Beto O’Rourke has never been closer to catching the Zodiac Killer. For months now, Ted Cruz’s Democratic challenger has been racking up Facebook followers and piling up campaign cash. O’Rourke has routinely out-fundraised the Republican incumbent — despite refusing to take PAC money — as he’s made his presence known in all 254 counties of the Lone Star State and on every major social-media platform in cyberspace. There is a very high chance that his campaign has made frequent contributions to your spam folder.
All this won O’Rourke a great deal of national media attention. But as of a few months ago, it still wasn’t enough to put him in serious contention to become Texas’s junior senator.
Now, it officially has.
In late May, Quinnipiac University had Cruz leading O’Rourke 50 to 39 percent; in July, it showed that margin shrinking to 49 to 43. The fact that the incumbent remains near 50 percent should give Republicans some cause for comfort. But the poll also showed that a full 43 percent of voters did not know enough about O’Rourke to say whether they viewed him favorably or unfavorably. Which makes sense: For all the candidate’s exposure on social media, O’Rourke still hasn’t bought a single television advertisement with his hordes of campaign cash (notably, neither has Cruz). Despite his relative anonymity, O’Rourke has still managed to creep within striking distance in other recent polls — including one from Texas Lyceum, which puts him down by a mere 2 percentage points. Given that O’Rourke has plausibly cut Cruz’s lead in half over the past two months — while remaining unknown to nearly half of the electorate — it’s conceivable that he could overtake his rival once he hits the airwaves.
And the electoral oracles at the Cook Political Report have officially conceived of such a scenario. On Friday, in light of the tightening polls, that preeminent electoral prognosticator shifted its rating of the Texas Senate Race from “likely Republican” to merely “lean Republican.”
We turn now to a live look at Beto O’Rourke’s campaign headquarters: