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An Analysis Of Cruz's Senate Win In Texas


All right. We're going to turn now to Texas, where Ted Cruz, the incumbent Republican senator, beat Democrat Beto O'Rourke despite the Democratic Party's best efforts to get O'Rourke elected. Here's Cruz speaking last night.


TED CRUZ: This was an election about hope and about the future. And the people of Texas rendered a verdict that we want a future with more jobs and more security and more freedom.

KING: Ashley Lopez is on the line with me. She's a reporter for member station KUT. Ashley, good morning.


KING: All right. So this was a very close race and a very closely watched race. How did Ted Cruz pull it off in the end?

LOPEZ: Well, he is a guy running for the Senate in Texas...

KING: (Laughter).

LOPEZ: ...One of the most conservative states in the country. So, I mean, this was always going to be a long shot for Beto O'Rourke, his challenger in the race. So, I mean, he just kind of stuck to his guns and was the same old Ted Cruz that had been, you know, beating here in Texas for a long time.

KING: Did this election, as close as it was, force Ted Cruz to modify any of his positions to move toward the center on anything, or did he toe the same line that he's always toed and count on that?

LOPEZ: Not at all - this did not moderate him one bit. I mean, this is a pretty good example of what a polarized race looks like. You know, Beto O'Rourke ran a little bit to the left. Ted Cruz ran more to the right. The only thing that Ted Cruz has changed in the past couple of years is that he has embraced Donald Trump a little more forcefully than he did, let's say, when he was in his nominating convention speech. So that is the only thing that has changed. Ted Cruz has stayed pretty far to the right during the campaign.

KING: Democrats had really high hopes for Beto O'Rourke. He was a person who seemed to strike a chord among a lot of people, including a lot of people who wouldn't necessarily have voted - younger people, Hispanics, Latinos. Do you get the sense that the Democratic Party has a plan for Beto O'Rourke now?

LOPEZ: You know, that's a good question. You know, there were a lot of high hopes for Beto O'Rourke because he was such a good fundraiser, so enigmatic, particularly among, you know, racial minorities and young people, as you mentioned. But that's really up to Beto O'Rourke. I mean, when he was asked about - I mean, when that race was getting really close, he was asked about the possibility of running for president. And he would often say, no, I am not interested at all in doing that. He says, you know - he has young children. So he said that campaign was really hard on the family. So I think national Democrats were really - are still pretty interested in a future for him. But that's really up to Beto O'Rourke now. And from what I've heard in the past, he's not terribly interested in running outside of Texas. But who knows? People have changed their minds before, right?

KING: They sure have (laughter), especially young candidates with a lot of charisma. For a long time, Ashley, Democrats have wanted to turn Texas blue. Do you think this officially puts an end to those hopes?

LOPEZ: You know, I don't think so. So Texas has been a majority-minority state, meaning racial minorities have been the majority here for a long time. And it just hasn't, you know - yeah, it hasn't, in the past, resulted in wins. But it's closer than it's ever been, which is a sign that things are slowly moving in the Democrats' favor. It's just taking a lot of time.

KING: Ashley Lopez is a reporter for member station KUT. She's on the line from El Paso. Thanks, Ashley.

LOPEZ: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF KIASMOS' "SHED") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Noel King is a host of Morning Edition and Up First.