Today, even as he’s assembled a stable of experienced operatives and released a spate of policy proposals, O’Rourke is polling at 2 percent nationally in the latest Morning Consult survey. One Iowa poll released this week put him at 1 percent in the state. A fundraising machine in his Senate campaign last year, O’Rourke has dodged questions about his latest performance in the money race.

Yet O’Rourke returned to Iowa this week in seemingly high spirits, campaigning alongside his wife and young children as they covered the state in an RV. The candidate has been expanding his organization at his Texas headquarters and in early primary states. And his advisers and supporters insisted they aren’t worried: The race is nothing if not fluid, they said, and O’Rourke has the political talent to catch fire…

Inside O’Rourke’s orbit, the fallout from the first round of debates has been taken, paradoxically, as a source of comfort. Kamala Harris vaulted up in polls after one commanding debate performance. Castro gained a step in the primary after his exchange with O’Rourke. The thinking in O’Rourke’s camp is that if he can muster a similar performance — in an upcoming debate or some other venue — he could quickly improve his standing, too.