The Washington Post reports that Beto O’Rourke, who is weighing whether to mount a 2020 presidential bid, met recently with Barack Obama in Washington, D.C. The meeting reportedly took place on November 16.
According to the Post, some former Obama aides have encouraged O’Rourke to run for president. They see him as capable of the kind of campaign that caught fire in the 2008 presidential election.
Some Republicans are, or pretend to be, dismissive of O’Rourke as a credible challenger to President Trump. They cite his recent defeat at the hands of Ted Cruz in the Texas Senate race.
But O’Rourke ran a strong race against Cruz, losing by less than 3 points in strongly Republican state. It’s true that O’Rourke was buoyed by an enormous influx of money. But it’s also true that he likely would be similarly buoyed if he runs for president.
Losing elections shouldn’t be viewed as a deal breaker for aspiring presidential candidates. Richard Nixon had lost back-to-back races (for president in 1960 and for governor of California in 1962) when he was elected president in 1968. George H.W. Bush was a two time loser in Texas, when that state was dominated by Democrats. Bill Clinton lost two races in Arkansas (for the U.S. House in 1974 and for governor in 1980). Barack Obama suffered defeat in the Democratic primary when he ran for the U.S. House in 2000.
Critics also note that O’Rourke was arrested twice in the 1990s, for trespass and DWI. In the case of the DWI, a witness told police that O’Rourke tried to flee the scene after his car careened across the center median into oncoming lanes.
The arrests have been public knowledge for years. They didn’t prevent Beto’s election to the U.S. House. The part about fleeing the scene apparently was first publicly revealed during this year’s Senate race. He was still able to mount a strong challenge to Sen. Cruz.
I think O’Rourke is near the top of the list of the strongest Democratic presidential prospects. His strength, it seems to me, is that he can serve up the Party’s leftist medicine in a fresh, attractive white package This gives him the edge over Kamala Harris and Cory Booker (both black) as well as Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders (both old and unattractive) — not to mention Hillary Clinton and John Kerry.
My view is reinforced by the fact that O’Rourke reportedly is being swamped by calls from Democratic operatives eager to work for him, while other campaigns-in-the-making are eyeing his moves closely for any signs of his intentions. This means that those with most incentive to figure out who is a hot presidential prospect have identified O’Rourke as such.
Their assessment may prove to be incorrect, but right now it should be taken seriously.
UPDATE: In the next-to-last paragraph of this post, I assumed that O’Rourke’s race helps make him a stronger candidate than Harris and Booker. I think it does in terms of the general election and maybe the Democratic primaries too.
It’s true, of course, that America elected Barack Obama president. Some say Obama’s status as an African-American actually enhanced his candidacy.
This might be true. If so, I think it was because of the novelty. The opportunity, as some saw it, to elect our first black president may have more than offset the votes Obama undoubtedly lost due to his race.
This time, the novelty factor won’t be in play.
I should add that O’Rourke has other advantages over Harris and Booker. He’s more charismatic than the former and less off-the-wall than the latter.