Gov. Abbott’s drubbing of Beto O’Rourke dashes Dem hopes of flipping Texas blue

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott cruised to a re-election victory in Tuesday’s midterms, dealing another blow to Democratic aspirations of taking control of the longtime Republican stronghold.

Abbott defeated Democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke by 11 percentage points in Tuesday’s election, according to The Associated Press’s unofficial results, only about two points less than the incumbent governor won by in 2018.

The result comes as many Democrats have eyed Texas in recent years, hoping to flip a state that has been dominated by Republicans for decades. Democrats have pointed to the states changing demographics as a reason for optimism, noting the growing percentage of Hispanic voters and urban areas that have seen an influx of new residents from around the country.

O’Rourke has twice been tasked with turning Texas blue in statewide elections, first running against incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz in the 2018 midterm elections. O’Rourke came close to making the dream a reality, losing to Cruz narrowly, albeit in a year with a favorable climate for Democrats.

HERE’S HOW MUCH CAMPAIGN CASH BETO O’ROURKE HAS BURNED LOSING RACES UP AND DOWN THE BALLOT

Beto O’Rourke and Gov. Greg Abbott
(Getty Images)

But the optimism brought on by that narrow 2018 decision quickly fizzled last week, with O’Rourke underperforming his Senate bid in virtually every region of the state.

O’Rourke ran up large victories in the state’s southwest border counties in 2018, taking 72% of the vote in Maverick County, 71% in Dimmitt, 71% in Webb, 77% in Starr, and 69% in Hidalgo. The numbers were much better than his performance against Abbott in 2022, with O’Rourke only winning those counties with 58%, 61%, 61%, 58%, and 59% respectively. Abbott was even able to flip Zapata County, which O’Rourke won with 63% of the vote in 2018, with 53% of voters there choosing the incumbent governor.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott
(Yasin Ozturk/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Smaller declines were also prevalent for O’Rourke in the state’s urban Democratic strongholds. The Democratic candidate captured 60% of the vote in San Antonio’s Bexar County in 2018, 57% and 74% in Austin’s Hays and Travis Counties, 56% and 58% in Houston’s Fort Bend and Harris Counties, and 66% in Dallas County. But in 2022, O’Rourke was only able to win 57%, 55%, 73%, 52%, 54% and 63% respectively. 

Even worse for O’Rourke, turnout in the state’s urban areas was down significantly from 2018, denying the Democratic candidate the crucial opportunity to run up large margins of raw votes. In Houston’s Harris County, turnout was down nearly 10%, while turnout in Dallas County declined about 15%, signaling a potential lack of enthusiasm for the Democratic candidate.

Beto O'Rourke speaks at campaign event.

Beto O’Rourke speaks at campaign event.
(Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

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Abbott’s win was convincing enough for O’Rourke to call the governor and concede the race Tuesday night, once again dashing Democratic dreams of turning Texas blue.

“Tonight, Texans sent a message that they want to keep Texas the beacon of opportunity that we provided over the past eight years,” Abbott said after the victory.

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