With the polls closing in Texas, results should start coming in on the hotly contested Senate race between Ted Cruz and Beto O'Rourke. Texas voters have been highly motivated this election on both sides of the aisle. More voters are casting their ballot in early voting in 2018 than the entire number of votes cast in 2016, with projections approaching the voter participation levels of the 2016 presidential election. However, in many areas the polls have been slow today, leading to speculation that O'Rourke's momentum has slowed. We will continue to post updates here as the results come in and the electoral picture grows clearer.
7:08 p.m. CST -- With the first districts reporting, Beto O'Rourke has a whopping 59 percent to 41 percent lead over Ted Cruz, with about 940,000 total votes reported from Dallas County and Collin County. Not a surprise as Dallas County is full of liberal urban voters. Neighboring Collin County went to Ted Cruz.
7:18 p.m. CST -- The lead has already shrunk to 53 percent to 46 percent in favor of O'Rourke as several rural districts begin reporting. Only 1 percent of all precincts have reported at this point, with about 1.5 million votes. O'Rourke has the early lead in two fairly rural districts on the Mexican border -- Brewster County (home of Big Bend National Park) and Hidalgo County (a southern Rio Grande border district) -- suggesting he may have mobilized some of the Hispanic vote.
7:28 p.m. CST -- CNN is reporting O'Rourke's lead has shrunk to 1.6 percent with about 34 percent of districts reporting. Precincts along the border as well as near Dallas, Austin, and Houston are reporting for O'Rourke early, while Cruz is holding the rest of the map. The border counties coming in for O'Rourke suggests that he may make the race closer than the 6 percent gap that was projected.
7:37 p.m. CST -- Beto O'Rourke's lead has expanded to 53 percent to 46 percent as more urban precincts have come in. However, the electoral map looks a lot like 2016, when Cruz won easily. In that race, the Democratic challenger won urban districts in Houston, Austin, and Dallas as well as several along the Mexican border, which is exactly where O'Rourke is drawing votes from at the moment.
7:53 p.m. CST -- As more of the rural districts begin reporting, Ted Cruz has cut Beto O'Rourke's lead to 3 percent. About 51 percent of the vote is in. It appears that Cruz may carry Tarrant County, home to Fort Worth, which is the more suburban of the Dallas-Ft. Worth axis. Republicans are so far carrying Tarrant County in all of the major races.
8:00 p.m. CST -- Beto O'Rourke is doing extremely well in urban areas at the moment, capturing 66 percent of the vote in Dallas County and 75 percent of the vote in Austin. San Antonio has been closer, but currently O'Rourke has captured 58 percent of the reported vote. Harris County, home to Houston, has yet to report. If Harris County reports closer to Austin's percentages than San Antonio's, O'Rourke could pull off the upset.
8:12 p.m. CST -- With 55 percent of the vote in, Ted Cruz has pulled ahead of Beto O'Rourke by less than a percentage point. Cruz continues to dominate O'Rourke in rural counties. Houston and O'Rourke's own El Paso district have not yet reported.
8:15 p.m. CST -- Some precincts in El Paso reported, putting O'Rourke back into the lead. Nearly 60 percent of statewide precincts have reported.
8:27 p.m. CST -- With the first Harris County precincts reporting, O'Rourke is holding a 15 percent lead over Cruz in the Houston area, which has lifted him to a 51 percent to 49 percent lead with 70 percent of precincts reporting. It appears that O'Rourke will capture all of the urban districts except for Ft. Worth, plus a good chunk of the border districts. As the night goes on, he will have to extend his lead early before the wave of staunch conservative rural districts begin reporting later. O'Rourke likely has to maintain the lead for the rest of the night to win.
8:35 p.m. CST -- Democrats are doing well in House Races across the state, so far on target to pick up all of the six districts that they had targeted to flip from the Republicans. This may bode well for O'Rourke's chances of holding his lead over Cruz.
8:50 p.m. CST-- Ted Cruz has pulled ahead with 75 percent of precincts reporting. The rural panhandle precincts are beginning to report, and it appears that those areas are heavily in favor of Ted Cruz as expected. It seems likely that Cruz will extend his lead as the night goes on. O'Rourke will need to extend his lead in San Antonio and Houston precincts to close the gap.
9:14 p.m. CST-- Ted Cruz has stretched his lead to almost 2 percent with 78 percent of precincts reporting. MSNBC just called the race for Cruz, although that seems a bit premature. O'Rourke definitely appears to be with his back to the wall and would need a drastic turn of events to turn the tide.
9:29 p.m. CST-- Almost all of the major outlets are calling the election for Ted Cruz. It remains to be seen what the final margin of victory will be, but it will likely come in near the 6 percent projected before the election.