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TX-Sen: Democrat Beto O'Rourke completes 254 county tour, but still lags 11 points behind Cruz

Rep. Beto O'Rourke completed his county-by-county tour of Texas as part of his bid to unseat incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz for U.S. senator. (Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images)

Ask any Texan, and they'll tell you Texas is a vast state, but it's unlikely many can say they've visited all 254 counties.

However, that's precisely what U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D) has done as part of his bid to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.

O'Rourke's tour, which began in March 2017, started with a rooftop rally in his hometown of El Paso and wrapped up Saturday with a visit to the historic Santa Fe train depot in Gainesville, The Texas Tribune reported.

“Here we are in Gainesville, which, as the crow flies, might be the farthest point you can get from El Paso,” O'Rourke told the crowd on his final stop.

Despite putting tens of thousands of miles on his Dodge Grand Caravan and generating some publicity, O'Rourke still lags 11 points behind Cruz, according to a recent poll by Quinnipiac University.

Why did he visit every county in the state?

The candidate wanted to shake up the campaign strategy of past Texas Democratic candidates who've been unsuccessful in gaining a U.S. Senate seat since 1993.

“Since 1998, what we’ve seen is the triangle — they go to Houston, Dallas, and Austin and San Antonio. They’ll do one swing through the Valley and one trip through El Paso,” longtime Democratic strategist Colin Strother said, according to The Tribune. “That’s not how we’re going to energize our own voters, educate new voters, and it’s not how we’re going to win. What’s exciting and refreshing about Beto’s approach is that he’s going to go campaign everywhere.”

Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University, called O'Rourke's county tour a "gimmick."

“Once you go beyond the top 100 counties, it’s not an especially efficient use of your time,” Jones said. “There are counties that have entire populations that are dwarfed by neighborhoods in Houston and Dallas and San Antonio and Austin.”

Prior to the popularization of television, these barnstorming tours of Texas used to be more commonplace, with former Gov. Coke Stevenson using them to great effect. However, they have fallen out of favor recently due to Texas' geographical challenges.

How has O'Rourke done with fundraising?

O'Rourke has raised more than $13 million for his Senate campaign and he has just over $8 million in cash-on-hand, as of March 31, according to the Federal Election Commission.

In the first quarter of 2018, he raised $6.7 million.

How much money has Cruz raised?

Sen. Cruz has raised $19.2 million and he has more than $7.2 million in cash-on-hand for the same period, according to the FEC.

Does O'Rourke have a chance at winning the race?

O'Rourke is a longshot.

Texas is a red state and Cruz is expected to win re-election on Nov. 6.

"[Cruz's] campaign is based not on an arbitrary travel data point like our opponent's, but on a vision and message that we believe Texans desire and want to see from their leaders," Catherine Frazier, a spokeswoman for Cruz, told the Tribune.

One last thing…
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