In just two years, President Trump and U.S. Senator John Cornyn will face re-election contests, and Cornyn acknowledged Wednesday that he does not expect to gain any advantage by having Trump at the top of the ticket in Texas. “I’m under no illusion that I can run for re-election in 2020 just based on President Trump’s coattails,” Cornyn said on a conference call with state reporters. “I’m going to have to go continue to come back home and listen to what Texans are saying and talk about issues that are relevant to them and continue to pursue the policies that I have here in Washington based on the Texas model for success.”
Cornyn says he believes voter turnout in Texas increased from 4.7 million voters in the mid-term election of 2014 to 8.3 million this year solely because Texans wanted to make a statement about their feelings for or against the controversial president. “President Trump was responsible for 100 percent of the turnout. And I believe that to be true. About half of it was for people who supported President Trump, and half was for people who were opposed to President Trump. So I don’t think I can depend, nor can anybody running in Texas depend on the top of the ticket.”
This week, Cornyn received re-election endorsements from Texas’s junior U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who had been briefly rumored as a primary challenger to Cornyn. During the 2012 election, Cruz had declined to endorse Cornyn. Democratic congressman Beto O’Rourke came within three points of defeating incumbent Cruz last month in the closest Texas election since 1998. O’Rourke currently is considering whether to run for president, challenge Cornyn, or drop out of politics.
O’Rourke’s strength against Cruz was an “eye-opener” for a lot of Republicans, Cornyn said. “Republicans have gotten complacent because we have held every statewide office since 1994 and most of us, to be honest, viewed the election as really a challenge in the primary and with not so much concern about the general election. That’s changed, obviously, with what happened in the midterm elections and particularly Beto Rourke’s getting as close as he did to Senator Cruz.” I asked Cornyn what he thought O’Rourke will do, run for Senate or run for president.
“R.G., I read with interest your suggestion that Beto could run for Senate and for president at the same time under I guess the old LBJ law but I don’t know what his decision will be,” Cornyn said. But he noted much of the shape of that race will be determined by people who have moved to Texas from out of state in recent years. “I have thought a lot about the people who’ve moved to Texas but most of them have moved to Texas for jobs and opportunity. They haven’t moved because they want to see, they want to replicate some of the policies that have caused the failure of the decline of great states like California,” he said.
People are moving to Texas because of jobs, not necessarily a political climate, “but, having said that, I think you know and I think I know that we need to do a better job of talking to them about issues that they care about. We not only lost urban areas we lost suburbs in ways that were pretty dramatic. And if it weren’t for the rural areas of the country of the state I should say that Republicans running statewide might not have been successful or as successful as they were.”