The race between Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke in Texas is emerging as one of the must-watch races of the midterms. Cruz, of course, is the Republican incumbent hoping to keep his Senate seat, while O'Rourke is a 45-year-old three-term congressman mounting a surprisingly strong challenge. A new poll by Emerson College out this week has the race in a statistical dead heat, reports the Hill, which notes that Texas has not elected a Democrat to the Senate in three decades. Here's a look at the latest, including O'Rourke's growing national profile:
- Rock star: The Texas GOP tweeted an old photo of O'Rourke this week showing him back in the '90s with his old punk band, Foss. The photo was meant to mock O'Rourke, and some Republicans think it did just that. "Wearing a dress?" tweeted one strategist. But an analysis at the Washington Post thinks the photo actually endeared O'Rourke to far more people than it alienated. His "rock-star status is cemented by Texas GOP, handing Dems an icon they desperately need," reads the headline. Oh, he skateboards, too.
- Deeper dive: GQ takes a lengthy look at the race and its national implications. "Should Cruz win big, he'll likely vanquish some of the humiliation suffered two years ago at the hands of President Donald Trump and re-invigorate plans to succeed his old nemesis," writes Christopher Hooks. "If O'Rourke prevails or even does well, such an upset—likely to hinge on suburban and women voters—has the potential to reorder Texas politics and the nation's, too."
- A prediction: Eric Benson at Texas Monthly writes that people have been speculating for a while that O'Rourke will run for president, perhaps as early as 2020. Winning the Senate race would actually complicate that. Benson, however, floats another scenario: O'Rourke loses a close race to Cruz and returns to El Paso to stay out of national fray. After the 2020 primaries, he'd then be a prime choice to be somebody's vice-presidential candidate.
- The anthem: Prior to the music image, O'Rourke went viral with a video clip in which he defended NFL players protesting the national anthem. "I can think of nothing more American," he said of the protests, per the Guardian. Cruz has been a staunch critic of such protests, and he released an ad featuring a veteran who lost both legs denouncing O'Rourke's position, notes the Conservative Review.
- The mugshot: The state GOP also tweeted an image of a police mugshot of O'Rourke, again from the 1990s. O'Rourke was arrested twice, once for jumping a fence at the University of Texas at El Paso in 1995 and again for misdemeanor driving while intoxicated in 1998, reports PolitiFact. Both arrests were dismissed. The Daily Dot rounds up tweets suggesting that GOP's push to embarrass O'Rourke with a "hot, old mugshot" is backfiring.
- Two comparisons: O'Rourke's press has been flattering. He's drawn comparisons to Bobby Kennedy from Town & Country and to a young Barack Obama at Vanity Fair. The right-wing site Twitchy, however, roundly mocks a writer for the latter site for asking, "On what planet is Beto O'Rourke not a presidential contender?" The answer is Earth, answers Twitchy, which refers to the candidate as the "flavor of the month."
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