The race went back and forth for much of the night, but as the many rural counties began reporting Cruz established the lead.
Although O’Rourke had a strong following, he faced a tough uphill battle to beat Cruz. Texas is a Republican state. And it’s a Trump state. Roughly 4.7 million Texans voted for Trump in 2016, which gave him a 9% edge over Hillary Clinton. (Cruz, of course, lost in the primaries to Trump.) And Cruz’s agenda aligns neatly with Trump’s on almost every issue from abortion to immigration to energy.
The Cruz campaign relied on Facebook, Google, and TV ads to paint O’Rourke as far-left liberal who is more in step with Hollywood values than with Texas values. It also focused time and money on making sure it got core conservative Texans–most of whom voted for Trump–out to the polls.
NBC Exit Polls: Beto O’Rourke won 63 percent of the Latino vote and 89 percent of the Black vote. But that was not enough to overcome Cruz’s support among white voters, which came in at 65 percent
— Garrett Haake (@GarrettHaake) November 7, 2018
The news that the race had been called by CNN for Cruz was a one-two punch for the millions of Democrats watching on TV and Twitter. It also meant that Democrats had lost their last chance to recapture the Senate. Democrats, however, are very likely to gain a solid majority in the House.
It was an expensive race. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the candidates together spent $93 million in pursuit of the Senate seat, a new record. The O’Rourke campaign raked in at least $69 million in fundraising, almost half of it small-dollar (less than $200) donations (many from outside Texas).
Cruz raised more than $40 million in total, including almost $18 million from large donors and PACs. According to the CRP, outside groups like PACs have spent a collective $6.5 million to dissuade Texans from voting for O’Rourke, while such groups have spent a collective $1.6 million against Cruz.
Despite much speculation, O’Rourke has denied any interest in running for president on the Democratic ticket in 2020, but that’s a story that probably hasn’t yet revealed its ending.