The proto-Beto

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While Democrats convince themselves that Beto O’Rourke can knock off Ted Cruz next month, Jim Geraghty  notes that we’ve been here before:

Way back in 1996, a little-known high-school teacher named Victor Morales won the Texas Demo­cratic Senate primary. He beat two better-known and better-funded members of Congress, John Bryant and Jim Chapman Jr., and Morales was the first non-white candidate for Senate to win the nomination of either party in state history. The media were enraptured with the tale of a humble teacher who put 60,000 miles onto the odometer of his dented white pickup, crisscrossing Texas, taking on incumbent GOP senator Phil Gramm.

Richard Estrada of the Dallas Morning News wrote that “Morales fairly oozes sincerity. He is the consummate outsider. In truth, Morales is not just a viable candidate, the enthusiastic re­sponse he is receiving signals that he is a political phenomenon.” The New York Times declared that Morales “could energize Hispanic Democrats to turn out for him this November, maybe even providing major help for President Clinton here or for other Democrats.”

Texas Monthly tracked how Morales had become a media phenomenon: “Morales has been profiled in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and the Miami Herald and on the Today show, Dateline, and CNN. Perhaps most important, he has sat for the obligatory, underdog-championing portrait in People.”

Despite all the hype about Morales, the race was never all that competitive; Gramm went on to win by eleven points, one of the early chapters of a long, painful stretch for Texas Democrats…

Ted Cruz briefly showed flashes of courage when he wouldn’t endorse Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention, and then promptly returned to form.  If O’Rourke beats him I won’t want anything else for Christmas.

It’s not impossible – FiveThirtyEight gives Beto a one-in-five chance – but I still wouldn’t bet on it.