Debate organizers can strike one chair from the 2020 Democratic presidential primary debate stages. They’ll only need forty-seven or so, now that Robert “Beto” O’Rourke has officially demurred from running for the party’s nomination. He tells MSNBC that he’s about as definitive as possible when saying he won’t be running in 2020 (via Twitchy):
"I will not be a candidate for president in 2020,” Beto O'Rourke tells @GarrettHaake.
— MSNBC (@MSNBC) November 5, 2018
It’s a signal of just how empty the Democratic bench must be that people take a media-hyped, otherwise unremarkable congressman losing in every Senate poll seriously as a presidential candidate. The media-created hype of a “Kennedyesque” O’Rourke as the future of the Democratic Party has absolutely no substance at all behind it. He’s a three-term member of a Democratic minority who has accomplished nearly nothing over the past six years on his own. Campus Reform produced a humorous video asking O’Rourke’s Texas A&M supporters what he’s done with his life, and …
Look, in a general election, you vote for the nominee who’s closest to your policy preferences. That’s how Donald Trump got elected in 2016, right? But in a wide open presidential primary, having “lost a Senate election in Texas” as the top spot on the resumé looks pretty ridiculous. Even winning the election tomorrow wouldn’t be that much of a reason to float a Beto for President campaign, and Beto himself knows that.
Besides, he’s almost certainly going to lose tomorrow. A late poll from Emerson puts O’Rourke within three points of Ted Cruz, but every other poll over the past two months put Cruz in the lead outside the margin of error. His RCP average is 51.2% and his lead is 6.5% — not great numbers for a Texas Republican, but normally fairly safe for an incumbent. Even the Emerson poll puts Cruz at 50%.
So what happened? Politico’s Tim Alberta believes Beto blew it:
Somewhere along the line, the rock-concert crowds and record-setting fundraising and JFK comparisons obscured a basic contradiction between Beto O’Rourke the national heartthrob and Beto O’Rourke the Texas heretic. While the coastal media’s narrative emphasized his appeals to common ground, framing him as an Obamaesque post-partisan figure, the candidate himself tacked unapologetically leftward. He endorsed Bernie Sanders’ “Medicare for all” plan. He called repeatedly for President Donald Trump’s impeachment—a position rejected by Nancy Pelosi, and nearly every other prominent Democrat in America, as futile and counterproductive. He flirted with the idea of abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He took these positions, and others, with a brash fearlessness that reinforced his superstardom in the eyes of the Democratic base nationwide. But it likely stunted his growth among a more important demographic: Texans.
Over the past six months, I spoke with a host of Texas Republicans about the U.S. Senate race. Many of them dislike Cruz. Some of them privately hope he loses. And all of them are baffled by the disconnect between the superior branding of O’Rourke’s candidacy and what they see as the tactical malpractice of his campaign. …
“It’s the worst campaign I’ve ever run against—or it’s the most brilliant,” Jeff Roe, Cruz’s chief strategist, told me. “He’s the best and worst opponent we could have faced. He energized the left and raised tons of money, but had no plan for how to spend it and no plan for building the sort of coalition needed for a Democrat to win in Texas. He ran an entire campaign without pursuing a single Republican vote.”
In Texas, mind you. How would that play out in a national election based on the Electoral College? I’m guessing … badly. And I think Beto is starting to realize it, even if the saps who keep sending him cash — and the fawning media — haven’t.