Until a few months ago, no one outside of Texas really knew much about the Democratic congressman from El Paso. But recently his answer to a question about whether NFL players should kneel during the national anthem went viral. He’s gone on Ellen and The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, and has been compared to a Kennedy an embarrassing number of times in profiles touting his Senate bid against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz in Texas. He goes on early-morning running town halls and wants you to know he doesn’t take any money from PACs. He trumpets the fact that he’s visited all 254 counties in Texas — he’s not the kind of Democrat who will write off folks who live in the country.
A candidate can only make one first impression, and we’re in the midst of that self-mythologizing, magical moment for O’Rourke. GOP attacks against him for his 1998 DWI arrest, his tendency to swear and his youthful embrace of the punk aesthetic have backfired among a younger, online set. Twitter users cooed that O’Rourke looked hot in his mugshot and that the floral dress he was ironically(?) rocking in a band photo suited him. In a defense of O’Rourke, Colbert pointed out that during Cruz’s teenage years, the senator once played Adam in a mimed version of the biblical creation story. It feels a little like the high school cool kid is running against the Latin Club’s uber nerd for U.S. Senate in Texas.