Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS -

his Austin head­quar­ters on Air­port Boule­vard, fol­lowed by a jam­packed “UT Austin All-Nighter with Beto” at the 24-hour Ker­bey Lane Cafe that be­gan at 1:30 a.m. Mon­day and ended a lit­tle af­ter 3.

Buoyed by his strong fundrais­ing num­bers, O’Rourke, who is not ac­cept­ing any po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee money, told the crowd at the Hous­ton bar that, in the past, when Henry, the youngest of his three chil­dren, would ask him, “Are we win­ning?” he would ex­plain, “It’s com­pli­cated.” Now he says he is telling Henry, “Hell yes, we’re crush­ing it.”

The O’Rourke cam­paign said it had re­ceived 55,000 do­na­tions in the last quar­ter, up from 33,000 the pre­vi­ous quar­ter.

Six hours later, O’Rourke told the crowd of more than 500 peo­ple at the all-night eatery on Guadalupe Street that they need to get over their lin­ger­ing fear that Texas is al­ways go­ing to break Democrats’ hearts.

“We are ab­so­lutely go­ing to ace this,” O’Rourke said.

At the mid­night rally, O’Rourke noted that Texas had not elected a Demo­crat to the Se­nate since Lloyd Bentsen’s last elec­tion in 1988, be­fore many of those in at­ten­dance were born.

Austin folk singer Sara Hick­man warmed up the crowd at the cam­paign head­quar­ters, play­ing songs redo­lent of a time when Democrats still got elected statewide in Texas: “Take Me Home, Coun­try Roads,” “Yel­low Sub­ma­rine” and “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.”

O’Rourke and his cam­paign are well aware of the long odds against suc­cess. Be­yond Repub­li­can dom­i­nance in Texas, O’Rourke is run­ning from El Paso, which is in a dif­fer­ent time zone from the rest of Texas and has never elected one of its own to statewide of­fice. On Mon­day, state Rep. Joe Moody, D-El Paso, joined O’Rourke’s cam­paign as its po­lit­i­cal di­rec­tor while re­main­ing in the Leg­is­la­ture.

Though O’Rourke raised more money than Cruz in the last quar­ter of the year, Cruz built an enor­mous na­tional fundrais­ing op­er­a­tion in his 2016 cam­paign for the Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, which gave his cam­paign for a sec­ond Se­nate term a head start and which should en­able him to out­raise and out­spend O’Rourke down the line. He will also be part of a well-funded Repub­li­can state ticket, start­ing with Gov. Greg Ab­bott, who has a record $43 mil­lion in the bank that can be used to mo­bi­lize Repub­li­can vot­ers — and no big­name op­po­nent of his own.

Both O’Rourke and Cruz face nom­i­nal op­po­si­tion in the March 6 party pri­maries.

To com­pete with what they ex­pect to be Cruz’s money ad­van­tage, O’Rourke is run­ning a lean cam­paign, with­out poll­sters or po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tants, and re­ly­ing on count­less town hall meet­ings and co­pi­ous livestream­ing

The pur­pose of the con­tin­u­ous 24-hour, Sun­day-to-Mon­day livestream was twofold: at­ten­tion and mo­men­tum.

O’Rourke is very nat­u­ral on cam­era and wears well, and his Se­nate cam­paign al­ready livestreams most of what he does on the trail. It is a way to make him to­tally ac­ces­si­ble, an­swer­ing any ques­tions that come his way, but also to build a very loyal fan base that is sucked into his story and per­son­al­ity as well as his pol­i­tics.

But Texas is big, and to suc­ceed, they’ve got to scale up to a big­ger and big­ger au­di­ence. And like a telethon, they need to give peo­ple pe­ri­odic rea­sons to pay spe­cial at­ten­tion.

O’Rourke’s 24-hour livestream in­cluded town hall meet­ings in Hous­ton and Sugar Land, a be­hind-the­counter visit to a dough­nut shop and, with his wife, Amy, dish­ing up lunch at the Bea­con, which serves home­less peo­ple in Hous­ton.

Then, in the evening, O’Rourke an­nounced the fundrais­ing totals, giving the day an ad­di­tional jolt of mo­men­tum to carry the event into the night in Austin. When the Cruz cam­paign fol­lowed suit a lit­tle while later, re­leas­ing its own fig­ures, it only gave O’Rourke’s cam­paign a fur­ther boost by re­veal­ing some­thing it had not known: O’Rourke had ac­tu­ally out­paced the in­cum­bent in the last re­port­ing pe­riod.

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