Buttigieg’s earnestness may trump Beto’s quirkiness

Two key aides to Beto O’Rourke are leaving his presidential campaign. Becky Bond, a top adviser to the campaign, and her deputy Zack Malitz are departing only one month or so after O’Rourke entered the race.

This seems like a bad sign for the campaign. It’s also a bad sign that Beto-mania doesn’t quite seem to have caught on.

In the video at the end of this post, Tucker Carlson and Ben Shapiro declare O’Rourke “toast.” Their pronouncement may be premature, but I consider it another bad sign for the campaign.

When O’Rourke entered the race, I thought he had a shot at winning the nomination. O’Rourke seemed to occupy a promising lane in which to run — the lane for a young, well-educated, reasonably attractive white non-establishment male with a distinctive personality who isn’t on the far left side of the Democratic field but has some good will from the far left (by virtue of running against Ted Cruz). To top it off, O’Rourke is an able fundraiser.

What I didn’t take into account was the existence of another candidate able to compete in the same lane and to raise money. That candidate is Pete Buttigieg.

He’s a young, well-educated, reasonably attractive white non-establishment male. He’s not on the far left of the field but has some good will from the far left by virtue of his attacks on Vice President Pence and perhaps because he is gay. And Buttigieg’s sexual preference gives him an identity politics status/niche that O’Rourke lacks.

The important difference between O’Rourke and Buttigieg isn’t their sexual preference, though. I think it’s the fact that O’Rourke is quirky and Buttigieg is earnest.

Voters in the age groups to which O’Rourke and Buttigieg have the most potential appeal like both quirkiness and earnestness, I think. But the Democrats among them are convinced that Donald Trump poses an existential threat to the country and, indeed, the planet. Accordingly, they will favor the earnest candidate over the quirky one.

Buttigieg has quirks too, but they are earnest quirks. The fact that he taught himself Norwegian is a good example. That’s quirky, but also earnest. Putting up a video of you interviewing a dental hygienist while getting your teeth cleaned is just quirky.

It’s bad enough for Beto that he has to share his lane. It’s even worse that the guy he’s sharing the lane with may fill it better than he does.

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