With all due respect to the legions of Betomaniacs whose world-historic dejection I almost feel guilty about mocking, it is worth pointing out that Republican Sen. Ted Cruz did not win re-election in Texas this week. His Democratic opponent just lost.
There is no other way to interpret the result of Tuesday's midterm election in the Lone Star State, where Gov. Greg Abbott, Cruz's fellow conservative Republican, was re-elected by a 13-point margin. Cruz's own majority on the same ballot was far narrower — less than 3 percentage points, an astonishing drop from the ironclad 16 percent with which he won his Senate seat in 2012. Vote totals suggest that 26,000 more votes were cast for governor than for senator.
What happened here? Did a lot of write-ins for Grandma just not get counted? Did people leave the Senate box blank? Were some conservatives voting for Beto O'Rourke out of spite? Whatever the ultimate explanation, it is clear that Texans, Republicans included, were very reluctant to vote for Cruz.
Cruz is probably the most loathed Republican in the country, someone beside whom even President Trump comes off as a lovable geriatric fusspot. That Democrats hate Cruz goes without saying. But he is also almost universally despised by his colleagues in the Senate and by the leadership of his party. John Boehner, the former Republican speaker of the House who was forced to shut down the government in 2013 thanks to Cruz's antics, has called him a "jackass." The late John McCain referred to Cruz as "crazy" and a "wacko bird." His fellow Texan President George W. Bush, under whom Cruz served as an adviser, has said "I just don't like the guy." Andrew Ferguson, who profiled him for a 2013 cover story in The Weekly Standard, was driven to the brink of suicide listening to Cruz respond to his questions by repeating his stump speech verbatim: "I made a quick calculation of how many vertebrae I would damage if I slipped the lock, opened the [car] door, and did a tuck and roll onto the passing pavement. The answer was: too many."
It is not hard to see why he inspires these feelings. Cruz is one of those extraordinary figures in our political life who manages to alienate even his most hardcore ideological allies with the sheer nastiness of his character. As his Princeton roommate Craig Mazin once put it: "Ted Cruz is a nightmare of a human being. I have plenty of problems with his politics but, truthfully, his personality is so awful that 99 percent of why I hate him is just his personality. If he agreed with me on every issue I would hate him only one percent less."
Everyone understands that Mitch McConnell doesn't believe in anything except winning, which is why Cocaine Mitch enjoys his deserved reputation as an amiable cynic. But Cruz wants us to accept that he is a true believer, the principled conservative par excellence, the resolute defender of the Constitution (the text of which he committed to memory as a child), and carries the routine further than almost anyone else would dare. People like this are tolerable, too, after a fashion. Nobody hates Ron Paul. Cruz's problem is that he insists on dressing up his McConnell-like ambitions in a tricorn hat and Margaret Thatcher quotes.
So why didn't O'Rourke beat Cruz? Because this race was run in Texas, and Texas is a red state.
This is why Democrats should not feel elated by their last moral victory. The fact that O'Rourke came within two and a half points of beating Cruz tells us very little about the likelihood of Texas going blue — or at least purple — in the foreseeable future and everything about the sheer unlikeability of its junior senator. A narrow loss for Democrats is, in its way, the most horrifying outcome imaginable, proof positive that even $70 million arrayed against the least appealing man in the nation's most hated political body is no match for the brute facts of political geography.