Beto O'Rourke

Beto's Reboot: So You're Saying There's Still a Chance?

Former media darling halted his long poll slide after the El Paso shooting by blaming it on Trump, and is now hoping Democrats forget his past centrism.

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It is both easy and enjoyable to make fun of Beto O'Rourke's flagging presidential campaign for the Democratic nomination, which the former Vanity Fair cover boy attempted to reboot this morning in his grief-stricken hometown of El Paso with a passionate speech that was delivered, his spokespeople helpfully inform us, "without a teleprompter or prepared remarks."

Previewing the pivot with a mouthful of mirth last night was Fox Business Network's Kennedy:

Ouch.

But O'Rourke, who in his remarks ruled out another Senate run (even as John Hickenlooper, while announcing today his withdrawal from the 2020 Democratic presidential primary race, suggested that he might take a shot at Colorado Republican Sen. Cory Gardner), should not be counted out just yet. Yes, he's been stuck in sixth place since spring, and polling nationally all summer at around 3 percent, but it's worth remembering that at this time in the 2008 primary season political journalists and snarky commentators were preparing their obits for the then-fourth place Republican, a cat named John McCain.

Sure, McCain's national polling of around 11 percent back in August 2007 was significantly better than O'Rourke today, but Bill Clinton was at 7 percent (fourth place) in the second half of 1991, George McGovern was at 6 percent (fifth place) at that point in 1971, and Jimmy Carter less than 1 percent (13th place) in 1975. Longshots historically can win, and 2019 politics are nothing if not volatile.

And since the El Paso shootings, and O'Rourke's subsequent viral "What the fuck?" video, the candidate has finally halted the long, humiliating polling slide that began right around when South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg start stealing Beto's youthful, semi-centrist thunder. The last baker's dozen of national polls have O'Rourke at near 4 percent, compared to previous dozen's 2.5 percent.

That might well be a blip, similar to the rise and fall of Sen. Kamala Harris (D–Calif.) after her effective performance during the first round of presidential debates, but O'Rourke clearly feels invigorated by his last two weeks of trading Iowa corn dogs for community grieving sessions and withering critiques of Trump's alleged white supremacy.

"I see more clearly now than I ever have before," he said this morning, many times. "There have…been some who have suggested that I stay in Texas and run for Senate. But that would not be good enough for this community, that would not be good enough for El Paso, that would not be good enough for this country. We must take the fight directly to the source of this problem—that person who has caused this pain and placed this county in this moment of peril, and that is Donald Trump. I want to be the leader for this country that we need right now and that we do not have. Someone who will not only not tear us apart, but do everything in their power to bring us together. Someone who doesn't inflame, but instead, heals."

Policy-wise, that translates mostly into more strict gun control—today he announced support for a "mandatory" assault weapons buyback (Democratic speak for confiscation), in addition to his usual support for background checks, "red flag" laws, and the closing of various "loopholes." O'Rourke is also re-emphasizing his broadly liberal immigration reforms, as a gut-check contrast to a president "who so openly speaks in racist terms."

As that last quote suggests, this pivot is much more about rhetoric and symbolism than white papers. "To those places where Donald Trump has been terrorizing…our fellow Americans, that's where you'll find me and this campaign," he said. "I'm confident that if at this moment we do not wake up to this threat, then we as a country will die in our sleep."

Sounding maximally #resistance-woke—remember that even prior to the shooting, O'Rourke was confessing his familial history of owning slaves—is one way of de-emphasizing the candidate's less traditionally progressive views on issues such as charter schools, free trade, and the national debt. That's a strategy he has in common, albeit with different issue sets, with a group of his competitors I like to call the Transitionals, as in they are transitioning away from (or at least putting in their back pockets during primary season) whatever deviations from progressivism they were previously known for.

So: Kamala Harris the cop is posing as a criminal justice reformer. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D–N.Y.) is talking less about her past of being a Blue Dog Democrat who opposed the fall 2008 bailout and the 2011 debt-ceiling increase, and more about her future of educating people about "white privilege." Sen. Cory Booker (D–N.J.) is downplaying school choice while upfronting slavery reparations. Budget-balancing free trader Julián Castro has made headlines this campaign mostly by attacking both Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) and Beto O'Rourke from the left.

These five youthful Transitionals, of whom only O'Rourke is a white male, can come across with their intersectional rhetoric as super-duper lefties, at least in the eyes of non-Democrats. But in fact, each has plenty of theoretical space to tack back to the center, particularly on economic policies, should they survive a primary, thus having the chance to earn the vote of at least former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

But they also run the risk of coming across as insincere, getting confronted by their own contrary records, or making wild promises on the fly that they can't possibly fulfill. These troubles do not much haunt Sanders or Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.), who, between them, have consistently polled 30 percent nationally most of the year, compared to the 15 percent-to-24 percent range for the five Transitionals combined.

As ever, making concrete political predictions in this atmosphere is a mug's game. But you can safely bet that O'Rourke and the other four ex-neoliberals will spend a lot more energy the rest of the year confronting Trumpian bigotry rather than campaigning on their own past deviations from progressive economics.

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  1. Beto supports open borders and we’re pretending he’s a centrist. Let’s not allow reality to influence our commentary.

    1. It’s the Reasn way. apparently.

    2. That’s not a contradiction. If you paid attention to Reason, you’d know more Americans than ever agree with the statement “Immigration is a good thing.” That means open borders is now a mainstream position.

      1. “more Americans than ever agree with the statement “Immigration is a good thing.”

        Legal immigration is a good thing. It will keep America competitive long after the other advanced nations have succumbed to the ill effects of aging populations.

        But open borders is a bad thing, it would mean that the US has no control over who enters the US. And it would violate our national sovereignty.

        Allowing people to enter our country without permission is definitely not a mainstream position.

        1. What do you mean “our” borders? What if I want to hire someone on the other side of the imaginary line? What if I want to sell or rent him a house? Why is that your concern?

          1. “our” borders” Are “our” national borders.

            Every nation on Earth honors those “imaginary lines”. Nations go to war when those lines are crossed. Remember when Iraq invaded Kuwait and the world pushed them out?

            So you can’t hire someone on the other side of that line, or rent them a house, unless they have permission to be in this country.

            And as to why it’s my concern, I’m an American citizen and I expect my government to protect our national sovereignty just like all the other nations on Earth do.

    3. Beto immigration plan

      Would you kindly point me to the bit that talks about opening the borders?

      1. Not running for President of Mexico would probably be a good start.

        1. Just a little copy and paste should do it.

          1. Basically his page is nothing but talking points and vague promises. Though in his speeches he has mentioned legalizing all 11 million+ illegals already in the country, increasing temporary visas, providing health care to illegals, community based visas, increasing assylum seekers and changing the criteria for assylum seekers and all of this with very little mention of any increase in border security. While not exactly open borders it does repeat the same mistakes that got us here in the first place, lax enforcement and little to no penalties for those who break the rules.

            1. In fact, it seems like he is rewarding those who broke the law to get here.

            2. People need healthcare whether their paperwork says they’re citizens, immigrants, raping thugs, or leprechauns. Doctors aren’t going to dump people in the street after they’ve wasted time checking their pockets for insurance cards. You are just buying into Republican racist horseshit that makes you think a larger insurance risk pool is somehow bad because you’re going to get brown people cooties.

                1. If everyone in America were white, we’d have universal starships by now, and libertarians would actually have time to focus on something other than keeping brown people out.

                  1. Take a break from the crack pipe, Tony.

                  2. I don’t care what color your skin (you seem obsessed with race, might want to spend some time on self reflection) I am not responsible for paying for your healthcare. Next straw man.

              1. I need your liver Tony, so give it up.

                My point?

                What you NEED is not necessarily what you are entitled to. You are not entitled to things that can only be yours by taking them from someone else.

                Health Care is not something you are entitled to, because providing it to you when you can’t pay for it, requires taking money from someone else.

              2. You’re the one who mentioned race. Also, like I’ve told you before paying for healthcare is different than access to healthcare. You keep insisting me paying for your healthcare is your right. You are now demanding I also pay for the healthcare of people who are not legally allowed to be here. Whose healthcare am I not required to pay for?

      2. Would you kindly point me to the bit that talks about opening the borders?

        If you believed this is an appropriate standard you would apply it to everything right? So can you show me where Donald Trump’s campaign explicitly states support for racism and white supremacy? No? Does that prove he doesn’t support racism?

        Or should we just admit your entire line of argument is bullshit and we all know it?

        1. Let’s just support the claim that he’s for open borders and move on from there.

          1. I’ve already proven your assertion so clearly wrong you dropped any pretense it was relevant but think you can just move on the next demand. I don’t grant left wing privilege.

            Let’s just

            Or we’ll just mock you. It’s not just that you’re an asshole, it’s that you’re an asshole while being simultaneously arrogant and stupid.

  2. Understand, Beto Man is headed for the garbage can. Down the stairs, no one cares.

  3. “There have…been some who have suggested that I stay in Texas and run for Senate. ”

    As a Texan, I would like to suggest continue his doomed presidential campaign just as long as it keeps him out of Texas as much as possible.

    1. Losing 2 Senate races in a row would be more embarrassing than losing 1 Senate race and 1 Presidential race. He wants a VP or Cabinet spot, not to have to work in the Senate or lose again.

      1. Let me improve that for you.

        “He wants a VP or Cabinet spot, not to have to work ….. again.

  4. His presidential campaign is just a stall until he can run against Cornyn. Because Robert can’t beat a real hispanic (Cruz) but he can beat a white guy by pretending to be hispanic.

    Or not! Beto’s name is pretty much for shit now that we’ve seen the real person.

    1. Yeah, Texans might not like all the liberal promises O’Rourke has made lately.

  5. Come now folks. Beto’s seen his polls, he’ll be running for Senator again soon enough. Outside of El Paso, he has no base because either Biden or Sanders has taken the top cis white guy blue team role. As a result he’s out but the party will want keep him close and in the Senate race to try to flip that body blue. Not 100% certain that wasn’t his gig all along unless he’s writing a book but let’s be honest, who’s going to read a book by a “centrist” cis white guy?

  6. Maybe at the next debate, Tulsi can de-nut him like she did to Tim Ryan. And Kamala.

      1. De-nut Warren next. “You know who else had a plan?”

  7. “We must take the fight directly to the source of this problem—that person who has caused this pain and placed this county in this moment of peril, and that is Donald Trump.”

    I thought we weren’t naming the mass shooters.
    Oh, Donald Trump didn’t shoot anyone.
    Carry on then, I guess?

    1. Republicans have really improved on that count since Dick Cheney shot someone in the face.

      1. Probably best not to provoke them further, then.

        1. I always avoid people who shoot people in the face and then the person they shot in the face apologizes for the inconvenience.

          One of my more amusing “What if Obama did it” daydreams.

          1. Yes because a hunting accident is comparable to bombing American citizens without a trial.

            1. But what if Obama had the same hunting accident.

              1. He’s a little too low-T to hunt. Hillary, though, I could see it.

                1. Being led around by your hormones is hardly something to boast about.

                  1. You wouldn’t say that if you had some.

              2. I would say the same thing that I said when Cheney shot his hunting partner. He obviously doesn’t understand the first rule of firearms safety and should not be carrying one. But it hardly equates to murdering American citizens. Nice goal post move BTW.

                1. Also, considering the one picture of Obama shooting trap clearly demonstrates his lack of firearms knowledge and the fact that he’s scared of them. Therefore, I would also say I am not surprised if he accidentally shit someone.

  8. Dude’s a loser.

  9. O’Rourke should have stayed the centrist course and run as the young and not senile alternative to Biden. Instead he tried to outprog the progs, without the intellectual heft of a Warren or a Harris (low bar I know). He’s toast.

    Hickenlooper had the best chance to beat Trump, so of course he was polling at 1 percent among the loony Left, and is now dropping out.

  10. Beto needs to come out as transgender to turn the tide on this one. He cannot compete in the Democratic communist party with Buttigieg and his husband. Some hormone treatments, a scheduled sex change operation, and cross-dressing would show commitment to the leftist agenda and push him up in the polls.

  11. Beto is the quintessential trust fund kid: a completely delusional failure that has never accomplished anything in his life, but feels entitled to all the accolades of someone who has.

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