Beto O'Rourke is having to hit the ground hard and spend a lot of time persuading voters to support his campaign.
O'Rourke has been on a whirlwind tour of Texas with constant social media updates and stops in deep red areas. Political experts say that's what he needs to do if the Democrat has any chance at beating Republican Incumbent Senator Ted Cruz.
O'Rourke is in the midst of a 34-day grassroots drive across Texas. He’s trying to energize young voters, who political analysts say are less likely to vote in a midterm election.
When he's not making the rounds in person, the U.S Senate candidate is on social media talking to potential voters. The El Paso congressman has been on an exhaustive campaign tour in recent months and has made stops in all 254 Texas counties.
SMU Political Science Professor Matthew Wilson says this sort of non-stop grind is the only way O'Rourke can position himself to win against a powerful Republican incumbent.
“He doesn't have the same name recognition as Ted Cruz does,” the professor said “So his job is to introduce himself to constituents across the state.”
Despite O'Rourke's rise in the polls, Wilson says he still faces a significant challenge of turning out the vote in a deep red state.
On Monday, O'Rourke opened his campaign office in the Red Bird area of Dallas.
“Trying to energize the black community and trying to get them to mobilize behind his candidacy is a critical strategic element,” Wilson said.
In a recent email to supporters, The Cruz campaign acknowledged O'Rourke's momentum saying "we are in a serious race." They added "we are being outraised by an almost 3-to-1 margin.”
On August 3, Cruz released his first attack against O'Rourke.
Wilson expects the ads to get more personal.
“For those voters who don't have an impression of Beto, Ted Cruz would like to create that impression for them as an out-of-touch liberal,” Wilson said.
Every election is about who can get more voters to the polls. But in this midterm race, Wilson says there are potential traps for both sides.
“Getting young people to the polls in an off year is going to be a big, big challenge,” he said. “In a year when Democrats are more excited than Republicans, its making Republican voters care enough to show up in a midterm.”
O’Rourke opened a campaign headquarters in the Red Bird neighborhood with an enthusiastic crowd on hand.
“There are folks who have never voted in a midterm election before who are voting in this one,” O’Rourke said. “I don’t know if they are in anyone’s polls but what I’m feeling is that this is happening. Something great in Texas is coming together. And we’re very lucky we get to be a part of that.”
Earlier Monday, O’Rourke campaigned in Tyler, traditionally a Republican stronghold. He regularly streams his town hall meetings and trips.
A Democrat has not won a statewide race in Texas in decades, but O’Rourke has raised $10 million more than Cruz.
Recent polling indicates that Cruz’s lead has narrowed and is in a statistical dead heat. Senator Cruz has warned supporters that Republicans must “stem the tide of their growing momentum.”
Missy Shorey is chairwoman for Dallas County Republicans. She believes that O’Rourke’s surge is more perceived than real and that Democrats’ dreams of turning Texas blue or even purple will be dashed.
“I think right now we’ve got a race on our hands that is a wakeup call. Complacency is the only way we lose,” she said. “For anyone to think that somehow this blue wave is going to take over, it’s a blue haze. In the end, the work that is put in by conservatives across this state is going to make sure it’s not close.”
O’Rourke will hold a town hall meeting in DeSoto on Tuesday.
Ted Cruz will also be in North Texas on Tuesday when he will make stops in McKinney and Arlington.