At one point, early in the cycle, pundits had regarded the contest as one of the more interesting matchups in the country, with O’Rourke brandishing much of the same gusto he employed four years ago, when he nearly knocked out a different Texas conservative, Sen. Ted Cruz.
In May, O’Rourke crashed an Abbott news conference the day after a shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde left 19 children and two teachers dead, approaching the stage to blame Abbott’s pro-gun policies before police escorted him out. Over the summer, he launched a 5,600-mile “Drive for Texas.”
But this time around, O’Rourke’s campaign never caught on.
Polls in recent months had consistently shown Abbott leading; a recent RealClearPolitics average of surveys before the election showed him ahead by more than 8 percentage points.
O’Rourke had always faced an uphill climb. Texas hasn’t elected a Democratic governor in more than three decades, Abbott is a formidable fundraiser, and Texas Republicans have built inroads with Latino voters.
O'Rourke's supporters had claimed that a trio of crises — the failure of the state’s power grid last year, the loss of abortion rights and the tragedy in Uvalde — had made Abbott vulnerable in solidly red Texas.
At the only televised debate of the race, in September, O’Rourke tried to seize on those topics, as well as Abbott’s highly publicized program of busing migrants from Texas to Washington, D.C., and other Democratic-run cities.
The optimism, however, proved to be wishful thinking. After polls showed the race narrowing for a brief period over the summer, they then began showing Abbott pulling ahead.
The loss by O’Rourke, a former member of Congress, is the third time in four years he has failed at winning higher office, after his close but unsuccessful Senate bid in 2018 and a run in the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries.