And we thought Robert “Beto” O’Rourke’s announcement of a “major address to the nation” was laughably arrogant. The three-time congressman used the platform this morning to explain why he will not drop out of the presidential race to help out his party and challenge incumbent John Cornyn in next year’s Senate race. The Senate’s just “not good enough” for Beto or his home town of El Paso in order to accomplish his agenda:
.@BetoORourke: "There have even been some who have suggested that I stay in Texas and run for Senate, but that would not be good enough…we must take the fight directly to the source of this problem…" pic.twitter.com/uUlSnULsJy
— CSPAN (@cspan) August 15, 2019
Beto argues that the alpha and omega of all that afflicts America and El Paso can be found in the Oval Office, and that the Senate is powerless to stop him. That’s a rather interesting interpretation of the US Constitution, let alone the current representation in the upper chamber from Texas. John Cornyn might be somewhat gratified by the accidental endorsement of his re-election campaign, although don’t expect to see “Beto Says I’m Not the Problem” t-shirts on sale from Team Cornyn any time soon.
What makes this laughable is the rather exalted self-image O’Rourke has of himself in making this declaration. Right now Beto gets a solid 3.0% in the RCP aggregate average, putting him second place in the lower tier of the Democratic primaries. O’Rourke hasn’t scored above 5% in any poll in the last two months, and hasn’t registered in double digits since March — before Joe Biden officially got into the race, although Biden still had more than double Beto’s support even at that point.
Even if one grants Beto’s hypothesis that Donald Trump’s the biggest problem, shouldn’t that prompt O’Rourke to get out of the race and line up behind one of the leaders? He’s been running for the presidential nomination for months with nothing to show for it except three reboots and an ego that might well exceed Trump’s. That would leave Beto free to find an office for which he might actually compete — and which was plenty “big enough” for Beto just two years ago when he tried to get Ted Cruz’ Senate seat.
As Aaron Blake wisely points out, the Senate’s not worth pursuing is about as bad a message that leading Democrats can send in this cycle:
As an encapsulation of a flawed political strategy, it’s tough to do better than that. …
There’s a credible case to be made that the Senate is as important as the presidency. The Senate confirms Supreme Court justices and other judges. The Senate probably needs to go Democratic (or at least be very close), if a new Democratic president were to be able to sign gun control legislation in the aftermath of a tragedy like the El Paso mass shooting. The Democrats hold the House, meaning if they win the presidency in 2020, the Senate Republicans and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would be in a position to gum things up. Having a high-profile figure like O’Rourke say the Senate isn’t “good enough” for those looking to make change in Washington is a terrible message for other would-be recruits.
A second is the implicit idea that the presidential race needs him. Even if you do believe Job No. 1 is to “take the fight directly” to Trump and defeat him in 2020, it has lots of people who are willing to do that. Does O’Rourke truly think that fight won’t be taken to Trump if he, personally, is not in the race? If he does, that’s quite the indictment of his primary opponents.
Yes it is, and it’s a strange message to send when Democrats have a real chance to recapture the upper chamber, too. If it’s not important to Beto, why should it be important to recruits — or voters?
Addendum: I also don’t think that dismissing the Iowa State Fair will help Beto or his fellow Democrats.