The state of Texas sent a Republican to the United States Senate in every election since 1993 when their last Democratic Senator, Lloyd Bentsen, ended his tenure. But the 2018 midterms may produce a different result as Democratic challenger, Representative Beto O'Rourke, closes the gap on Republican incumbent Ted Cruz.
The latest polls show the two men within a few percentage points of each other. In response to the polls, the Texas GOP strategy of attack ads added a social media twist when they tried to discredit O'Rourke as a viable candidate because of his past.
On Tuesday, in an effort to bolster Ted Cruz's image, the Texas Republican Party posted an altered image of Beto O'Rourke's mugshot from 1998. They altered the photo to add "Sorry. Can't debate. Had a little too much to drink."
Texas GOP post (Twitter)
The results however look to have backfired.
"Let's post the viciously sexy headshot from our opponent's lowest point, which he has addressed and apologized for… https://t.co/NnxWcFH5DA— Dave Holmes (@Dave Holmes)1535565328.0
@TexasGOP He looks cool imo— strategy consultant (@strategy consultant)1535509134.0
@neoliberal_dad @TexasGOP I’d have partied with him in college, just saying.— Redact trump (@Redact trump)1535553469.0
Meanwhile O'Rourke released a campaign ad highlighting his drive around Texas to hold town hall meetings in all 254 counties. In it he speaks of working together regardless of politics and fails to bash Cruz even once.
Just launched our first ad. Entitled "Showing Up," it's filmed using an iPhone and was created entirely with live s… https://t.co/dZ4a31M901— Beto O'Rourke (@Beto O'Rourke)1532610092.0
Responses to the post by the Texas GOP heavily favored O'Rourke. The post garnered only 442 likes by Wednesday afternoon, but over 1,100 comments. Unlike Texas GOP which received a lot of negative feedback for their overall social media approach, O'Rourke's supporters had a video of their candidate go viral for all the right reasons.
Some Republicans expressed disgust at the tactic employed by their own party.
@TexasGOP As a Republican I find this rhetoric and campaign “tactic” disgusting. We, as a party, are supposed to be… https://t.co/syaTLz2nEo— Felisha A. Bull (@Felisha A. Bull)1535501303.0
@TexasGOP This is a cheap shot that diminishes the integrity of your organization. You should delete it. Judging pe… https://t.co/bJFPPZKWP8— Mike Magolnick (@Mike Magolnick)1535503120.0
@TexasGOP And I am a lifelong republican by the way and a donor to the GOP organizations.— Mike Magolnick (@Mike Magolnick)1535503311.0
O'Rourke disclosed his arrests when he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012. His Republican opponent at the time, Silvestre Reyes, also tried to discredit the Democrat with ads highlighting his two arrests.
Others responding to the Texas GOP post brought up past criminal behavior by members of the GOP and included a few mugshots of their own.
@TexasGOP Does the name Blake Farenthold ring any bells, @TexasGOP ? By the way, is he ever gonna reimburse the ta… https://t.co/z7oBSRoWM7— Adam Mincks (@Adam Mincks)1535553042.0
@RufusOverYrHead @TexasGOP As a tax paying Texan I’d like to know when that 84k is going turn up.— Redact trump (@Redact trump)1535553999.0
@TexasGOP Yo, isn’t @farenthold your dude @TexasGOP ??? https://t.co/fVr0cMZhEM— WakeUp2Injustice (@WakeUp2Injustice)1535560740.0
@TexasGOP Like George W Bush? Or did you forget about him?— Rogue NASA (@Rogue NASA)1535563410.0
@TexasGOP Bush Once Pleaded Guilty to DUI https://t.co/XZm8LY6xSY— Rogue NASA (@Rogue NASA)1535563552.0
@TexasGOP @TexasGOP for comparison: @KenPaxtonTX mugshot for securities fraud https://t.co/g8bqIyXjjH— Linda Davis (@Linda Davis)1535546043.0
@TexasGOP gfys https://t.co/IqEPruuLlz— jordan (@jordan)1535561419.0
@TexasGOP Matthew Gaetz U.S. Representative (R) DUI ALCOHOL OR DRUGS STATUTE: 316.193-1 BOND: $500 Gaetz serves on… https://t.co/6hlol8fA9o— AMERICAN MOM (@AMERICAN MOM)1535551227.0
O'Rourke acknowledged the arrests in his hometown and birthplace of El Paso, Texas—once at age 23 for leaping a University of Texas campus fence and the other time at age 26 for driving while intoxicated. Prosecution declined to pursue O’Rourke’s May 1995 misdemeanor arrest at the UTEP campus and the courts dismissed his September 1998 misdemeanor DWI arrest after he agreed to and completed an interdiction program.
Others commenting on the GOP post found it a great time to resurface an urban legend as in the following posts.
The story began online in 2013 that Canadian immigrant and current Texas Senator, Republican Ted Cruz, is the Zodiac Killer. Cruz—born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1970—could not have committed these murders which began in California before his birth and ended before his emigration from Canada to the United States. The story picked up steam when Cruz began his run for President in 2015.
@TexasGOP this is a bold tweet, given that your candidate committed multiple murders in San Francisco in the 1970s— Orville Shrek (@Orville Shrek)1535552927.0
@TexasGOP Hmmm...hot AF guitar playing Beto vs. zodiac killer with a mom porn fetish? Tough choice. Thanks Texas GOP! 🤗 #BetoForSenate— Shannon (@Shannon)1535568741.0
@TexasGOP There's always the chance that Senator Ted Cruz will only debate via a series of coded messages sent to a… https://t.co/9to0zo244V— Wudder Herzog (@Wudder Herzog)1535565949.0
While others cited other issues with Cruz's public image or the Texas GOP post.
@TexasGOP So get your candidate Ted Cruz to agree to a debate and let’s see who shows up. Because Cruz is running s… https://t.co/onuDnXLwXP— LJ Breedlove (@LJ Breedlove)1535560419.0
@TexasGOP Way to show you're scared of Beto. Posting childish memes because you can't come up with anything factual against him. Pathetic.— Kahil ❁ (@Kahil ❁)1535558171.0
@TexasGOP Honest Texans will take @BetoORourke gladly over @tedcruz who sold out the nation by way of $$$ funneled… https://t.co/c0zwoMGoBj— paul (@paul)1535508030.0
@TexasGOP A 20 year old arrest that he is absolutely forthcoming about is the best you got? Why don't you explain t… https://t.co/NTkjr2DNx1— Nic (@Nic)1535551351.0
@TexasGOP Using these tactics just goes to show you have nothing on Beto that discredits him for this candidacy. Al… https://t.co/Jp0xyROU55— Cindy del Valle (@Cindy del Valle)1535560154.0
@TexasGOP Who let the intern have the twitter login? 😂😭💀— Eric Ciaramella’s burner account (@Eric Ciaramella’s burner account)1535501892.0
@TexasGOP It’s sad that Ted’s campaign is so weak that you have to resort to smear tactics. I know you think you’re… https://t.co/QJUpPPi9Ed— Mary (@Mary)1535514260.0
@TexasGOP Wow. Bad politics. Negative campaigning. And why? Because the Texas GOP and @GOP ideals, standards, and p… https://t.co/vrEbyh0Xp1— Shan (@Shan)1535556126.0
When asked about his mugshot at a San Antonio town hall meeting, O'Rourke stated:
"More than 20 years ago, I was arrested—not once, but twice. So you should know that and we should all own that, if asked."
The Democratic candidate specified he attempted to hop a fence in 1995 and later for a "far more serious mistake—I drove under the influence of alcohol. There’s no justifying that."