Beto O’Rourke appears to have failed in his long-shot bid to unseat incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas, a state that no Democrat has carried for president in 42 years.
The Associated Press and other news outlets project Cruz will win re-election, in a victory that crushes Democratic hopes to retake the Senate with the help of the charismatic three-term congressman from El Paso.
Social media helped the progressive rise to national prominence. In the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in June 2016, O’Rourke live-streamed a sit-in by House Democrats to protest Republicans’ refusal to bring gun control legislation to the floor for a vote. He attracted millions of viewers with a Facebook Live live-stream of a road trip from San Antonio to Washington, D.C, where he and Republican Congressman Will Hurd sang along to Johnny Cash and dropped by Whataburger for a bite.
During his bid for the Senate, O’Rourke tapped Facebook to build an email list of millions of supporters, and used the social media platform to raise money. He raised a staggering $70 million, the most of any Senate candidate in history, according to USA Today. Political strategists say his Facebook pipeline to supporters across the country helped fill O’Rourke’s war chest.
The lithe, charismatic campaigner, whom Massachusetts Rep. Joe Kennedy III (Bobby’s grandson) once joked is “the best-looking Kennedy in Washington,” took Hollywood by storm.
O’Rourke attracted contributions from some well known entertainment figures, including Sarah Jessica Parker, Jimmy Kimmel, Rosie O’Donnell, Chelsea Handler and Chris Rock. Star Wars: The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson made two contributions totaling $5,400 to O’Rourke’s Senate campaign, as did Jurassic Park screenwriter David Koepp and Fallen screenwriter Nicholas Kazan.
In the final hours before the polls closed, Beyonce donned a black-and-white baseball cap that reads “Beto for Senate,” Beyonce told her 119 million Instagram followers that, “We can’t voice our frustrations and complain about what’s wrong without voting and exercising our power to make it right. We need you. We all need each other, because when we are truly united we are unstoppable.”
In the end, all of that celebrity backing didn’t translate to victory in a reliably red state like Texas. Cruz picked up support in wide swaths of the Lone Star State, while O’Rourke carried urban areas like his home district of El Paso and progressive Austin.