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When Democratic candidates for statewide office tour Texas, an atmosphere of doom and despair typically haunts their campaigns, like a pack of wolves shadowing a wounded elk. In 2014, I rode on state senator Leticia Van de Putte’s campaign bus as she embarked on a multiday expedition to South Texas toward the end of her race for lieutenant governor. The bus, which departed from San Antonio, ran for two hours before breaking down around Falfurrias. A few weeks later, she lost by nearly twenty points.Beto O’Rourke’s first statewide campaign, when he challenged Ted Cruz for a U.S. Senate seat, by contrast, felt enchanted—the political equivalent of a Disney-animated romp with singing woodland creatures. For a year and a half, O’Rourke roamed the state, putting thousands…
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