For years, Democrats have been talking about flipping Texas from red to blue, thereby thwarting Republican chances of winning the presidency or likely holding the House of Representatives ever again.
That prospect took a serious hit on Tuesday when Texans elected Republican businessman Gary Gates over Democratic educator Eliz Markowitz by an impressive 58 to 42 percent margin to become the next state representative for the 28th District.
The district is just to the west of Houston.
The 30,000 ballots cast represented an unusually high voter turnout, easily surpassing the previous record of 22,000 for a special election, the Houston Chronicle reported.
Democrats nationally poured more than $1 million into the contest, according to CBS News, pinning their hopes on former Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s strong showing in the district during his 2018 U.S. Senate bid to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.
O’Rourke pulled within three points of Cruz in the 28th, which President Donald Trump won by 10 points in 2016.
Of course, midterm elections traditionally favor the political party that does not hold the White House.
O’Rourke, who campaigned for Markowitz, tweeted last week, “The first critical election of 2020 is happening now in Fort Bend, TX. Victory for Eliz Markowitz means we can win the state house and build the team to defeat Trump in Texas.”
The first critical election of 2020 is happening now in Fort Bend, TX. Victory for Eliz Markowitz means we can win the state house and build the team to defeat Trump in Texas. Join us to knock on doors this last weekend before Election Day. https://t.co/jRr8swVw1S
— Beto O’Rourke (@BetoORourke) January 24, 2020
Other former and current 2020 Democratic presidential candidates endorsed Markowitz, too, including former Vice President Joe Biden, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro, who hails from San Antonio.
Their support did not change the outcome and maybe hurt the Democratic candidate’s chances.
Karl Rove, a former top campaign adviser to President George W. Bush, told The Associated Press that Democrats “made a big mistake by nationalizing” the contest.
Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott noted that “Beto math” did not work out in the 28th District race.
“Beto math was that if he won or was close in a House district then he could help a democrat win. He came within 3% in this district,” Abbott tweeted on Tuesday.
“Beto math doesn’t work. All of that $ was incinerated.”
Beto math was that if he won or was close in a House district then he could help a democrat win.
He came within 3% in this district.
Early returns show the Republican winning by about 18%
Beto math doesn’t work.
All of that $ was incinerated. https://t.co/1euLaqE0px
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) January 29, 2020
Beto math also did not work in his effort to defeat Cruz. The Democrat raised and spent a record $79 million in the endeavor, compared to Cruz’s $46 million, according to Open Secrets.
It was the most expensive Senate race in U.S. history.
The RealClearPolitics average of polls shows Trump beating all comers in Texas this November, with Biden tracking the closest, just 1.4 percent behind. However, the most recent survey has Trump ahead by five percentage points.
The political site 270toWin puts Texas with its 38 Electoral College votes in the “likely Republican” column.
The running tally is 205 for the GOP presidential candidate (who will presumably be Trump) to 248 for the Democratic challenger, leaving 85 electoral votes in five swing states up for grabs.
Those states are Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, Wisconsin and Arizona.
Right now, according to 270toWin, Democrats have the advantage in holding the House, though they are likely to lose at least 10 seats, with 21 races currently listed as toss-ups.
In September, conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh said he believes Trump is heading for a landslide win in 2020 that simply is not being calculated by the media and political observers because Democrats have so galvanized the Republican base.
“I think that there is, across a vast expanse of this country, I think that there are millions and millions and millions of Americans who are quietly seething, quietly enraged over everything that has gone on here since Trump was inaugurated,” he said.
The results in this week’s Texas House race may be evidence of Limbaugh’s observation being true.
If so, many in the media and the political establishment may be shocked to see not only a Trump victory by a wider margin than 2016 this November, but also a new GOP majority in the House.
CORRECTION, Jan. 31, 2020: A previous version of this story incorrectly said Gary Gates was elected to Congress rather than the Texas House of Representatives. We apologize for the error and to our readers for any confusion we may have caused.
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