Endgame: Beto now polling zero percent in New Hampshire, raised just $3.6 million in second quarter

In fairness, he’s doing better in Iowa. The latest poll there has him at one percent.

I assume he’ll hang around through the next quarter, hoping for a Buttigieg implosion. As long as he’s still qualifying for the debates, he can cross his fingers and hope for a breakout moment a la Kamala Harris that’ll bounce him up 10 points overnight. But if things haven’t changed by the end of September, with Democratic voters showing no interest and donations drying up, he’ll have to think hard about whether to let this beating continue or to bow to party demands that he drop out and challenge John Cornyn for Senate in Texas instead.

And even the nomination in that race isn’t a given anymore. His prestige has been damaged so extensively by this presidential run that it’s an open question whether he can beat M.J. Hegar in the Texas primary. She’s an Air Force vet and younger than Beto is. She may be the Exciting New Thing in Texas Democratic politics now, not him.

Imagine what it must be like to go from being the most buzzed-about politician in your party, a Kennedy for the post-Obama age, to national humiliation in the span of eight months. O’Rourke’s traveled from serious presidential contender to possibly being washed up in politics in about the time it takes to play a major league baseball season. And the worst part for him is that this narrative — the Beto implosion, the newbie phenom receiving his comeuppance — is so irresistible that there’s no obvious easy way to stop it. The media wants to write the story of Beto flaming out. To prevent them, he’ll have to do something dramatic. A big debate moment might be the only way.

NHIOP Executive Director Neil Levesque summarized the results, saying, “In the Saint Anselm College Survey Center’s first look at the New Hampshire Democratic Primary field since the first series of debates, Joe Biden continues to hold a lead in the ballot test, with 21% of primary voters expressing a preference for the former Vice President. However, his lead has narrowed considerably since our last poll in April, as Senators Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren have seen a significant post-debate bump, claiming 18% and 17% voter support respectively. Mayor Pete Buttigieg has maintained his support at 12%, while Senator Bernie Sanders has fallen below 10%. Senator Cory Booker and former Congressman Beto O’Rourke have both seen their support virtually disappear.

That’s from the latest St. Anselm poll of New Hampshire. The same poll had Marianne Williamson at 1.5 percent. Hoo boy.

I assume it’s Buttigieg, another fresh-faced white guy in the race, who’s vacuuming up his voters. Mayor Pete has built an image for himself as an ideas guy whereas Beto’s policy proposals often feel like something he’s grabbed off the shelf to pad out the fact that he’s running on pure charisma. But the dirty little secret is that Buttigieg is a charisma candidate too, of a different kind. He has no signature policy proposals; he has no experience in statewide or federal government, for that matter. His core appeal is that he’s highly educated and intelligent, low key but prone to speaking in full paragraphs. Every story about him written during the first month or two when he began appearing on the radar in polling cooed over how many foreign languages he speaks. He also has trailblazer buzz as an openly gay (and married) candidate. To a certain sort of well educated white liberal, the Buttigieg/Beto dynamic may mainly be a matter of “Whom would you rather be?” Answer: The really smart one, not the Kennedy-looking guy with the good hair.

Buttigieg also happens to be the top fundraiser in the field this past quarter, an amazing feat considering that he’s seldom top three in any poll. He raised $24 million in three months, more than Biden, Warren, even the people-powered Bernie Sanders. The Butti-boomlet was expected to hurt O’Rourke money-wise too, but no one was prepared for this:

O’Rourke reported raising $3.6 million in the second quarter, a dramatic drop from his first-quarter showing, when he brought in more than $9.3 million in just 18 days. It was a remarkable blow for a candidate whose historic fundraising effort during his 2018 challenge to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) made him one of the more anticipated candidates of the field. And all his campaign could do in the aftermath was to try its best to insist that he wasn’t sliding closer to also-ran status…

O’Rourke’s campaign said they have $5.2 million on hand. But while his overall fundraising haul provided the latest indication that his presidential campaign is staggering, he was far from the only candidate in the race facing questions about long-term viability.

Right, the good news for Beto is that he raised enough before that he can survive this dry spell. The bad news is that he spent more last quarter than the $3.6 million he raised. That can’t go on. If he doesn’t turn it around soon, what happens at the end of the third quarter? Does he start scaling back his campaign just as the top tier is beefing up for the first primaries or does he call it a day?

Here he is a few days ago assuring America that no one will be prosecuted for being a human being once he’s president, whatever the hell that means. It’s strange but true that, to the extent O’Rourke has a grand strategy for the primary, it’s to try to get to everyone else’s left on immigration. Except … that’s impossible. Even liberal pundits have taken to marveling at how far left the field is on that issue, with Kevin Drum at Mother Jones recently wondering if Trump is right that the Democratic candidates support open borders. How is Beto supposed to distinguish himself from the rest on this subject? And even if he did, what evidence is there that far-leftism on border issues is the secret to propelling someone to the Democratic nomination?