Even in deep-red Texas, it looks like Democratic candidate Beto O'Rourke has a decent chance of unseating his Republican opponent for a U.S. Senate seat.
Why are O'Rourke's chances as good as they are? In part, his positive prospects stem from the persistent unlikability of incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz.
Observers have frequently commented on the fact that Cruz is particularly off-putting as a politician, and even many of his GOP colleagues have expressed open contempt for the Texas senator. But perhaps the best Cruz takedown yet was penned by New York Times conservative columnist Bret Stephens in a dialogue with fellow op-ed writer Gail Collins.
"I like Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic challenger, and I like the idea that Texas can turn a bit purple if you have a candidate with energy, wit and a human touch," Stephens wrote Tuesday. "The big reason is that I despise Ted Cruz. That is 'D-e-s-p-i-s-e,' in case I haven’t spelled out my loathing clearly enough. Would you like to know why?"
"Oh, gosh, please go on," said Collins.
Because he’s like a serpent covered in Vaseline. Because he treats the American people like two-bit suckers in 10-gallon hats. Because he sucks up to the guy who insulted his wife — by retweet, no less. Because of his phony piety and even phonier principles. Because I see him as the spiritual love child of the 1980s televangelist Jimmy Swaggart and Jack Nicholson’s character in “The Shining.” Because his ethics are purely situational. Because he makes Donald Trump look like a human being by comparison. Because “New York values.” Because his fellow politicians detest him, and that’s just among Republicans. Because he never got over being the smartest kid in eighth grade. Because he’s conniving enough to try to put one over you, but not perceptive enough to realize that you see right through him. Because he’s the type of man who would sell his family into slavery if that’s what it took to get elected. And that he would use said slavery as a sob story to get himself re-elected.
Otherwise, you might say I’m his No. 1 fan.
The series of insults is emblematic of the kind of opposition Cruz engenders. Former House Speaker John Boehner called Cruz "Lucifer in the flesh." Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) once said, "If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you." Something about Cruz not only inspires disdain but creativity in insults.
And yet, none of this means O'Rourke is guaranteed to win. Many polls still show Cruz with a lead in the race, and party affiliation often supersedes personality in the world of politics. Still, if you want to run against a powerful candidate in his party's stronghold, you couldn't hope for much more than having an opponent that people love to hate and the potential for a wave election year.