Remember Beto O’Rourke? That leggy Texan who stole our hearts and muddied the countertops of coffee shops across Iowa? News reports indicate that O’Rourke is, in fact, still running for president. And he’s darn serious about it!!!
According to the Wall Street Journal, O’Rourke is trying to reboot his struggling campaign yet again, through a focus on immigration and retail politics in Iowa. O’Rourke’s campaign told the paper he has visited 43 of 99 counties in Iowa; visiting all the counties in Texas was a key part of his much more impressive Senate campaign.
I wonder if he has tried turning his campaign off and on again—that’s just a little joke about computers for all my computer heads out there.
You might feel a little sorry for O’Rourke—there’s no reason why Pete Buttigieg, another bland, young liberal who didn’t even serve three anonymous terms in Congress like Beto, should be polling ahead of O’Rourke. Most arguments you could apply against Beto surely apply to Mayor Pete, too. (Though Buttigieg has been trending down nationally, too, registering single-digit support for much of the last month.) At the very least, Beto should be able to get more attention than John Hickenlooper.
But any sympathy would dissipate when you hear Beto’s big plan for his reboot (emphasis added):
“We’ve got to focus on what we’re doing,” Mr. O’Rourke said ahead of Thursday’s parade. “I just want to make sure that in this very distinguished, very crowded field, we continue to focus on what can set us apart and what has consistently set us apart, which is a focus on people, answering their questions, listening to, learning from them, and including what we find in these communities in the solutions we develop.
Honey, what? Phrases like “including what we find in these communities in the solutions we develop” is why everyone stopped listening to O’Rourke. His big entrance to the race was marked by the fact that he had a lot of vapid statements like that ready to go, but not many policy ideas. After his splashy Vanity Fair cover and that infamous quote, it was hard not to think that he was running for president because he thought he’d be good at running for president—not because he had any ideas to distinguish himself from the rest of the liberals in the race, or because he was committed to a genuinely people-powered candidacy. When he did offer specifics, they were confused and confusing.
By the time he started to actually propose substantive ideas, it was too late: The narrative was set, and the race had moved on. Also, Pete Buttigieg had showed up.
It is no surprise that O’Rourke’s campaign floundered, especially in a race with literally dozens of people. He can talk to voters all he likes, but without strong guiding principles or really any kind of ideology to interpret what they tell him, he will continue to flounder. And he’ll deserve every painful moment.