Signs, signs, everywhere there’s Beto signs

And they’re breaking the minds of Ted Cruz supporters.

Rep. Beto O’Rourke

The conversation unfolding before a campaign event for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz here last week echoed similar ones popping up among Republican groups around Texas. With a mixture of frustration and bewilderment, attendees were discussing the proliferation of black-and-white yard signs in their neighborhoods brandishing a single four-letter-word: BETO.

The signs have become a signature calling card of Democrat Beto O’Rourke’s bid to unseat Cruz. While Democrats posting yard signs for candidates is nothing new, even when it happens in some of Texas’ most conservative conclaves, what’s been different this summer is the extent to which O’Rourke’s signs have seemingly dominated the landscape in some neighborhoods.

Meanwhile, Cruz signs are far tougher to spot, and many Cruz supporters have become increasingly agitated at their inability to obtain signs to counter what they see on their daily drives.


The difference in tactics goes back to a 2006 political science experiment. At the time, former Gov. Rick Perry was running for his second full term and allowed for researchers to try different tactics in some communities to test which were most effective at motivating voters. Daron Shaw, a government professor at the University of Texas at Austin and co-director of the Texas Tribune/University of Texas Poll, worked on experiments involving yard signs in Perry’s race and saw little evidence that they moved Perry’s numbers.

Four years later, Perry’s team essentially abandoned the entire practice of distributing yard signs during his third re-election campaign. He soundly defeated now-former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the Republican primary and Democrat Bill White in the general election.

Since then, more academic research backed up Shaw’s findings, and yard signs have largely fallen out of vogue within the Texas GOP consultant class, at least among statewide candidates.

But that 2006 campaign marked Perry’s fifth statewide race — when he already had near-universal name identification in Texas, much like Cruz does now. As such, Shaw cautions not every campaign should follow Perry’s lead.

“It varies race by race and year by year,” he said. “So I wouldn’t claim that that study should be used as evidence that you ought not to be doing it this time around.”

For a candidate like O’Rourke, who began the race as a relative unknown, there is anecdotal evidence that the signs have helped him build his name identification.

Jo Johns is a retired physical education teacher who recently attended an organizing rally for O’Rourke in Weatherford.

She told the Tribune she first learned about O’Rourke by seeing his signs while driving to yoga class.

“I didn’t know who he was, and I wanted to know about him,” she added. “I saw Beto, Beto, Beto. I thought he must be a Republican because they’re everywhere.”

Shaw pointed back to the 2014 governor’s race, when Democrat Wendy Davis’ signs outnumbered her opponent, now-Gov. Greg Abbott, in some communities. Davis still lost by 20 points. But this time around, the political scientist suggests O’Rourke’s yard signs are possibly signaling momentum to voters, priming some who may have otherwise assumed Cruz was unbeatable that O’Rourke has a shot.

“In this race, it probably is more of a positive because it reinforces information you’re getting in public polls, stories you’re getting in the media and fundraising,” said Shaw.

My neighborhood is chock full of Beto signs. Literally, there’s multiple signs on every block. I do a lot of walking through the neighborhood with my dog, and not only are there tons of them, more keep popping up. Meanwhile, I have seen four Ted Cruz signs. Hilariously, three of them are accompanied by green signs with clovers on them that say “Make Beto Irish again”, to which the obvious riposte is “Sure, as soon as we make Ted Canadian again”.

Anyway, I think the Trib captures the dynamic of the sign skirmish well. Signs in and of themselves aren’t, well, signs of anything, but this year at least feels different. This year, the vast proliferation of Beto signs are both an indicator of enthusiasm and a means for expressing it. I do think it has helped to expand his name ID, and to signal to Democrats in red areas where they have felt isolated that they are not in fact alone. I don’t think it’s possible to isolate an effect related to this, and if we could it would probably be no more than a marginal one, but I do think this year that signs matter. I look forward to whatever research someone publishes about this after the election.

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16 Responses to Signs, signs, everywhere there’s Beto signs

  1. Manny Barrera says:

    “But at the margins, mobilizing voters can be very important. And particularly in close, competitive races, they can make a difference in determining the outcome of an election.”

  2. Manny Barrera says:

    Some times better articles about Texas politics comes from out of state.

    Bill, your man god is now at 36% approval and sinking. The Dow that you and your man god used to brag about has been flat and stayed that way all year.

    Are you tired of winning yet Bill?

  3. Bill Daniels says:

    There are ZERO campaign signs in my neighborhood, and I usually don’t see any. I put one up for Ron Paul back in the day, and, more recently, one for a local city council candidate, and I stuck out like a sore thumb. Having block walked for that local candidate, I might walk for Cruz, but I have the advantage of knowing which houses to skip.


    4.2% growth. “Those jobs aren’t coming back.”

    Uh, oops?

  4. Manny Barrera says:

    Bill you are so brain washed that if they told you that the sun was not coming out tomorrow you would believe it.

    When people are desperate they grab at straws, let us see what the job growth rate this coming quarter.

    Trump will die behind bars, it is a shame that the cultists can’t enjoy it with him.

    Did you check out the new poll numbers for Trump.

    But in response to your 4.2% growth the real truth is

  5. Jason Hochman says:

    He’s got lots of signs in well off neighborhoods. It’s okay though, because it is the right wealthy people. I urge all voters not to vote for Democrats. The party is on the ropes right now, and, if the midterms can finish off the Democrat party once and for all, that would be a good start. One of the evils would be down, which would stop this lesser of two evils nonsense, and perhaps a non-evil party could become ascendant. It doesn’t matter which of the two evils is knocked to the canvas, either one is a start, and the Democrats are on the ropes. I don’t vote for precisely that reason: there is a choice between two not very nice people.

  6. Winona says:

    I find the fact that you don’t vote very reassuring.

  7. Flypusher says:

    So let the GOP, the party of cruel and greedy policies, win without opposition. That has to be the dumbest thing I’ve read on the Internet in years, possibly ever. How about no.

  8. Manny Barrera says:

    Jason, don’t know where you get your data, if you do bother with it, But Clinton got almost 3 million more votes, so stop with the nonsense.

  9. Bill Daniels says:


    “I believe the best social program is a job.”

    Ronald Reagan

    “I will be the greatest jobs president God ever made.”

    Donald Trump

    2018: Lowest unemployment for blacks and Hispanics since the time of slavery. Historic unemployment lows for Americans. Jobs coming back. Manufacturing coming back. Onshoring. Energy jobs being created. Trade deals being renegotiated. American energy dominance. Lower taxes mean more money for……everyone who pays taxes.

    It’s a shame we feel helping people to become self sufficient is cruel, but keeping them dependent on the government teat is compassionate.

  10. Jason Hochman says:

    Well, it is about as dumb as continuing to vote for the two parties, and hoping for change. Do you really believe that the Democrats care about the working people. Even Bernie Sanders owns four houses or more. Do you believe that the Republicans are pious practitioners of Christian values? Both of the parties are for the one percent, even if their fictive narratives state otherwise. Getting rid of one would allow for much better parties to become ascendant.

  11. Manny Barrera says:

    Jason why not go post at Big Jolly and tell them to vote against Republicans because, see your argument above.

    Bill you repeat the same lies that your man god says, can you prove any of it or is it the alter reality that Trump cultist reside in that turns you all into the walking dead?

  12. Flypusher says:

    Still stuck on stupid, I see. If you want a new party, you grow it from the grassroots and you put your ideas into the marketplace of ideas. There are gripes I have with both parties, but the GOP is the greater of the 2 evils and letting them win just gives them them a precived stamp of approval on all the lies, corruption, and xenophobia.

  13. Flypusher says:

    You leave out important details in your propaganda screed Bill (no shock). How about wages not going up? How about your stable genius saying that he can’t give Federal employees the standard wage increase (remember inflation is going up). because now he’s so concerned about deficits (a deficit he helped expand)? We have to spend even more taxpayer $ to offset the effects of the stupid tariffs and teating Canada like an ememy is both stupid and dishonorable. Lower taxes but less necessary services is a bad deal, all the more so when most of the tax cuts went to things that make the rich richer like stock buy backs rather than more R & D and more hiring.

  14. Bill Daniels says:

    Canada, Mexico and the rest of the world, treated US unfairly for decades. Now, suddenly, asking for free and FAIR trade makes us big meanies. Alrighty then. Let me know when Canada apologizes for THEIR dishonorable behavior. They took advantage of their good friend and neighbor for decades.

  15. Manny Barrera says:

    Bill your ignorance is on display, Mexico and Canada were not the primary movers on NAFTA.

    See if you can remember this Bill, The United States is the world largest economy. The United States dollar is the World’s reserve currency.

    When our country calls for a boycott of a country, like Iran usually the poor and quite often the children of those countries are the ones that suffer, often dying of starvation. Often we do that because we are seeking regime change and hope to make life miserable for the people so that they will rebel. That is why North Korea and Cuba have such a hard time.

    I think that if Trump keeps acting the way he is, the world will turn on us and will become a second tier country like Russia, many weapons and not much else.

  16. C.L. says:

    First sign your running of of talking point rhetoric ? Bashing Canada…

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