It the wake of the Democratic Party's victory in the Alabama U.S. Senate race last week, many Democrat blogs have moved Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz onto their list of Republicans who they feel are now vulnerable in 2018, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
But Cal Jillson, an SMU political scientist and the state's leading political analyst, tells 1200 WOAI news, not so fast.
"The principle opportunities for Democrats to pick up Senate seats are in Arizona, perhaps Nevada," he says. "Texas should be way down on that list, so they need to reshuffle that list."
The Democrats say Cruz is vulnerable for a couple of reasons. They point to his 'Prince of Darkness' image, which at one point resulted in him being named in an informal poll as the most unpopular Member of Congress. The Democrats also cite the fact that Cruz ended up alienating both pro Trump and anti Trump Republicans during the 1016 election, by first refusing to endorse Trump at the Republican convention, and later becoming one of the President's most reliable allies. The Democrats say that will result in Republicans sitting on their hands and declining to support Cruz.
Jillson disputes both of those claims.
"He's got a lot of money for his re-election, he has a statewide set of supporters who he can tap, so I think Cruz is in good shape."
Jillson says Cruz has gone out of his way to soften his image on Capitol Hill, and he has also been very deft at reaching out to Republican groups on both sides of the Trump divide, to make sure they are with him going into 2018.
Jillson says much of the Democrat talk reflects Democrats' support for El Paso Congressman Beto O'Rourke, who has been successfully raising money for his run against Cruz in 2018. Many Democrats say O'Rourke's non traditional libertarian leanings will result in independents and even some libertarian Republicans leaning his way next year.
"Democrats in Texas like their Senate candidate, and he has been movign aorund the state, Demcorats are responding well to him,' Jillson said. "But his only chance of really breaking through is dependent on Ted Cruz stumbling,"
Something Jillson doesn't expect will happen.
Analysts point out that O'Rourke still lacks statewide name recognition. and will have trouble picking up financing from national Democrats, who will place their limited resources holding onto Senate seats in states like Missouri and West Virginia, where Democratic Senators are facing uphill battles in states won by Trump in 2016.
Jillson also cautions Democrats against reading too much into their victory in Alabama. He points out Republican Roy Moore, who was twice removed from judicial positions in Alabama, was a problematic candidate even before allegations that he tried to engage in relationships with teenaged girls were revealed, and yet he still came within one percentage point of winning.