As his appearance in early voting state of Iowa suggested he might, Beto O'Rourke today threw in as a Democratic presidential contender.
Fresh from his almost-pulled-it-off Senate race against Ted Cruz, the former El Paso congressman has shown his ability to whip up a national buzz while raising mountains of cash. Plus, his positive energy and centrist appeal could be exactly what voters are looking for after two years of Trump fatigue.
That said, the charismatic Texan has a few things stacked against him:
- The race's other Texan has the first-mover advantage. Former San Antonio mayor and Obama Administration Housing Secretary Julián Castro announced his candidacy in January after tying up some significant Lone Star State funders. He's also won endorsements from at least 30 elected and appointed Democrats across the state.
- His lackluster record in Congress will be on display. While O'Rourke proved during his three terms in the U.S. House that he could work across the aisle, his list of legislative accomplishments is thin at best. Bet that his primary competitors, not to mention Trump's handlers, will draw plenty of attention to that.
- He's not an aggressive debater. Even O'Rourke die-hards had to admit he was outgunned by the acerbic Cruz in the first of their two televised debates. And leading up to the 2016 election, Trump demonstrated that he had no problem hitting below the belt when squaring off with opponents on live TV — especially those who tried to take the high road.
- It's a crowded field. With such a wide and varied slate of Democratic hopefuls, it may be hard for O'Rourke to stand out from the pack the way he did with Cruz, who often seemed like his polar opposite. It will be interesting to see how O'Rourke can differentiate himself when facing off against similarly dynamic figures like Cory Booker and Kamala Harris.
But it's not all gloom and doom.
Plenty of people wrote O'Rourke off when he announced his Senate candidacy, yet he quickly turned himself into a household name and managed to come within a couple hundred thousand votes of beating Cruz. If he's still got that luster, it may appeal to middle-of-the-road voters fed up with the divisive state of U.S. politics.
Plus, O'Rourke's a money-raising machine. During 2017 and 2018, his campaign committee raked in $80.3 million — more than any Senate candidate has raised in a single election.
And as we all know, he'll need plenty of that if he's going to overcome the many hurdles on the road to 2020.
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