EL PASO, Texas (AP) -- Sen. Ted Cruz fended off a spirited underdog challenge from Democrat Beto O’Rourke to win re-election on Tuesday in a Texas race that once seemed like a cakewalk but needed a late boost from President Donald Trump to help push the incumbent over the top.
Cruz began as the prohibitive favorite after his surprisingly successful 2016 presidential run, but he suddenly found himself in a tough contest against O’Rourke, a little-known El Paso congressman and one-time punk rocker who became a national political sensation and shattered fundraising records despite shunning donations from outside political groups and pollster advice.
Cruz turned back O’Rourke with the help of Trump, his bitter rival in 2016. Trump took the unexpected step of traveling to reliably Republican Texas during crunch time, staging a Houston rally to energize his base for Cruz just two weeks before Election Day. The president praised the senator as “beautiful” and smart, a far cry from two years ago when he repeatedly mocked Cruz as “Lyin’ Ted,” made fun of his wife’s appearance and suggested that Cruz’s Cuban-born father had a hand in the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
With the win, Cruz kept alive his hopes of mounting a second presidential run once Trump leaves the White House.