I’ve been in suspense since Thursday night wondering how his call to take everyone’s AR-15 would play with the Democratic base. There’s nothing that might singlehandedly place a struggling candidate on voters’ radar like a passionate call for radicalism on one of the left’s top cultural priorities. Especially since Beto has the field more or less to himself in staking out this position. This isn’t a “Medicare for All” scenario in which one candidate (Bernie Sanders) calls for a bold policy stroke and the competition immediately begins lining up behind him to try to capitalize on the idea’s popularity with progressives. Even a rival as left-wing as Pete Buttigieg wanted no part of O’Rourke’s mandatory buyback scheme. Kamala Harris and Cory Booker have endorsed it, granted, but nearly 100 percent of the political and media energy behind the idea is coming from Beto.
Is this the gimmick that would finally spring him into the second tier in polling, at least?
Why, no, per Morning Consult:
Four percent is a whisker better than O’Rourke has done in most polls lately, although he was at five percent in a CNN poll taken last week before the debate. His polling average has barely moved after this new result, from 2.8 percent yesterday to 3.0 percent today. The good news for Beto fans, I guess, is that the polling for the entire field apart from the top three is now such relentless garbage that he’s essentially tied for fourth place — along with everyone else. If the next few polls do show him with a modest bounce (e.g., he rises to seven or eight percent), that might be enough to land him by himself in the de facto second tier. And once that happens, the media is destined to start writing pieces about how *maybe* Beto’s poised for a big bounce if, say, Biden falters or whatever.
But for now? The gun-grabbing, the feel-my-passion profanity, it’s all added up to essentially nothing.
Another minor surprise here: Andrew Yang has also seen no movement in the polls despite his own newsy gimmick at the debate, announcing a $12,000 giveaway as a simulacrum of Universal Basic Income to 10 lucky entrants in his new contest. That was a shrewd stunt to help him expand his email list enormously, creating a new supply of potential donors, but I thought that Yang being onstage with the top tier and doing something flashy to promote UBI might get him a closer look from undecideds as the normal “un-politician” guy in the race. Nope. Three percent here, which is where he is in most polls.
As for the top tier, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren continue to duck each other but that may change soon. The Working Families Party, a lefty outfit that backed Sanders in 2016, endorsed Warren today; Berniebros are mad, alleging that the small group of national committee leaders may have handed the endorsement to her over the wishes of the party’s rank-and-file. (The party won’t release vote totals.) As we get closer to Iowa, pressure will build on the left for undecideds to choose one or the other in order to clarify who the consensus progressive choice is. It’d be unimaginable to the DSA crowd to have Biden win the early states narrowly because the left ends up split equally between Sanders and Warren.
One more note on Beto’s gun ploy. Trump is holding a rally in New Mexico tonight, seemingly a strange place for a Republican president to be. He lost the state by eight points in 2016; his approval rating there is now -13; both of its U.S. senators are Democrats; the governor is a Democrat; both houses of the state legislature are controlled by Democrats. What’s he doing there? Well, New Mexico is a better candidate than most other blue states to flip next fall. It’s still a long longshot, but between the libertarians who broke for Gary Johnson in 2016, the somewhat conservative trend among New Mexico Democrats, and the low cost involved to campaign in the state, it’s worth a little effort since it could potentially deliver a second term for Trump if he can turn it red. And there’s an X factor: New Mexico has an extremely high rate of gun ownership at nearly 50 percent, good for seventh among the 50 states. If Beto’s confiscation plan turns into a liability for Dems, odds are the effect would be outsized in New Mexico. Trump’s trying to take advantage. No doubt O’Rourke will be mentioned from the podium tonight.