CBS News projects Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz will be re-elected to a second term in the Senate, fending off a strong challenge by Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a rising star in Democratic politics.
Exit polls indicated Texas voters were relatively split about what they think the most important problem is facing the country. Over a third of voters said health care was the most important problem. Two-thirds of those voters went for O’Rourke.
Of the third of voters who believe that immigration is the most important problem, about three-quarters supported Cruz. Almost a quarter of voters things the economy is the country’s biggest problem, and among them, the majority voted for Cruz.
Voters who believed that the nation’s economy is in a good place supported Cruz while those who felt the economy is poor supported O’Rourke. When asked whether tax laws passed last year affected their personal finances, the majority who were impacted positively supported Cruz and the majority impacted negatively supported O’Rourke.
Twenty-two percent of voters in Texas were voting in a midterm for the very first time. These voters leaned towards O’Rourke by 7 points, while return voters favored Cruz by 6 points.
Young voters overwhelmingly supported O’Rourke, 71 to 29 percent. Voters aged 30-44 leaned towards him 51 to 47. Voters over 45 favored Cruz 58 to 41. College graduates split their votes evenly between the two Senate candidates, while those without a degree voted for Cruz 53 to 46 percent.
White evangelicals favored Cruz with 83 percent of their votes, while those not in this group supported O’Rourke by a nearly 2-to-1 margin.
Cruz emerged on the national political scene in 2012 as a Tea Party star. He orchestrated a government shutdown in 2013 and was the runner-up for the Republican nomination in the 2016 presidential election. However, while he gained national attention, these high-profile actions may have backfired back home.
Enter Beto O’Rourke, a charismatic El Paso-area congressman with an ability to attract a large and passionate following — and an extremely large campaign war chest. O’Rourke, who has visited every county in Texas during his campaign, raised more than $38 million in the final quarter before the election, an unprecedented amount for a Senate race. O’Rourke and his followers believed that a progressive congressman could win the hearts of voters in deep-red Texas, but their effort fell short.
Although Cruz led O’Rourke in the polls, the fact that the race was so close concerned national Republicans and excited Democrats. National Democrats have dreamed of a blue Texas for years, thanks to changing demographics and increased urbanization.