HOUSTON—One of the nation’s most-watched U.S. Senate races—between Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and opponent Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas)—just drew even more attention as President Donald Trump headed to the Lone Star State to speak at a campaign-style rally.
The Toyota Center effortlessly filled up its 18,000-seat capacity, and a further 10,000 to 15,000 supporters watched from outside on digital screens. Earlier, Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign said more than 100,000 Texans registered to attend the event.
Trump held the massive rally to invigorate Republicans to vote for Cruz—a former political foe—as the midterms loom just 15 days away. Early voting has begun in Texas and the president hopes to keep and perhaps expand the GOP’s current 51–49 advantage in the chamber.
If O’Rourke wins the seat, it would give Democrats a higher chance of gaining control of the Senate—the race has gained more national attention than normal Texas campaigns, in part because it’s one of the most expensive Senate races this year.
O’Rourke raised $38.1 million for his campaign in the third quarter, a record for the largest Senate fundraising quarter ever, according to his campaign. Meanwhile, Cruz has gained $12 million over the past three months.
Cruz Leads Polls
But a financial war chest alone doesn’t guarantee a win. Multiple polls place Cruz ahead by an average of 7 points, including a CNN poll that had Cruz leading with 52 percent support against O’Rourke’s 45 percent, and a New York Times/Siena College poll that placed Cruz at 51 percent to O’Rourke’s 43 percent.
In a rare campaign appearance, Eric Trump and his wife, Lara, appeared onstage to show their support, before Cruz or the president spoke.
“We are driving the Democrats absolutely nuts. They are watching this enthusiasm and they just don’t know what to do anymore. … We have an economy the likes of which we haven’t seen before,” Eric Trump told the crowd.
The rally comes at a time where Republican enthusiasm is up nationally, just weeks after the bitter confirmation battle over new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Lara Trump, in reference to the crowd numbers, said, “This is how President Donald Trump stays president for four more years.”
In the 2016 presidential election, Trump won Texas by 9 percentage points over Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton.
Brad Parscale, Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign manager, also made a short appearance on stage before Cruz took the spotlight.
“God bless Texas and God bless President Donald Trump” were Cruz’s first words to the crowd.
During the rally, Cruz embraced one of Trump’s new catchphrases, “#JobsNotMobs”!
“We are living in extraordinary times. … Do we embrace jobs or give in to mobs? We’ve had a couple of debates, with as clear as distinction that anyone can hope for,” Cruz said.
Throughout his remarks, Cruz frequently touted his work with the president on tax breaks and derided his opponent’s stance on wanting to increase taxes.
“Beto O’Rourke wants higher taxes. Beto voted against the tax cut. He voted repeatedly in favor of higher property taxes. In El Paso, he even voted for something called a rain tax. Here in Texas, we celebrate when it rains, we don’t tax you for it,” Cruz said.
He also mentioned unemployment, saying the levels in Texas are at their lowest in 49 years, while unemployment among African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asian-Americans is at historic low levels.
For Texans, the Second Amendment is always on the menu. Cruz is a strong supporter of gun rights, while O’Rourke stands for gun control. Cruz told the crowd that after seeing a Twitter post in February about O’Rourke’s “F” rating by the National Rifle Association, Cruz promptly retweeted O’Rourke’s comment.
Cruz talked about his efforts in getting judges nominated, building the border wall, opposing sanctuary cities, and, at one point, criticized his opponent for calling for the impeachment of the president. Days ago, O’Rourke said that he would vote to impeach Trump.
“This is Houston, this is Texas. We want jobs, we want freedom, we want opportunity and we are delivering on all of those,” Cruz told the crowd. “I’m going to make a prediction. In 2020, Trump is overwhelmingly going to be reelected to be president of the United States.”
O’Rourke will also be rallying voters and making stops around Houston, Spring, Pasadena, Missouri City, and Rosenberg, before he heads to central Texas. Meanwhile, his campaign was recently sued for allegedly sending constituents unsolicited text messages—a violation of the law. The class-action lawsuit was filed on Oct. 19 in the Northern District of Texas Court. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act bars the use of “automatic telephone” equipment to send texts or calls to a person’s cell phone without their permission.
While some reports speculate that O’Rourke may be eyeing a 2020 run for the White House, he responded at a CNN Town Hall last week that it’s a “definitive no.”
Trump, the last to speak at the rally, said Cruz has helped him carry out his agenda. He said the GOP is working toward adding a new round of tax cuts next week.
“Ted is leading the charge in Congress for more tax cuts. … We are going to put a 10 percent tax cut for middle-income families, we are going to put that in next week,” Trump said.
“Nobody has helped me more with your tax cuts, your regulation including our military and vets than Senator Ted Cruz. He defended your jobs. He defended your borders. He defends your family, he defends your faith, and, with other Republicans, we defend your freedom.”
As a caravan of people from the Central American countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala continues to approach the United States, Trump said Oct. 22 that he will reduce or stop aid to those nations for their failure to stop their citizens from entering illegally.
Trump also cast blame on the Democrats.
“You know how the caravan started? I think the Democrats have something to do with it. They made a big mistake. … That is an assault on our country,” he said. “We need a wall built fast. We have to protect our borders.”
Meanwhile, Republican Greg Abbott is seeking reelection as governor of Texas. He will face Democrat candidate Lupe Valdez in the upcoming midterms. Trump called Abbott “the greatest guy” and said he did a “fantastic job” under the pressure of the hurricane that recently hit Texas.
Trump hit back against a purported “blue wave,” a scenario in which Democrats would win enough races to swing control of at least one branch of Congress in the coming midterms, which he said has dissipated.
He closed his remarks with a call to action.
“In America, we don’t worship government, we worship God. These are the values that united people all across the great state of Texas. In this election, you can send a message to the radical Democrats: Don’t mess with Texas.”