While it received relatively limited coverage from the media, this week the Republican Party scored one of its most auspicious victories in recent days.
On Tuesday, Republican congressional candidate and current state Rep. Gary Gates steamrolled over a Democrat in a special election in Texas, beating opponent Eliz Markowitz with 58 percent of the vote versus her 42 percent.
All the grassroots momentum pushed it over the finish line. Thank you to all of the volunteers who knocked thousands of doors and made thousands of phone calls in Fort Bend County.#KeepTexasRed ☑️?? #txlege pic.twitter.com/uan0xJvTLX
— Texans for Abbott (@AbbottCampaign) January 29, 2020
But Markowitz wasn’t just your average, everyday Democrat — she was a figure who’d been endorsed by a bevy of big names, including two current Democrat presidential candidates and failed 2018 Texas congressional candidate/withdrawn 2020 presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke.
“Presidential candidates Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren had endorsed Markowitz, and outside groups flooded the race with six-figure checks and television ads,” the Associated Press reported.
“Beto O’Rourke practically made the district a second home after ending his own presidential campaign in November, spending weekends knocking on doors in Katy’s affluent neighborhoods.”
Moreover, she’d been bankrolled by big, big, big money.
“Forward Majority, a Democratic super PAC focused on flipping state houses, says it alone spent $400,000 on the race, ” NBC News noted.
Spending to boost Markowitz’s campaign reportedly totaled beyond $1 million. Nevertheless, she suffered a double-digit loss to Gates, a man whom The New York Times pointed out “had lost seven previous tries for office.”
Gary Gates defeated the entire national Democratic party tonight. Backed by $1M and support from @BetoORourke, @JoeBiden, @ElizabethWarren, and more — Dems truly believed they could buy Texas. They were wrong. Congrats on the HUGE win tonight, @GatesforTexas! pic.twitter.com/WF1MdpaaNU
— Republican State Leadership Committee (@RSLC) January 29, 2020
Prior to her defeat, liberal Democrats and their media allies had described her election against Gates as a “bellwether” for the upcoming November race.
“It’s going to be a measure of enthusiasm,” Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University, said to The Dallas Morning News prior to Tuesday’s election. “Is your side able to turn out the electorate or not? [Because] that’s what the electorate is going to be like in 2020.”
He added that the “symbolism” of a victory for Markowitz would, at the very least, “help Democrats with the narrative that Texas is turning purple.”
Yet that narrative doesn’t appear to be as valid anymore …
If early voting in a special runoff is an indicator, this GOP-controlled Fort Bend district is nowhere close to being flipped blue in 2020. https://t.co/VNhdFKXS92
— Mike Hixenbaugh (@Mike_Hixenbaugh) January 29, 2020
“Democrats were convinced they could buy Texas. But tonight they learned Texans aren’t buying the nonsense the Democrats are selling,” Austin Chambers, the president of the Republican State Leadership Committee, said in a statement following Gates’ victory.
“Texans sent a message loud and clear to the liberals in Washington: ‘We’re going to keep Texas Texas.’‘
Yet not all Democrats appear to have received the message.
Speaking with The Atlantic, executive director Jessica Post of the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee tried to simultaneously blame Markowitz’ loss on the Republicans and also frame the loss as a victory …
“She called the 16-point margin ‘an anomaly,’ noting the unpredictability of low-turnout special elections. Post also blamed Texas Republicans for scheduling the election in the dead of winter and limiting early-voting periods,” The Atlantic reported.
“She said Democrats had forced Republicans to spend millions and devote the full resources of their party to defend a district that as recently as 2012 went for Mitt Romney by 30 points. ‘I think that’s a win,’ Post argued. ‘I think it shows Republicans are scared as hell.'”
It doesn’t seem like it:
Can’t wait to see how media will spin this into another victory for Beto.
Dems targeted this race and they lost by 16.
Tell me more about how Texas is in play.
Please, Democrats, keep spending money there. It’s cash that can’t be spent somewhere else.https://t.co/KcTNDJtuD4
— Brad Parscale – Text TRUMP to 88022 (@parscale) January 29, 2020
From @rossramsey: Texas Democrats raised the stakes in their effort to flip a Republican House seat to their side in Fort Bend County. It was a long-shot, promoted as a promising opportunity. And they lost, big.https://t.co/UbvsBoTzVB
— Ayan Mittra (@ayanmittra) January 29, 2020
Democrats spent a ton in Texas, and lost anyway. https://t.co/PyW4ZztU2z
— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) January 30, 2020
But the biggest loser may be O’Rourke, who’d recently refound purpose in life by campaigning for Markowitz.
“[S]o many of you have told me that you first got connected to one of our campaigns after you had recovered from losing somebody in your family or you lost a job or you were depressed after the 2016 election,” he said to a crowd of supporters earlier this month.
“And you were searching for purpose and function, and just what it was you were supposed to do when you woke up in the morning. And you started knocking on doors or making phone calls or being part of one of these campaigns. And you found that function and that purpose and that family.”
He then explained how the same thing happened to him after it dawned on him that he stood no chance in hell of winning the 2020 Democrat presidential nomination.
“For (my wife) Amy and me — who had to make this really difficult, tough decision to withdraw from the presidential race on the first of November of last year — there was a time when we were a little bit despondent and probably a little bit depressed and wondering just what our purpose was on this planet,” he said.
“But in doing this for Eliz, and being part of Powered by the People [a PAC he formed], I really have found that purpose and function again and I’m really hopeful about our country, about this race, about Texas, but just on a very personal level.”
It’s not clear how he’ll recover from his latest flub.
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