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Texas Democrats Target Hot-Take Podcaster Ted Cruz

But the two-term incumbent senator has a bumbling blue ace up his sleeve.

by | Dec 24, 2023 | Articles, Opinion, Politics

Is Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) vulnerable in 2024? It depends on who you ask. He has a lot going for him as he seeks a third term in the upper chamber, the most significant factor being the deep unpopularity of President Joe Biden and how that will play in an already solidly red state. Yet Cruz also bears enough negative baggage to possibly put what should be a reasonably safe Republican seat in danger of flipping. But for that to happen, Texas Democrats must first find a candidate to run against him.

Does Ted Cruz Have an Achilles Heel?

Since he first entered the Senate in January 2013, Cruz has willingly flashed a polarizing personality that often rankles his own party’s supporters as much as it does Democrats. He exuded a wildly ambitious demeanor during his first term, punctuated by a failed run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Cruz won re-election in 2018 with almost no room to spare, holding off equally abrasive Democrat Beto O’Rourke by a decidedly uncomfortable 50.9-48.3% count.

A regular criticism of Cruz among GOP backers is that he talks and talks, but doesn’t follow up with action. Over the past couple of years, this argument has only gained more traction. Cruz hosts a podcast, and he seems to love social media. “Cruz posted on X more than any other senator this year, according to a new analysis by Quorum,” Axios reported Dec. 19. Cruz made 6,800 posts from Jan. 1 through Nov. 30, the study found. That’s 2,300 more than the runner-up, Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), who made 4,500 X posts.

GettyImages-1704574545 Ted Cruz

Ted Cruz (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

A Democrat super PAC dedicated to defeating him succinctly called Lose Cruz has accrued plenty of ammunition from all this. “Plugging his podcast, hawking his book, auditioning on Fox, tweeting all day – anything besides doing his job,” the PAC tweeted Dec. 21.

“Ted Cruz has never been more vulnerable than he is this cycle,” Sawyer Hackett, a Democratic strategist who serves as a senior adviser for Lose Cruz, told NBC News in June. “He hosts three [podcast] episodes a week talking about a whole bunch of stuff – none of which Texans care about whatsoever – and not doing his job,” Hackett continued. “We’re laying the groundwork for a Democratic, independent, Republican coalition of voters who universally just dislike this guy and don’t trust him.”

It’s a political strategy that may have legs.

Manchin Cool or Blue Firebrand?

Democrats, meanwhile, must choose their attack approach while facing the tall order of defeating an incumbent Republican in a red state in a presidential election year that will feature the most loathed White House occupant since Jimmy Carter, if not longer.

Two candidates seem to have separated themselves from a pack of would-be contenders for the party nomination, and their campaign strategies could not be more different. Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX) is a former NFL player who is earnestly striving to portray himself as a confirmed moderate.

“There are bipartisan deals to be made right now,” Allred stated at the 2023 Texas Tribune Festival in September. “There’s no legislation you can do on your own… it has to be collaborative.”

Leading Democrat challenger state Sen. Roland Gutierrez is not only rejecting this centrist path, he’s using it as a blunt weapon against Allred. “There is no amount of political speak or so-called bipartisan incrementalism that I’m interested in,” Gutierrez told the Texas Tribune Festival. “We must fight [Republicans] tooth and nail at everything they throw at us.”

Gutierrez accuses Allred of being too timid to take on the hot-button issues that need addressing in America today. “The other candidate, he’s so afraid to talk about these things because he thinks he’s going to back himself out of his moderate world,” Gutierrez has said of Allred, The Houston Chronicle reports. “We’re not in those times anymore. I know he loves to talk about bipartisanship, but that’s not what this is about anymore. Our world and our country and our state are on fire.”

Allred has the early commanding lead in polling, but the same surveys also indicate Texans have not yet tuned into the primary contest.

“Allred is the first choice for 28% of Democratic voters, according to the poll by the University of Texas/Texas Politics Project. The Dallas-area congressman has increased his share by seven percentage points since an October poll,” KXAN-TV in Austin reported Dec. 20.

“Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, polled at 7% in the new poll, down from 10% in October. No other candidate received more than 3% support in either poll,” the station related. “Forty-eight percent of respondents said they didn’t know who they would vote for if the election were held today or hadn’t thought about it enough to form an opinion – up from 46% in October.”

It’ll be an interesting decision for Lone Star State Democrats to make. Will the Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) “let us reason together” tack work best in red Texas, or does a strident blue warrior make more sense?

O’Rourke was certainly the latter in 2018, and he came within a whisker of toppling Cruz. However, that was before three full years of Biden administration scuffling seriously muddied the waters for zealously blue candidates. Whichever way Texas Democrats go, Cruz has already made it clear that he will be quickly latching the anchor of progressive excess exemplified by the Biden White House around his opponent’s neck.

“One would think that after running failed Democratic candidate and radical gun-grabber ‘Beto’ O’Rourke in back-to-back election losses, America’s socialist party would get the hint that Texas’ voters want nothing to do with their extreme liberal agenda,” a Cruz campaign email declared, The Houston Chronicle writes. “Nevertheless, it appears the Democrats are prepared to do the opposite and go all in on flipping Texas blue in 2024.”

Thanks to the Biden burden, such framing will prove difficult for the Democrat senatorial nominee to shrug off, no matter who that may be.

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