How many political ads make you literally laugh aloud? This one may be the first for me, or at least the first since the legendary Dale Peterson ad. The line about Barack Obama breaking barriers and Beto crashing into them, uttered without missing a beat?
They got me.
That’s one point of distinction here. The other is the sheer effort that went into this right-wing attempt to destroy O’Rourke from the left in the Democratic Party. It’s not a 30-second hit-and-run or a bit of tongue-in-cheek trollishness. This is a two-minute-long indictment that leaves no trace in its substance that it comes from a well-known conservative outfit, particularly in its very calculated praise for … Barack Obama. (CFG does disclose at the end that it produced the ad but it’s required by law to do so.) It doesn’t focus on Beto’s spending policies either, which at least would be in the wheelhouse of an organization that focuses on fiscal policy. It’s an identity-politics critique of his authenticity, aimed at Iowa progressives who don’t yet know much about O’Rourke but have heard the buzz and might be susceptible to love at first sight. CFG isn’t playing games here in meddling in the other party’s primary. This really is designed, I think, to try to inoculate left-wing voters from Betomania before they contract the disease.
Why target Beto? For one specific reason and one more general one. The general one is that there’s no obvious Republican argument against him if he’s the nominee. Bernie and Warren will be tagged as socialists if they’re nominated and a Trump/Harris or Trump/Booker election will sink into identitarian ugliness on both sides but what would the main line of attack on Beto be? He tried to leave the scene of a DUI 25 years ago? He has little government experience — compared to a president who had none when he was elected? CFG is trying to take him out now because they know it’d be more difficult to take him out next fall.
As for the specific reason, in a word: Texas.
“We watched what he did in Texas in the race against Cruz and realized his potential within the Democratic primary system is enormously larger than what people are giving him credit for right now. We realized, here is a real potential threat because if he is the nominee then Texas suddenly is in play,” McIntosh said…
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican who is up for reelection next year, is among those preparing for a fight. In recent weeks, Cornyn aides have been working with the RNC to set up an ambitious field program in the state.
“If Beto is the nominee, I think the temptation will be too great for the Democrats not to spend significant resources in Texas,” said Rob Jesmer, a senior Cornyn adviser. “And we need to match their efforts. If we do, we’ll win, and if we don’t, it will be perilous for everyone up and down the ballot.”
It’s especially clever to compare him unfavorably to Obama. Attacking him for being a fake progressive carries risk, after all, by accidentally giving moderate Democrats a reason to take a closer look at him. Not every primary voter is a Berniebro or socialist-curious; by making the case that O’Rourke *isn’t* a radical you’re putting him on the radar of the great mass of Dems eager to find someone who can stop Sanders. Depicting him as a fake Obama will alienate even some centrists from him, though. Remember, in 2019 Democrats are more apt to define themselves politically by the “Obama” brand than they are by any ideological label.
Anyway, helping the other party’s “unelectable” candidates get nominated because they supposedly can’t win a general election can’t possibly backfire. Good luck, CFG!