Beto O’Rourke, with widespread backing, is considering running for president in 2020. If Democrats want to lose, he absolutely should.
Nothing has been learned from Hillary Clinton, the two-time heiress apparent who, in 2016, had the support of nearly every mainstream media outlet, who entered the final stretch of her last race with a $449 million war chest (compared with Trump’s $163 million), who led in nearly every national poll, and who was roundly depicted as the rational adult tolerating a villainous bozo.
Just as Hillary has taken that humiliating defeat as a sign to mull yet a third run, O’Rourke has taken his loss to Ted Cruz — the most loathed senator in modern American history, once called “Lucifer in the flesh” by then-House Speaker John Boehner — as a sign that he, a 46-year-old three-term congressman with a thin record, is the one to defeat Trump.
And why wouldn’t he? It’s not like party pundits or the mainstream media, which swooned over O’Rourke and stoked its own so-called “Beto-mania,” have reached a different conclusion.
“Beto O’Rourke should run for president,” MSNBC’s Chris Matthews said Tuesday.
“The hottest thing in American politics,” Chris Cizzilla wrote for CNN just weeks after O’Rourke’s loss. “A top-five contender for the nomination.”
“I think he should run,” said Veronica Escobar, a Texas Dem who actually won her seat in Congress.
“He’s Barack Obama, but white,” one top bundler told Politico post-defeat.
Earlier this week, it was reported that Obama himself met with O’Rourke in DC. Giddy follow-up stories had Obama foot-soldiers deluging O’Rourke with calls, begging to work for him should he run.
He’s not just another politician, we’re routinely told. He’s real! He used to play in a punk rock band! He skateboards into rallies! He looks like Bobby Kennedy in 1968! The Kennedys love him!
He drinks beer and drives to his own campaign stops and curses from the podium!
Doubly interesting are the recent, clearer-eyed takes from two icons on the left. “If the economy continues strong, Trump will be re-elected,” Camille Paglia told the Spectator USA this week.
“Despite the vast pack of potential [Democratic] candidates, no one yet seems to have the edge.”
“The Democrats don’t have an obvious, effective presidential candidate,” Bruce Springsteen told The Sunday Times last week. “I don’t see anyone out there at the moment . . . the man who can beat Trump, or the woman who can beat Trump.”
They are right. And here’s the thing: Beto O’Rourke is just another politician. The media, by and large, should be ashamed for drooling over a candidate with presidential ambition rather than doing their job and scrutinizing him. One example: No outlet truly pressed O’Rourke on his police record, which includes attempting to flee the scene of a car crash while drunken driving in 1998. During a debate with Cruz on Sept. 21, O’Rourke said, “I did not try to leave the scene of the accident” — a lie. Even The Washington Post called him out, but O’Rourke’s claim went otherwise unnoticed, let alone unchallenged.
Nor have O’Rourke’s overall background and familial connections been much mentioned. How many voters know that his late father was a county commissioner and a county judge? Or that his step-grandfather served as JFK’s secretary of the Navy, or that his father-in-law is a billionaire real-estate developer? Not many, because none of these biographical details squares with the portrait of the rebel Gen-Xer looking to shake up the system.
Much was made, rightly, of O’Rourke’s fundraising: a $70 million war chest, no PACs. But there was next to no criticism of O’Rourke’s refusal to share the wealth with other candidates in this most consequential midterm ever — as we were so often told — who lacked the money or the celebrity endorsements or the fawning profiles in publications ranging from The New York Times to Town & Country.
“No,” O’Rourke said when asked if he would share. That money was for him. If voters wanted to give to any other Dems running in hotly contested battles, he said, “of course they’re welcome to do that.”
Days before the election, O’Rourke told “60 Minutes” that he absolutely, definitely would not be running for president in 2020, saying the toll on his family had already been too great.
“We’ve spent the better part of the last two years not with each other, missing birthdays and anniversaries and time together. Our family could not survive more of that,” he said, adding that as far as a 2020 presidential run was concerned, “I’m completely ruling that out. I’m not going to do that. Win or lose, I’m not running in 2020.”
So authentic, that Beto.
Yes, O’Rourke ran a smart campaign. He raised millions.
But he also shunned experts in favor of that punk-rock ethos, using the front of his minivan as a kind of campaign HQ. He refused to tack center. He quite possibly believed his own hype.
He campaigned in all of Texas’ 254 counties, had the national media in his pocket and still couldn’t put Ted Cruz away.
In Hillary, Trump at least had a respected, battle-hardened challenger. In O’Rourke, he’d have a nuisance. And a great time.
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