Monday, August 13, 2018

Should the US Deport a 4-Year-Old?

When it comes to immigration, many Americans say that immigrants should just follow the legal process and come in the front door. Several recent cases of productive-yet-illegal immigrants, many with American family members, being deported have been met with the response that they should have become legalized while they were here to avoid deportation. Increasingly, however, there are cases in which people try to follow the legal process, but are stymied by the system. The case of four-year-old Angela Becerra is one such case that illustrates just how broken the American immigration system is.

Angela is the adopted daughter of two American citizen parents. Colorado’s Fox 31 reports that Marco and Amy Becerra adopted Angela when they were residents of Peru in 2014. Marco has dual American and Peruvian citizenship while four-year-old Angela is a citizen of Peru.

Angela was born on May 23, 2014 and was abandoned at birth. “She was 11 days old when she was brought to the orphanage,” her adoptive mother said. Angela’s biological mother “was treated like a dog. She was chained to the table and sex-trafficked. That’s the reality. No running water. No electricity. Very little food.”

Amy said that the Becerras were asked by a woman at the orphanage to foster baby Angela. “She literally placed this little 5-pound baby in our hands and said do you think you guys can take care of her?”

The Becerras agreed and ultimately adopted Angela legally. In 2017, the couple decided to return to the US, in part so that Angela could grow up as an American and benefit from education in American schools. The family now lives in Aurora, Colorado where Amy accepted a job with the State of Colorado and Marco works for the federal government.

Amy started her job in 2017 with the understanding that Marco and Angela would soon join her in Colorado, but Angela’s immigration application kept hitting roadblocks. The US does not normally grant tourist visas for anyone with a current immigration application so it was 13 months before the little girl was allowed to join her mother in Colorado for the first time in March 2018 when she was finally allowed to enter the US on a tourist visa that expires on August 31. No deportation proceedings are currently underway, but after Angela’s visa expires she will be at risk for deportation.

The Becerras continued to follow the legal process, but now, less than a month before Angela’s tourist visa expires, the little girl’s immigration application has been denied. The problem seems to be that Angela’s adoption was formalized in Peru, not the United States.

“I don’t know what it takes to reopen a case. Once it’s closed, it’s closed,” Amy said.

The law does provide for an appeal, but it is unlikely that the process can be completed before the end of August. At the end of the month, when Angela’s tourist visa expires, she will be subject to deportation even though she has no family or home to return to in Peru.

“We’re both citizens. My husband and I have a full legal binding adoption completed and we have a birth certificate that lists no other parent,” Amy Becerra said. “It’s inconceivable that a child of two citizen parents would have to live out their life as an undocumented alien in this country.”

“I’ve followed the path they’ve given me, and it’s such a dysfunctional, uncoordinated system,” Amy said.

The Becerras have contacted immigration attorneys, but at this point are uncertain why Angela’s application was denied. A letter explaining the decision should be received from the government in the next few weeks, but by then Angela may be an illegal immigrant despite the family’s best efforts to follow the law.

The family has also contacted their congressman, Republican Mike Coffman, for help. Coffman’s office is working with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Denver to cut through red tape and try to find a speedy resolution to Angela’s case.

“I mean this is beyond belief,” Rep. Coffman told Fox 31. “I believe we have a broken immigration system, and this is a symptom of that broken immigration system.”

The case is an illustration how even immigrants who attempt to follow the law can find it difficult or impossible to become legal citizens. The Byzantine immigration bureaucracy is fraught with pitfalls and delays that can cause even the most well-intentioned immigrants to be denied legal status and end up being deported.

Originally published on The Resurgent

How to Steal An Airliner

The theft and subsequent crash of a Horizon Air Q400 airliner over the weekend has left many people wondering how it would be possible to steal an airliner from one of the nation’s largest airports in the post-9/11 world. The surprising answer is that is probably easier than you think.

What made Richard Russell’s theft easy to carry out on an apparent whim was that Russell was an airline employee. Russell had worked as a ground service crewman for Horizon for 3-1/2 years prior to Friday’s incident. To be employed in secure areas of the airport, he would have had to pass a five-year background check that included a review of his criminal history as well as prior work history. While aviation background checks don’t delve into an applicant’s mental state, if any psychological problems were apparent they probably would have been noticed during training if they had not been uncovered when Horizon contacted Russell’s previous employers. Russell’s psychological problems probably manifested after he was already on the job and cleared for access to the flight line.

Once he became a Horizon employee, Russell would have been issued a badge that would allow him to access secure areas of the Seattle-Tacoma airport where he worked. Since Russell was an employee who had a legitimate reason to have access to the areas of the airport where the airplanes were parked, getting to the airplane would have been the easy part.

The tricky part would have been starting the engines and taking off, but even that is not as hard as it sounds. The Bombardier Q400 is a turboprop airliner. Jet airliners typically nose into the gate and passengers embark via the retractable jetway. Since turboprop airliners have propellers, they don’t use jetways. Normally turboprops park away from the terminal and passengers walk outside across the open ramp to get onboard. In the case of Russell’s airplane, N449QX was parked in a maintenance area, not at the passenger terminal. Russell used a tug, which he was trained to use as part of his normal duties, to turn the airplane 180 degrees before he took it.

Airliners don’t typically have lockable exterior doors so getting into the plane was also easy. From his job, Russell undoubtedly knew how to open and close the door. After September 11, airliners were required to have lockable cockpit doors, but they are normally only locked during flight.

Airliners also don’t have keyed ignitions as cars do. Much has been made of the intricate sequence of setting cockpit controls to start the engines. This also is not as hard as it sounds. The Bombardier Q400 is a new version of the Dash 8, originally built by de Havilland Canada in the 1980s. The Q400 version first flew in 2000 and has modern avionics and engine controls, which are much simpler than in older airplanes.

The Q400 engines include FADEC, full authority digital electronic engine controls, that greatly simplify managing the engines. While I don’t have any firsthand experience with the Q400, I have flown a variety of turbine airplanes both with and without FADECs. A Beechcraft King Air turboprop without a FADEC has three sets of levers for its two engines: The throttles, the prop controls and the fuel levers. Online pictures of Q400 cockpits show only two levers, the throttles. Starting the engines was probably just a matter of turning on the aircraft batteries and pressing the starter button.

Airplane cockpits are checklist-driven environments. Russell could have found a checklist in the airplane and simply followed the steps to help start the engines and set up the airplane for flight. While this would have required some minimal knowledge, such as knowing where controls are and what they are called, it would not have been an insurmountable obstacle for someone who was around the airplanes on a daily basis. The landing gear control is typically one of the easiest things to find in a cockpit. It is normally a big handle that is shaped like a wheel.

Russell’s website also indicates that he took airline trips in his spare time. A fringe benefit for airline employees is the ability to travel on standby tickets at little or no cost. Russell may have been able to observe pilots on some of these trips, perhaps from the jump seat (a third seat in the cockpit behind the pilots).

Once the engines were started, taxiing and taking off would have been relatively easy. You just push the throttles forward, wait for the airplane to accelerate and pull back on the control yoke to raise the nose. Russell’s flying probably wasn’t smooth and professional, but it didn’t have to be. He just had to get the airplane off the ground and high enough to avoid obstacles.

Russell could have been aided by flight simulator software. Microsoft Flight Simulator is a PC-based game that has undergone many revisions since the 1980s. Current versions allow upgrades so that users can pretend to fly many different aircraft, including the Q400.

As a former simulator instructor, I can say that even nonpilots can fly a simulator with a little coaching. It isn’t uncommon for a novice to be able to do loops and rolls in a simulator. Russell reportedly executed aerobatic maneuvers like these with the Q400 and may well have learned them on a PC-based flight simulator. The Q400 is not built to fly aerobatics, however, and there is good chance that Russell could have killed himself earlier in attempting these maneuvers. The flight instrument displays on five screens in the Q400 cockpit really do look like a video game.

Landing is much more difficult than taking off. Landing an airplane is a combination of art and science. The plane’s autopilot could have helped Russell land the plane, but the final seconds of the flight, the landing flare, touchdown and rollout on the runway would have been in his hands. Large jets have autoland, but a regional airline turboprop would not be equipped with such a system.

It seems likely that Richard Russell was intent on ending his life when he took off. There have been several cases of pilots using their airplanes to commit suicide. It seems likely that this was Russell’s goal all along.

Despite all the precautions and security measures, it is impossible to foresee every scenario. If an airline employee passes a background check and gains trust through years of experience on the job, there is no reason to suspect that he would decide to take an airliner for a fatal joyride. Thankfully, most aviation employees are responsible people for whom bending an airplane and using it to hurt people is unthinkable.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Should Anti-Trump Conservatives Vote Democrat?

There has been a lot of discussion of late on the best course for Trump-critical conservatives – “Never Trumpers” in the eyes of many Republicans - in the upcoming midterm elections. Some conservatives, such as Max Boot and George Will, argue that it would be better in the long run if the Democrats win this year’s election if it means that the Republican Party will be rid of Donald Trump. Others believe that no matter how bad the Trump Administration is, the Democrats would be worse.

Let me preface the discussion by saying that most conservative critics of Trump are still conservatives, despite what many Trump supporters believe. To believe that President Trump is not a good, or even a moderately conservative, president does not mean that you embrace leftist ideologies. To the contrary, free trade, a strong coherent foreign policy and treating all people with respect have long been conservative ideals.

The argument against Trump is multifaceted. He has made a mess of international trade and needlessly angered our allies. At the same time, he has cozied up to dictators like Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin with little to show for it. His campaign may or may not have conspired with the Russians during the 2016 elections and may or may not have broken the law if it did. What is certain is that the president has done his level best to undermine the Russia investigation and any person or agency involved with it. I would describe President Trump in much the same way that I described President Obama: Arrogant, divisive and incompetent.

On the positive side of the ledger, the president has also accomplished some very good things. The tax reform that he signed provided a much-needed boost to the economy and made American corporate tax rates competitive with other countries. Likewise, regulatory reform makes it easier to navigate the federal bureaucracy and also helps the economy. President Trump has also signed a number of Executive Orders that limit federal funding for abortion. Although not permanent, the orders are a step in the right direction.

In 2016, I had no faith that President Trump would pick a constructionist justice for the Supreme Court. On that, I was absolutely wrong. Neil Gorsuch seems to be an independent thinker and constitutionalist in the mold of Scalia. He will most likely be an excellent justice for years to come. Brett Kavanaugh, although seemingly less likely to overturn bad precedents such as Roe v. Wade, also appears to be a solid pick.

But these positives also come with negatives. President Trump’s affinity for tariffs appears likely to counterbalance his successful tax reform and could lead to a worldwide downturn. His inability to assemble a bipartisan coalition on health care means that Obamacare could be a permanent fixture of American life. President Obama’s spending spree was the worst in American history, but the deficit under President Trump is even worse and will probably exceed $1 trillion per year by the end of his presidency.

Two good appointments to the Supreme Court have had the effect of eliminating the judicial picks as an issue for conservatives. After Kavanaugh is confirmed, the Court will tilt right. If a Democrat president appoints a replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the justice who is most likely to retire, it would not alter the balance of the Court.

Whether the Trump campaign worked with the Russians or not, the Trump Administration gets failing marks for addressing cyberattacks on the American election infrastructure. A Brennan Center report found that the US had “made remarkably little progress” on election security since 2016. Worse, Russian hackers have shown the ability to penetrate the American electric grid to a point where they could turn off the power for large portions of the country, yet President Trump remains silent on the threat.

For all the problems with the Trump Administration, the Democrats seem no better on policy. Rather than moderating in an attempt to appeal to disaffected Republicans, the Democrats have become even more shrill and radical. The opposition party is on the wrong side of two of my core issues, abortion and the Second Amendment. Democrats may have found a new respect for free trade as a reflexive anti-Trump position, but Donald Trump’s trade policies are essentially the same as what Bernie Sanders proposed. Likewise, when it comes to NATO and Russia, the Democrats have long been as weak as President Trump. The typical Democrat complaint about Republican spending is that it isn’t enough.

Neither do the Democrats seem less corrupt or incompetent than the Trump Administration. Even though much criticism of Hillary Clinton approaches tin-foil hat proportions, there is little doubt that the Clintons enriched themselves through their government positions and Hillary’s potential presidency. Likewise, I can’t forget that the Obama Administration turned the IRS into a tool of political suppression and apparently had the DOJ look the other way at Hillary’s negligent use of a private email server, the purpose of which could only have been to avoid having the Clintons’ questionable practices become part of the official public record.

As with 2016, Trump critics are left with two equally deplorable choices. I agree with the assessment that as long as President Trump appears to be winning, the Republican Party will embrace and protect him, regardless of his bad policy and worse behavior. The GOP is headed in the wrong direction and the only way that it will reverse course is if it is handed a clear rebuke by the voters.

I’m not even sure that would do the trick. The party has become so enamored of the Trump brand that even a loss of historic proportions might not convince Republicans to reject the Trumpists for traditional conservatives. After all, when the GOP handed the Democrats a “shellacking” in 2010, the Obama-era left did not moderate. They doubled down and eked out a presidential victory in 2012 before taking even bigger losses in 2014 and 2016. In many respects, the Trumpian GOP seems to be repeating the history of the Obama Administration. That could prove true for electoral outcomes as well.

In the end, Trump critics must make their own decision about how to vote. Since this is not a national election, they should consider how independent their Republican congressmen and senators are from President Trump as well as whether Democrats on their ballot are moderates or extreme left-wingers. The best advice that I can give troubled conservatives is what Ted Cruz said in 2016: “Vote your conscience.”

Even with all their negatives, there are a few red lines that might persuade me to vote Democrat. If I became convinced that President Trump was an imminent national security threat rather than just a bad president, I would have to act. An example would be if the president decided to withdraw from NATO or otherwise sabotage the alliance. Threats to the economy such as withdrawing from NAFTA might also meet this standard. If the Republicans go through with the impeachment of Rod Rosenstein or fire Robert Mueller, I might also feel that removing the GOP from power would at least temporarily outweigh the negatives of giving power to the Democrats.

At the moment, I can’t endorse the idea of voting for a Democrat, but I have very little doubt that a blue wave is coming whether disaffected conservatives vote blue or not. The Trumpian GOP took an election in which a minority of voters rejected Hillary Clinton and assumed that it was an anti-immigration and protectionist mandate. If current trends continue, it appears that Republicans will pay the price for their errors in judgment soon. When that happens, it won’t be the fault of the “Never Trumpers.” It will be the fault of Donald Trump and a Republican Party that abandoned its principles.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Friday, August 10, 2018

New MId-East War Is Brewing

It has been a few years since a war in the Middle East, so we are about due for another. It seems that the next war may be coming to a boil along the Israeli-Gaza border.

The fighting started yesterday with an estimated 36 rockets fired by Hamas in Gaza toward Israeli cities. AP reports that the Iron Dome anti-missile system intercepted some rockets, but at least one hit a house in the Israeli town of Sderot, injuring six people. Blogger Joel Rosenberg reports that as many as 200 missiles have been fired and 11 Israelis injured.

Israel responded with a series of airstrikes on Hamas targets in Gaza. The targets included “an offensive maritime terror tunnel ... several terror sites in military compounds throughout the Gaza Strip ... rocket manufacturing facilities and a central logistical military complex.” Gaza’s Health Ministry reported that three Palestinians were wounded.

It isn’t clear what prompted Hamas to begin missile attacks in an area that has been quiet for several years. The last serious fighting in the region was in 2014 when Israel responded to more than 4,500 rocket attacks by launching ground incursions into Gaza. Since then, a shaky truce has prevailed.

It is possible that the renewed fighting is related to President Trump’s decision to end the Iran nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on the rogue nation. Iran provides both military and economic aid to Hamas, the ruling power in Gaza.

The fighting might also be due to the end of the Syrian civil war. For the past few years, Iran has been assisting the Syrian government forces in their battle against rebels. Now that the Syrian government is on the verge of victory, Iran has the opportunity to refocus its efforts against Israel.

There has never been any question that Iran’s ultimate goal was to confront and destroy Israel. The only question was when. Now that Iran is consolidating its gains in Syria, it has the ability to face Israel on two fronts. It is likely that the fragile peace that Israel has enjoyed for several years is gone for the foreseeable future.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Thursday, August 9, 2018

NY To Rideshares: Drop Dead

In keeping with the traditional tendency of large cities run by Democrats to continually make life more complicated and expensive, the New York City Council has just passed new regulations governing ridesharing services within the city. The new rules will make it more difficult to hail Uber and Lyft rides. It will also become more expensive when you can find a ride.

The new rules attack the ridesharing services from two different angles. First, they impose a year-long cap on new licenses for ridesharing vehicles while the Taxi and Limousine Commission conducts  study of the effects of rideshare apps on the city. Second, the rules impose a minimum wage for rideshare drivers.

Both of the new rules will have the effect of driving up prices for transportation. Restricting the number of hirable vehicles introduces an artificial scarcity into the marketplace. As supply of vehicles for hire dwindles, the price for available vehicles will increase. Raising the wages for rideshare drivers increases a cost that companies will pass along to consumers. In both cases, the bottom line is that rides will be more expensive and people with less disposable income will be forced out of the marketplace. People who used to take Uber and Lyft will now be forced to take the subway or walk.

The new rules do have some exceptions. Wheelchair-accessible vehicles are exempt from the cap. New vehicles serving areas that demonstrate a need, but showing that they will not increase congestion can also be licensed.

The city says that the new rules are needed to combat congestion on New York’s streets.

“Our city is directly confronting a crisis that is driving working New Yorkers into poverty and our streets into gridlock," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said on CNBC. "The unchecked growth of app-based for-hire vehicle companies has demanded action – and now we have it.”

Currently rideshare services account for 80,000 vehicles in New York and provide 1.7 million rides per month. Rideshare apps have benefitted from construction on the city’s subway system in what Gov. Andrew Cuomo called a “summer of hell” for commuters.

There is also the possibility that the new regulations are partly due to rent-seeking by the city’s taxi companies. Cab companies fought the legalization of Uber in the city and the competition from rideshares has hit cabbies hard.

I can say from personal experience that Uber rides in New York may not always be cheaper than taxis, but, without fail, the Uber experience is always better with nicer and more comfortable vehicles, courteous drivers and a map that shows exactly where you are going and what the fare will be. Rideshare companies also serve communities where taxis are scarce. Uber simply has a better product than the traditional taxi companies.

The New York Times reported that both taxi and Uber drivers hope that the rules will lead to increased wages. As with other minimum wage increases, the increased wages for drivers will likely be offset by the fact that there will be fewer riders.  Increased costs lead to decreased demand.

Congestion is a legitimate issue in New York, but centralized restrictions on the growth of rideshare companies won’t reduce the number of people in the city who need to travel to work, school or the store. What the restrictions will do is impact the poor of the community who will be forced to choose between paying a larger share of their income for rides and using the antiquated and inconvenient subways.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Alex Jones, The NFL and Freedom of Speech

The conservative world – or at least the right-wing world – was rocked this week with the news that Facebook, Apple and Spotify would ban Jones and his Infowars podcasts from their sites. Much of the right-wing reaction has focused on the question of freedom of speech and whether the internet giants have a duty to provide access to Jones’ conspiratorial ramblings.

The crux of the issue is that Facebook and the other companies are private entities. Because they are not part of the government, the First Amendment does not apply. The First Amendment only protects freedom of speech from being infringed upon by Congress, not private corporations.

In Facebook’s case, the waters are muddied by CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s claims that the social media giant is “a platform for all ideas” and that he is trying to “root out” bias in the company. If the company truly welcomes all ideas, then it should allow Jones to post his ideas, as reprehensible as they are, unless he violates the site’s terms of service.

Facebook should also set an objective standard to determine what is and isn’t “hate speech” and “bullying,” the vague terms that were used to justify Jones ouster from the site. The standards should be applied to both sides of the political spectrum. The list of political leftists who use hate speech is long and filled with people who are rarely held accountable for their words. Sarah Jeong is only the most recent example.

If freedom of speech is endangered by the left, many on the right are happy to attack the free speech rights of their political opponents as well. The most glaring example is the NFL kneeling controversy. President Trump overstepped his authority last year by calling on NFL team owners to fire players who kneeled to protest during the National Anthem. Many conservatives supported the president without stopping to think that the NFL, like Facebook, is a private organization.

In either case, the appropriate action for people who disagree with how the owners of Facebook and the NFL run their businesses would be to fire them. No one is forced to have a Facebook account or watch the NFL. If enough people vote with their wallets and stop sending their money to leftist companies, these policies may eventually change. The one thing that conservatives should agree on is that the government should not tell private companies how to run their business or what they should allow.

Unfortunately, that is not the case. Both sides seem perfectly willing to abridge the free speech rights of their political opponents. That includes many on Republicans who consider the media “fake news.” A new Ipsos poll found that a plurality of Republicans, 43 percent, believe that “the president should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior.”

The idea that Big Government should referee the freedoms of speech and press is not new to the left, but should be an anathema to small government conservatives. At the very least, Republicans in favor of restricting speech should be aware that the government’s powers of censorship would almost certainly be turned against conservative outlets – or conspiracy sites like Infowars - by the next Democratic administration.

Where Voltaire famously said, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Modern Americans of all political stripes say, “What you say offends me, so you must be silenced.” The First Amendment applies to me, but not you.

Justice Louis Brandeis had a better idea. Noting that “Those who won our independence were not cowards” who feared political speech, Brandeis said that, for the problem of dangerous and evil speech, the “remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence.” That’s a solution that all Americans should get behind.

Originally published on The ResurgentAlex Jones

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Ohio Vote Is Warning Sign To GOP

Republican Troy Balderson is claiming victory in an Ohio special election that remains too close to call the morning after Election Day. In Ohio’s 12th congressional district, Balderson holds a slim lead over Democrat Danny O’Connor. O’Connor, who trails by less than one percent and has not conceded, appears to be gearing up for a recount.

At press time, Balderson was credited with 101,574 votes to O’Connor’s 99,820. Balderson’s share of the vote was 50.2 percent while O’Connor received 49.3 percent with 100 percent of precincts reporting. More than 3,000 provisional and 5,000 absentee ballots are awaiting review.

Balderson’s lead was very slim despite a last-minute trip to the district by President Trump. The president’s endorsement over the weekend had no discernible effect on the polling in the race, which had been a statistical tie since July.

Balderson took advantage of his lead at the end of the night to claim victory, saying, “I’m going to promise to you that I’m going to work relentlessly for this 12th Congressional District. America is on the right path and we are going to keep it going that way.”

O’Connor said in a statement, “We always knew this was going to be a close race, and while we don’t know the results quite yet, I know that this campaign left it all on the field.” On Twitter, O’Connor asked supporters to chip in for what “could be a long and expensive recount.”

Under Ohio law, if the vote totals are within half a percent there will be an automatic recount. A candidate can request a recount if there less than a one percent margin.

Even though Republicans may hold on to the traditionally Republican seat, there are warning signs for the GOP. As a popularity contest, the election was essentially a tie between Republicans and Democrats in a district that FiveThirtyEight rated as favoring Republicans by 14 points.

Both sides spent heavily to reach the near stalemate. A total of $8 million was spent on the race per Washington Post figures. O’Connor had an advantage in local fundraising and spent $2.4 million on media ads compared to Balderson’s $600,000. O’Connor’s spending advantage was offset by Republican PACs, which spent $4.1 million on Balderson’s behalf. The DCCC and DNC spent about $1.1 million for O’Connor.

Like O’Connor, many Democrats have a fundraising advantage over their Republican opponents this year. The Republican Super PAC advantage can help some Republicans, but the PACs may be spread too thin to help every endangered Republican seat.

Although Republicans have not lost every special election of the Trump era, they have lost many voters. FiveThirtyEight’s analysis shows that recent special elections have swung toward the Democrats by an average of 16 points. The Ohio results confirm that the many Republican seats held by less than the Ohio-12’s 14-point margin are danger this November.

The final lesson for Republicans is that President Trump has no coattails and that his endorsement will not guarantee victory in the general election. President Trump often played the kingmaker in the Republican primaries, but his endorsement does not help and may even hurt general election candidates.

If current trends continue, Republicans will preserve the Ohio 12-district seat, at least until the next election in November, but the victory should make the GOP nervous. The election continued the trend of Democratic gains since President Trump was elected. The Democratic fundraising advantage and an unpopular Republican president will make it difficult for Republicans to break the pattern.

Originally published on The Resurgent

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Polls Show Beto O'Rourke Within Striking Distance Of Ted Cruz

Election Day is approaching and the one Republican whose seat should be secure seems to be struggling against a Democrat challenger. Recent polls show that Ted Cruz (R-Texas), one of the most conservative members of Congress, is holding a single-digit lead over Democrat Beto O’Rourke.

Sen. Cruz is defending his seat for the first since being elected in 2012, but 2018 is shaping up to be a tough year for Republicans. A wave of Republican retirements and an enthusiastic liberal base has Democrats hoping for a blue wave to take the House and Senate. Among the potential Republican upsets, there is probably no incumbent that Democrats would love to unseat more than Ted Cruz. Taking Cruz’s seat in deep-red Texas would deal a psychological blow to GOP conservatives as well as reducing the already slim Republican hold on the Senate.

In a normal year, Cruz would be a shoo-in for reelection, but this is no normal year. Five of the last six polls show O ‘Rourke within ten points. The last two polls, taken in late July, show him within striking distance of Mr. Cruz. A Quinnipiac survey of 1,138 registered voters showed Cruz with a six-point lead while a Texas Lyceum survey of 441 likely voters showed the race within the margin of error at two points.

Support for the candidates is split among traditional lines. Cruz leads with men and white voters while O’Rourke leads with women, blacks and Hispanics. Independent voters are evenly split among the two. Beto’s rise over the past few months led the Cook Political Report to move the race to the “lean Republican” column, one step away from becoming a tossup.

Part of the problem for Cruz is that, while Republicans strongly approve of his job performance, voters at large are split. A February 2018 survey from the University of Texas showed voters split 40-41 percent on approval/disapproval for Cruz. While the senator has a loyal base, the controversy he generates has also created a loyal opposition.

Another factor may be Sen. Cruz’s relationship with President Trump. The same UT poll showed that Texans were also evenly split on approval for the president. Cruz was one of the last Republicans to endorse Trump in 2016, a fact that may cause some Trump supporters to be soft in their support for the senator. Trump opponents may not like the fact that Cruz seems to have become a consistent Trump backer since the 2016 election.

Cruz seems to realize the threat that O’Rourke represents. At the Resurgent Gathering in Austin last weekend, Cruz told Erick Erickson, “We have a real race here, and we need to take it seriously,” noting that O’Rourke favors tax increases, a bigger government and is anti-Second Amendment.

Despite O’Rourke’s lack of support for traditional Texas values, Cruz is among the Republican incumbents having problems with fundraising. In the second quarter, O’Rourke raised $10 million, more than double Sen. Cruz’s take. The O’Rourke campaign, which is refusing PAC money, said that 70 percent of the donations came from within Texas.

Democrats have a history of building up big expectations for victories in Texas and then having their hopes crushed. It was only four years ago that “Abortion Barbie” Wendy Davis was purported to have a chance at becoming the governor of Texas. When the ballots were counted, however, Davis lost the election to Greg Abbott by more than 20 points.

With 300 days to go, it is too early to tell whether Beto O’Rourke will become another disappointing chapter in the history of Texas Democrats or whether he will pull off an upset that would shake the Republican Party to its core. The race is still Ted Cruz’s to lose, but it currently looks like a nail-biter.
Originally published on The Resurgent