In what can be considered the most fiercely contested race in the nation this midterm election, Sen. Ted Cruz has reportedly defeated Rep. Beto O'Rourke to retain his seat in the Senate following a historic race, according to projections from ABC and NBC News. Despite only raising $40 million to O'Rourke's $69 million, Cruz will continue to represent Texas in Washington, D.C. Cruz won with an unofficial 3.364 million votes to the 3.163 million O'Rourke received; 51.2 percent to 48.1 percent with 43 percent Texas precincts reporting as of 9:50 p.m., according to the Associated Press, which has also called the race for Cruz.
"Thank you, Texas! Now let's get back to work to defend jobs, freedom, and security for Texas and America!" Cruz tweeted at 10:33 p.m. Tuesday.
An emotional O'Rourke addressed a crowd of supporters Tuesday around 11:04 p.m.
"I'm as hopeful as I've ever been in my life. Tonight's loss does nothing to diminish how I feel about Texas and this country," O'Rourke said. "The people of Texas want to do, and will do, the great work of this country."
The projected voter turnout this year has already made history around Texas. More than 4.3 million ballots were cast during the early voting period alone compared to the 4.7 million cast in 2014 overall.
Big money ($109 million raised by both candidates), big endorsements ("As you know, Ted has my complete and total Endorsement. His opponent is a disaster for Texas - weak on Second Amendment, Crime, Borders, Military, and Vets!," President Donald Trump tweeted Aug. 31), and countless viral moments turned Texas' Senate race into the most-watched U.S. election this year.
O'Rourke rode atop of a national wave of liberal malcontent, raising more than $69 million to Cruz's $40 million, according to opensecrets.org. O'Rourke made history when more than $38 million alone was raised between July 1 and September 30. Fundraising wasn't the only thing nabbing headlines this election season thanks to two campaign trails chock full of viral moments.
GET OUT AND VOTE: Texas Heads To The Polls
Cruz and O'Rourke faced off in a battle of physical ability after the former challenged late-night TV host Jimmy Kimmel to a game of basketball. Not to be outdone, O'Rourke was captured skateboarding outside a Whataburger. Just days before the election, O'Rourke's campaign was the subject of an undercover video produced by the controversial group Project Veritas. The video contained some truth (O'Rourke's campaign donated $300 worth of supplies, purchased with campaign money, to a charity serving migrants in El Paso) and lies (campaign money wasn't used to buy supplies given directly to migrants), Snopes reported.
Cruz and his wife were forced out of an Italian restaurant in late September after a group of protesters demanded his stance on Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh who was accused of sexual misconduct by numerous women. The protesters can be heard chanting"We believe survivors!" inside the restaurant Fiola, according to a viral video captured by the activist group Smash Racism DC.
Cruz's biggest endorsement this election season came from Trump, who once called him "lyin' Ted." Aside from that insult, Trump also tweeted on Feb. 28, 2016, "Why would the people of Texas support Ted Cruz when he has accomplished absolutely nothing for them. He is another all talk, no action pol!" In an effort to smooth over these comments made while the two men were on the presidential trail, Trump told the press in Washington, D.C., "He's not Lyin' Ted anymore. He's Beautiful Ted. I call him Texas Ted," before leaving for Houston Oct. 22 for a rally in Cruz's honor.
O'Rourke's biggest endorsements came from Texas' largest newspapers, the Dallas Morning News and the Houston Chronicle, the latter which had backed Cruz in 2012.
"O'Rourke is no conservative Democrat. His positions on taxes, immigration, the judiciary, federal regulations and health care are further to the left than many statewide voters would like. But he is shattering expectations in a state where Democrats haven't won a statewide race in decades. The dollars he has raised and the number of supporters he has garnered are evidence of an embedded hunger in this state and country for a campaign that's based on unifying communities," the Morning News wrote.
Some of the key political issues O'Rourke and Cruz clashed on during the campaign trail was whether another wall should be built at the border (O'Rourke says no, Cruz yes) and should the 2010 Affordable Care Act be repealed (Cruz says yes, O'Rourke no).
As the laborious process of vote tallying begins, one question looms large in the media: Will O'Rourke and Cruz make a run for president in 2020? Bruce Buchanan, a presidential scholar and professor emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin, may have the answer.
"Cruz wins, I don't see him taking on Trump in 2020 unless Trump slips badly," Buchanan told Patch. "If Beto wins, he's a potential candidate for the Democratic Party presidential nomination."