Remember Beto O’Rourke? The Democratic presidential candidate who launched his run for the White House with a glossy Vanity Fair cover announcing that he was “born to be in it”?
Well, O’Rourke is actually hoping to put some distance between that old O’Rourke and all that baggage of white male privilege that came along with it.
And the new O’Rourke is … well, that part is still being figured out.
On ABC’s “The View,” O’Rourke said that he was more aware of some of the missteps he made, including the Vanity Fair comments, his road trip and flippant comments about his wife shouldering much of the parenting burden.
“There are things that I have been privileged to do in my life that others cannot,” he said. “And I think the more that, I travel and listen to people and learn from them, the clearer that becomes to me.”
Doing more national press, including an upcoming CNN Town Hall in Des Moines next week is part of his new approach. But still, parts of his new strategy look a lot like the old strategy.
Beto 1.0 was a fervent believer that the banalities of his life (visit to the dentist, pumping gas, driving a car) should be broadcast to the world. Beto 2.0? Check out that hot-as-fire livestream of O’Rourke getting a haircut.
Beto 1.0 didn’t have much policy. Beto 2.0? Samesies.
What aren’t the same are O’Rourke’s poll numbers and the buzz around his candidacy. While he has been able to hire some of the most experienced staffers in Democratic politics, his bid has lost its luster, even as O’Rourke has campaigned vigorously all across the country. At least some of the decline can be traced to South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg who also occupies the “white Obama” lane, but is younger, gay and served in Afghanistan.
O’Rourke’s candidacy always rested on the shaky proposition that he could convince a broad swath of Democratic voters that a lost Senate race was really a win. He argued that he could win in places such as Wisconsin and Michigan and in red counties, because he almost won in Texas. (A new Quinnipiac poll out of Pennsylvania shows him losing to Trump by 2 points as others either tie or beat Trump).
The Politics of Us
Recounting his Senate race, and how he lost by 2.6%, and how he talked to voters, no matter their party, has been central to his stump speech for weeks. With arms flailing, O’Rourke would tick through a wish list of Democratic priorities on health care, immigration, education and the economy.
As he showed on The View, he can be an articulate hype man for Democratic Party values. But, as he also showed on The View – and has on the stump – he is not as articulate at answering a more fundamental question about his candidacy: who he is and why he is here?
With his thin record as a public servant, O’Rourke has instead relied heavily on his personality. After months and months on the campaign trial, as his rivals release bold policy initiatives and talk about their records, O’Rourke’s personality can only take him so far.
He can’t move onto something else when his very existence is his argument for running.