Edwards totally reinvented himself between his two presidential campaigns. He ran in 2004 as a centrist, and, at the time, that seemed to be the best opportunity for the North Carolina senator to carve out a space in the Democratic field. It worked well enough that he was tapped to be John Kerry’s running mate on the losing ticket. But Edwards swung left four years later, running as a “Two Americas” anti-poverty progressive when that became the better strategy.
O’Rourke has made a similar shift. When he launched his first congressional campaign back in 2012, the Texas Democrat made a pitch to Republicans in his state: He was a savvy centrist who could work across the aisle to achieve the entitlement reforms fiscal conservatives held dear. “To win their backing, Mr. O’Rourke opposed ObamaCare, voted against Nancy Pelosi as the House Democratic leader, and called for a raise in the Social Security eligibility age,” The Wall Street Journal reported of that year.
But six years on, O’Rourke transformed himself into a full-throated liberal to win national progressive backing in his campaign against Sen. Ted Cruz. The conservative Texas Republican was an inviting target to Democrats nationwide, helping O’Rourke raise $80 million. O’Rourke plans to tap that same donor base for his presidential bid, so he now touts progressive mainstays like Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, and legal late-term abortion.