US midterms begin with Democrats looking to make gains

A sign directs voters to a Texas primary election polling site on the University of Texas campus, Tuesday, March 6, 2018, in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) [The Associated Press]

Midterm elections have begun in the US in Texas, with voters choosing Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat, to run against incumbent Ted Cruz, a Republican senator and former presidential candidate.

Tuesday night’s showdown between the two men is being used to show that conservative Texas, which has not elected a Democrat in a statewide position since 1994, might be in play for the liberal Democrat party.

Cruz, a staunch conservative and Catholic, unveiled a political advertisement featuring a song accusing O’Rourke – who uses a common Latino first name, although he is not of Latino descent – of changing his name to win voters.

“Little Robert wanted to fit in, so he changed his name to Beto, and hid it with a grin,” the song claimed.

O’Rourke has said that the name “Beto” is a common nickname for those named Robert in his hometown of El Paso, Texas.

The Democratic candidate posted a photograph of himself as a baby wearing a sweater with “Beto” stitched on the chest.

But O’Rourke is not the only name-changing candidate in the contest.

Cruz’s given name is Rafael Edward Cruz, though he goes by Ted, a name commonly used by white Americans.

{articleGUID}

O’Rourke has not commented on Cruz’s choice of name.

Though most polls and political analysts believe Cruz still has the edge over O’Rouke, there are signs that he could lose.

Democrats feel more confident in this election season due to the continued unpopularity of President Donald Trump.

Favourability ratings for Trump, a Republican, hover near the 40-percent, nationally.

The president is equally unpopular in Texas.

Republicans have lost elections in other conservative states where Trump is unpopular.

Cruz is also unpopular among voters, according to the Texas Politics Project (TPP), a part of the University of Texas that undertakes public opinion polling.

As of February, about 42 percent of Texans view him as favourable with 31 percent of respondents viewing Cruz as “very unfavorable”.

Another 12 percent saying they did not view him favourably or unfavourably.

Cruz’s favourability rating was place at 40 percent by TPP.

Nationally, Cruz’s approval ratings are in the single digits.

Most Texans do not have as firm an opinion about O’Rourke as they do Cruz, who has served as senator for six years, TPP polling shows.

Still, O’Rourke is gaining steam on Cruz in terms of fundraising.

In the last three months of 2017, the O’Rourke campaign raised $2.4m while Cruz raised $1.9m. It was the second time O’Rourke outraised Cruz.

While O’Rourke has won in recent fundraising quarters, Cruz still has the overall advantage.

The incumbent raised $7.1m in 2017 to O’Rourke’s $4.6m.

US midterm elections to decide the make up of the country’s legislator will be held in November.