the most attention is the contest between Republican Senator Ted Cruz and his upstart Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke. It’s easy to understand why. O’Rourke is an inspiring figure, while Cruz is – for lack of a better way of putting it – a creepy weirdo. On top of it all, the prospect of the Democrats winning a statewide race in Texas of all places is almost too delicious. But there’s an aspect to this that I’m afraid everyone is overlooking.
This week it was widely reported that Beto O’Rourke has pulled ahead of Ted Cruz by two points in one poll. It’s not been widely reported that in the other two recent major polls conducted in this race, one of them has Cruz ahead by four points and the other has Cruz ahead by nine points. On the whole, these numbers are good news for O’Rourke. At this stage in the race you’d expect Cruz to still be ahead based on incumbency and long-running name recognition alone. The fact that O’Rourke is advancing in the polls, and has pulled ahead in one of them, is a good sign for him.
That said, the poll numbers suggest that Beto O’Rourke may have a lesser chance of winning than some of his fellow Democratic challengers in U.S. Senate races around the nation. For instance, current polls show that Democrat Kyrsten Sinema is ahead by an average of five points in Arizona. Democrat Phil Bredesen is ahead by an average of one point in Tennessee. Jacky Rosen is ahead by an average of 1.5 points in Nevada (source for all poll numbers quoted here: RealClearPolitics). They’re all in better mathematical position right now than O’Rourke, who is still behind Cruz when you look at the average of the current polls in that race.
I’m not trying to rain on Beto’s chances of winning, or the importance of the race he’s running in. It would be huge for the Democrats to win in Texas, and it would be very important to run a far-right creep like Ted Cruz out of politics. So let’s get behind Beto as strongly as we can. But here’s the cold hard reality: if you want the Democrats to take control of the Senate, they need to take two seats away from GOP while retaining all of their existing seats, or they need to take three seats away from the GOP if they’re going to lose one of their own, and so on.
The bottom line is this: if your goal is for the Democrats to take control of the Senate in November, putting Beto O’Rourke over the top in Texas is a big piece of the puzzle. But it’s not enough on its own. You’ll have to also help put at least one of the other above-named Democratic challengers over the top. None of them will get nearly as much national media coverage, because the O’Rourke vs Cruz race is far more ratings-friendly, so it’ll be on you to remember that those races are important too. Let’s go put Beto in the Senate – but let’s make sure he’s not alone when he gets there.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report