Despite Democrats’ resounding losses in nonjudicial statewide races, Beto O’Rourke’s campaign said during a news conference Monday that it still believes Texas can turn blue in future elections.
“We don’t know what the future holds,” said Jason Lee, deputy campaign manager for O’Rourke’s gubernatorial run. “All I do know is, prisoner of the moment, projections are often proven wrong. We still believe in Texas, and we still believe in Democratic prospects in our state, and I think people are going to be surprised by the way in which we move forward.”
After losing three elections in the past four years, members of O’Rourke’s campaign team said they’re not sure what his future will look like, but they hinted that he would probably remain a key figure in the state’s party as an organizer.
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O’Rourke campaign officials largely parroted what political experts and state Democratic Party officials said caused progressive candidates to lose in all statewide races in the midterm election: President Joe Biden’s unfavorability in the state, high inflation, large amounts of GOP spending on attack ads, and Abbott’s favorability and recognition.
O’Rourke’s team said Democrats need to start campaigning sooner, develop better fundraising for down-ballot candidates and build a stronger infrastructure of potential candidates so as not to rely on national names such as O’Rourke every election cycle.
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A political buzzword for the midterms has been messaging, particularly for Democrats in Texas running campaigns focused on abortion rights, gun limits and Texas’ power grid when polling showed those issues were not the most important to voters. Lee said this wasn’t lost on O’Rourke’s team, but ultimately it seemed more beneficial for O’Rourke to emphasize issues on which he had an advantage to try to flip the conversation.
Lee said national narratives that Republicans are better suited to handle border and crime issues made it difficult for O’Rourke’s campaign to otherwise convince a majority of Texas voters.
“We had to make serious choices about what ability do we have in the period of time that we have with the resources that we had to switch the narrative on some of these tough issues,” Lee said. “And what the governor did and his campaign did, they did a very good job of focusing people’s attention on issues where they had an advantage.”
Lee said they are still happy with some of the results in local elections, particularly in Harris County and the Rio Grande Valley, something the state’s Democratic executive director said also satisfied the party.
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O’Rourke’s ability to amass nearly 100,000 volunteers for the campaign will be useful for the party in the coming years, Lee said.
Overall, Lee said they are still evaluating data to figure out what they could have done differently with resource allocation and messaging.
“When the margin is what it is, you’re not one silver bullet away from victory,” Lee said. “There’s probably a lot of things that needed to be different, some of them things outside of our control.”
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