Avenatti on Beto's loss: We need candidates who fight, not ones who preach "puppies and daisies"

He doesn’t mention the B-word here but it’s clear enough who he means, especially after O’Rourke jabbed at him the other day. If Beto! gets into the 2020 race, he’s going to use Avenatti as his foil in the primaries — and now maybe vice versa. Evidently Avenatti’s prepared to engage.

Andrew Gillum was plenty willing to fight fight fight in Florida, more favorable terrain for Democrats than Texas, and he ended up in the loser column too. Seems like a good career move for Avenatti, whom some Dems already blame for blowing their shot to take out Brett Kavanaugh, to start brawling publicly with liberals’ new Most Favorite Person In The World, though.

He posted that first tweet last night, around the time Cruz took a decisive lead in Texas. And his belief that somehow O’Rourke blew the election is surprisingly not uncommon, although most diagnoses focus not on Avenatti’s dopey gimmicky infatuation with “fighting” but on Beto’s decision to run to the left instead of to the center. Smart reporters like Tim Alberta and Elaina Plott have made that point in recent days. If only he’d reached out to centrist Republicans instead of running as the progressive savior, he might have won!

Which feels like a weird criticism of a guy who got way closer to winning a Senate seat in Texas than any Democrat has in at least 25 years.

Kay Bailey Hutchison, Cruz’s predecessor, routinely won her elections with better than 60 percent of the vote. John Cornyn, Cruz’s colleague, has never had a race closer than 12. He won his last one in the red wave year of 2014 by 28 points. His predecessor, Phil Gramm, also easily won his elections in the 1990s. And many of their opponents ran as centrists, of course, since that’s the normal thing for a red-state Democrat to do. It often works — look at Joe Manchin, for one — but it’s been tried in Texas and failed abysmally. Suddenly here comes the charismatic progressive Beto, who raises a cargo-hold full of money and gets within two and a half points of knocking off Mr Conservative on his home field and the criticism is that … he was too progressive? How excited to turn out and donate would his many admirers have been if he’d run as a Sinema-esque “hey, I like the border wall too” leftist LARPing as a Blue Dog Democrat? I could understand the criticism that it was silly of him to run to the left if fake-centrists like Claire McCaskill and Joe Donnelly were winning nationally. They weren’t. Both lost, Donnelly badly. And a bona fide centrist Democrat, Phil Bredesen, got run off the field in Tennessee. It’s easy to argue that O’Rourke overperformed, not underperformed, by running as a true-blue lefty and turning himself into a “cause.”

And although it didn’t win him the Senate, it may have won other precious things for Dems.

Democrats gained two House seats and nearly stole a third before Republican Will Hurd barely held on to win. They picked up 12 seats in the state house and gained two more in the state senate. In all likelihood Democrats energized by Betomania! turned out in force for him and ended up voting party-line down ballot. None of this disproves the Alberta/Plott theory that a more centrist Beto would have turned out even more Dems (or at least offset the ones he lost with some centrist Republican votes) and maybe won his own race. But to argue that is to argue that the Beto phenomenon boiled down exclusively to personal charisma. He was always destined to make the race close based on his rockstar persona or whatever, supposedly; finding the formula that would win was merely a matter of trying on ideological outfits and finding the sexiest one. I don’t buy it. I think the fact that O’Rourke wouldn’t compromise on his ideology, even in Texas, is what gave him a special “principled underdog” appeal to Democrats who share his beliefs, which translated into money and turnout. If he’d run as Joe Manchin he would have washed out, rejected even by centrist Republicans on grounds that so-called centrist Dems tend to end up as reliable liberals once they get to Washington. Better to stick with Cruz.

David Frum thinks O’Rourke falling just short last night is a gift to Democrats in 2020:

If Beto O’Rourke had eked it out in Texas, Democrats might well have nominated him for president in 2020, almost guaranteeing a debacle. There is no progressive majority in America. There is no progressive plurality in America. And there certainly is no progressive Electoral College coalition in America…

Obama and Kennedy were realists, who regularly disappointed and vexed their most liberal supporters. Senator Barack Obama voted for ethanol subsidies and regularly went awol from political tussles over gun control. Obama was no Beto—which is why Obama actually won his U.S. Senate race in 2004. Beto enthusiasts are today recalling that Abraham Lincoln lost a Senate race in 1858 before winning the presidency in 1860. They are not recalling the innumerably more numerous politicians who failed to win a Senate race before not winning the presidency.

That’s a cute line at the end but I can’t believe any political commentator would attempt to set unbreakable rules of national politics when we’re neck-deep in the Trump era at this very moment. True, most politicians who run for statewide office and lose usually aren’t thought of as presidential material. But celebrities best known for hosting a game show aren’t usually thought of as presidential material either. The rules aren’t what they were, or so many (like Michael Avenatti) believe. Also, while it’s hopefully true that there’s no progressive majority in America, there were sizable national majorities very recently who were willing to elect a reasonably progressive candidate named Barack Obama.

And I don’t know why Frum thinks O’Rourke as a national candidate wouldn’t stake out an opportune centrist position here and there just to signal his “reasonableness.” Having now established his brand in Texas as a principled liberal, Democrats wouldn’t fault him for a little pandering in purple states in the name of electability. (Remember Obama’s “opposition” to gay marriage?) Oh, and the reason Obama won his Senate seat in 2004 wasn’t because he was some unusually canny pragmatist carefully finding a middle way. It was because he ran in farking Illinois against Alan Keyes, of all people, after a more formidable Republican opponent, Jack Ryan, dropped out due to scandal. Surely Frum’s not suggesting that 2004-era Obama would have turned Texas blue running against Cornyn or Hutchison. I understand the urge to goof on Beto and his left-wing cult of personality but c’mon.