On Tuesday the 6th of November US citizens will head to the polls to elect candidates to the Upper Chamber of Congress. Currently, there are 51 Republicans, 47 Democrats and 2 independent senators; giving the Republicans a majority vote. However, the Democrats are looking to change this with 33 seats up for re-election. This is the first major election since Trump took office in 2016 and as such will allow the US’s current political spectrum to be more accurately assessed.
One of the most interesting showdowns of this election will be in Texas, where Democrat Robert ‘Beto’ O’Rourke will challenge the incumbent Republican Senator Ted Cruz, with the Democrats looking to ‘turn the state purple’. With some polls giving Cruz only a 3-point lead, it is no wonder this is such a hot seat. That said, there has not been a Democrat elected in Texas since 1994, so what makes this race different?
Texas has one of the lowest voter turnouts, something that will have to change if Beto is to pull ahead and win this race. In the last midterm, in 2014, the turnout in Texas was only 28.9% – only 1% more than Indiana which had the lowest voter turnout of any State. There is a general theme that young voters are more inclined to vote Democrat while older voters (40+) tend to vote in favour of Republicans. If O’Rourke is to win, he needs a high turnout among young, low-income and Hispanic voters who usually lean in favour of the Democrats. However, voting turnouts among these groups is infamously low.
Beto has managed to raise over $38 million for his campaign in the third quarter, a record for the largest fundraising quarter ever in a US Senate race. Moreover, he has visited all 254 counties in Texas on his campaign trail. Beto is pro-choice and campaigns for a higher minimum wage. He is an advocate for single-payer health care, increased legislation surrounding climate change and stricter gun-control laws. To top it all off, he embraces immigration which can be a polarising issue anywhere, but particularly in Texas due to its close proximity to the Mexican border and its large Hispanic community. Beto has not been shy in voicing his opinion on the protests by members of the NFL during the national anthem before football matches. When asked whether he found this disrespectful, Beto retorted not only were their actions commendable but he went on to praise John Lewis, Rosa Parks, as well the countless unnamed victims of racial abuse and police brutality and upheld the right to a peaceful protest.
Rafael Edward ‘Ted’ Cruz is the incumbent senator for Texas and will look to get re-elected this Tuesday, he was first elected to the Senate back in 2012. Notably, Cruz unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination in the US primaries in 2016, this combined with his strong views and loud opinions has made him a well-known Senator. Branded ‘Lyin’ Ted’ by Donald Trump back in 2016, Trump now advocates for ‘Marvellous Ted’ due to his obvious and growing need to maintain the Republican majority in the Senate. Cruz is a traditionalist and a conservative, he is anti-abortion, anti-same-sex marriage and opposes a higher minimum wage. He favours the death penalty and is pro-guns. Despite being a Senator for the past six years Cruz has failed to pass any major legislation as well as seeming not to overly care about his constituents’ best interests when acting in the Senate.
The result, a race with such politically dichotomous candidates ought to reflect the political landscape of the United States and gauge of how Trump is fairing as a Republican president in the eyes of their long-standing voters. If Texas a notoriously Republican stronghold elect a Democrat to the Senate might we see a shift towards more liberal politics in the United States? Or is this just Texans way of protesting incumbent Republican president Donald Trump?
Another interesting race to follow in these elections is Georgia, where Democrat Stacey Abrams will take on Republican Brian Kemp. Abrams has recently been endorsed by Oprah Winfrey while Kemp receives support on the campaign trail from fellow Republican and Vice-President Mike Pence. Polls in Georgia show a dead heat between these two candidates with all to play for on the day. Similar to Texas this race will hinge on the demographics of voters that turnout on the day; Abrams polling better with African American and rural voters, and Kemp with older and more conservative voters.
Other states where the Democrats are looking to make gains include Arizona, Tennessee and Nevada, while the Republicans look to attack Democratic seats in North Dakota, Florida and Missouri.
However, if the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that political campaigns rarely go according to plan and that these Senate seats are anyone’s game this Tuesday.
By Sean Cullen – Poltics Co-Editor