Something is happening here in south Texas. On a hot May afternoon, dozens of people have assembled in a border-town beer garden to meet Beto O’Rourke, a 45-year-old Democratic congressman from El Paso who until recently was virtually unknown outside of his district.
O’Rourke is the Democrat challenging Ted Cruz for his Senate seat in this November’s midterm elections. According to received wisdom, this should be an exercise in foolishness. Texas hasn’t sent a Democrat to the Senate in three decades, and the state went for Donald Trump by nearly 10 percentage points in the 2016 presidential election. But O’Rourke’s candidacy has gained enough grassroots momentum to resuscitate an old question: could Texas, a red state with a growing Hispanic population, finally turn blue in 2018?
This is a question that Democrats seem to pose each election cycle, and demographic change has yet to overtake the Lone Star State’s conservative tilt. In 2014, Texas Democrats pinned their hopes to gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, who went on to lose badly.