His authorized identify is Robert Francis O’Rourke, however he goes by Beto, his nickname from his childhood rising up in El Paso, Texas – a border city that is without doubt one of the most Hispanic cities in America.
A fluent Spanish-language speaker, he often sprinkles the language in his speeches and talks about inclusion and representing everybody.
“Which means going to each county in Texas, but it surely additionally means listening and talking in English y tambien en Espanol,” O’Rourke, a Democrat, stated throughout a rally at Rice College final week.
The El Paso congressman, who’s operating for a U.S. Senate seat in Texas, is Irish-American however is attempting to mobilize Latino voters in a Republican-leaning state with a big Hispanic inhabitants.
“I feel I’ve by no means seen one thing in Texas the place one candidate is so fashionable, notably amongst younger individuals,” stated Carlos Duarte, Texas state director for the non-partisan non-profit group, Mi Familia Vota. “I feel utilizing his nickname, Beto, has actually linked with Hispanics. However, I feel he has additionally invested the time, visiting individuals, doing the advertisements concentrating on the Latino group.”
One in all O’Rourke’s challenges: He’s operating towards Cuban-American Texas. Sen. Rafael Edward Cruz, a Republican who paradoxically goes by his nickname, Ted, for a seat that Cruz has held since 2013.
O’Rourke has been receiving nationwide consideration and has been known as “Kennedyesque,” however specialists say if he desires to remain aggressive within the race he has to energise Latino voters, who in Texas have historically failed to indicate as much as the polls on Election Day. A latest Quinnipiac ballot exhibits Cruz main the Senate race by 9 factors, however O’Rourke holds a 24-point lead amongst Hispanic voters.
Texas has routinely ranked close to the underside for voter turnout, and census knowledge exhibits solely 40 p.c of Hispanics voted through the 2016 presidential election.
“The idea [is] that the extra Latinos who aren’t common voters prove, the smaller the proportion of Latino votes that Republicans [will] win,” stated Mark Jones, a political science fellow at Rice College’s Baker Institute.
Cruz has mocked O’Rourke’s effort to attraction to Latino voters, suggesting the congressman is attempting to deceive them.
“Liberal Robert wished to slot in, so he modified his identify to Beto and hid it with a smile,” stated a Cruz marketing campaign jingle.
O’Rourke has pushed again from the criticism. Earlier this yr, he launched an Instagram submit with a photograph of him as a baby carrying a sweatshirt that had his nickname, Beto.
“My mother and father have known as me Beto from day one, and it is simply — it is form of a nickname for Robert in El Paso. It simply caught,” he advised CNN in an interview.
Cruz has additionally made an effort to attraction to Latino voters. Final Friday, he launched a Spanish-language advert that includes his father’s escape from Cuba.
However Cruz’s hardline stance on immigration has turned off some Latino voters, in line with Duarte.
“As a result of he has this Latino final identify, they suppose, ‘OK, so he’s Latino so I must be voting for him,’” Duarte stated. “[But] they oppose a border wall, they actually hate the scenario of the separation and incarceration of households on the border, and positively the help for Dreamers is within the minds of loads of younger individuals.”
Duarte stated O’Rourke is drawing help amongst Latinos as a result of he favors a extra sympathetic stance towards undocumented immigrants – he opposes the border wall and helps Dreamers.
“It is clear Beto is gaining loads of floor with the Latino group,” Duarte stated.
Cruz, nevertheless, is just not shopping for it.
“The Hispanic group in Texas, our group, is a conservative group. The values we consider in are religion, household and patriotism,” Cruz advised reporters throughout a rally in Houston final week.
About 28 p.c of eligible voters in Texas are Hispanic, the second largest Hispanic statewide eligible voter share nationally, in line with Pew Analysis Middle. Pew says about 21 p.c of Texas’ inhabitants who’re Republican or lean Republican are Hispanic and 37 p.c of the inhabitants who’re Democratic or lean Democrat are Hispanic.
The state’s Democratic Get together stated Hispanics are part of the citizens that it’s attempting to achieve.
“This cycle, Latinos are the first goal for our candidates to interact with at each degree of their campaigns,” occasion officers stated.
The Republican Get together of Texas, in the meantime, stated its message connects with the group.
“[Our] pro-life, fiscally conservative message resonates,” the occasion stated, “…not simply with Hispanic voters, however with all Texans.”