Are Bernie and Beto fishing in the same voter pond?

That’s a question discussed in an article published by the Houston Chronicle today. It’s an interesting question given that Bernie Sanders is battling it out with Joe Biden for the top spot in polls while Beto O’Rourke appears to be stalling out in the second tier of candidates. According to the Real Clear Politics average, Bernie is at 23% while Beto is at 6.3%.

Bernie is clearly the alpha dog in this comparison, though, with Beto scrambling to adjust his political opinions according to whatever the latest lurch to the far left Bernie takes. While Beto had to at least try and appeal to dissatisfied Republican voters during his run for the U.S. Senate, his venture into faking moderate political views soon ended and his run to the left resulted in a loss to Senator Cruz. Beto is the same man who voted for a spending bill that included $1.6 billion for border wall construction in the Rio Grande Valley though now he demands that the border barrier in El Paso be torn down. That was then, this is now.

As the 2020 campaign is joined, other top Democrats can oppose Trump’s call for more and larger walls as a straightforward wedge issue — something they say shows anti-immigrant feeling, intolerance and even racism.

But O’Rourke’s record on border walls is complicated. Last March, he supported a spending package that other leading Democratic contenders opposed and included $1.6 billion for border wall construction in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. Buried in that was $44.5 million for repairs of existing fencing elsewhere — including El Paso.

O’Rourke later explained the vote as a compromise to win approval of another proposal he backed, expanding access to mental health care for military veterans who had received other-than-honorable discharges. But his action attracted criticism from people who know the border best. Scott Nicol, co-chairman of the Sierra Club’s Borderlands team, called it “very disappointing.”

Many of the Democrat hopefuls for the 2020 Democrat primary nomination are attending a presidential forum at Texas Southern University (TSU) Wednesday afternoon. As I’ve written about previously, pandering, er, campaigning at TSU is mandatory for any candidate seeking the Democrat nomination. Wednesday’s forum marks Bernie Sanders’ first visit to Texas since he declared his candidacy. Sorry guys, it’s all about women of color. Will the intersection between Sanders and O’Rourke supporters be noticed?

Those similarities and contrasts will be on display in Houston Wednesday afternoon as Sanders makes his first campaign stops in Texas since he announced his 2020 campaign for the White House. Both O’Rourke and Sanders are part of a 1 p.m. presidential forum at Texas Southern University put on by a group called She The People that aims to give a stronger voice to women of color in politics. Six other presidential candidates are participating in that forum including U.S. Sens Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro.

A university setting is perfect for both Sanders and Beto. Both appeal to younger voters and donors. The Houston Chronicle found that 90 donors have given to both Bernie and Beto since 2016. That’s a small group, true, but it is a peek into evidence that the two are vying for the same voters. Both claim to not take PAC money or corporate donations. Both support term limits and abolishing gerrymandering. Each appeal to voters looking for outsiders, though Bernie is far from one.

Both men raise a lot of money, too. Both claim grassroots campaigns powered by small donations. Beto is depending on Texas donors so far. That makes sense because Texas Democrats are beholden to him for stoking the flames of Democrat voter enthusiasm and turn-out in 2018. And, let’s face it, most voters are only just beginning to get to know him outside of Texas.

Not surprisingly, O’Rourke’s is relying heavily on Texas donors so far. He collected at least $2.1 million from Texas, according to the Federal Election Commission. No other candidate in the race has raised even $1 million in Texas yet, FEC records show. Outside of Texas, O’Rourke’s second-best fundraising state has been California, where he’s raised just short of $400,000.

O’Rourke hired former Bernie campaign staffers in his Senate run. They show up at O’Rourke’s campaign events now. Some of the college students interviewed in the Houston Chronicle article point to Sanders’ ideas on free college tuition and student debt. O’Rourke sounds the same as Bernie on these topics, though, so choices here won’t be made based on that. All of them point to the lack of specifics from O’Rourke on policies. That’s where Bernie can gain ground because he’s been running since 2015 on the same issues. Most of the other candidates are now simply catching up to him, including Beto. Bernie won more than 70% of voters ages 18 to 34 in 2016. O’Rourke won more than 70% of voters under 30 in 2018 against Ted Cruz.

O’Rourke heavily prioritized college students in 2018 with lots of college campus rallies. Bernie does the same. However, according to a recent poll, creepy Uncle Joe leads with the college kids.

A poll of 1,005 college students released by the group College Reaction found that Joe Biden, who is expected to join the race this week, is the choice of about 19 percent of the younger voters. Sanders was second with 15 percent. The next highest Democrat was O’Rourke at 14 percent. No other Democrat in the race topped 10 percent.

It’s still really early in the process. Joe Biden hasn’t even formally declared his candidacy yet. Bernie is only now visiting Texas as a 2020 presidential candidate. Beto is stuck in the second tier of candidates and has an automatically enthusiastic audience in Texas. All that should make for an interesting afternoon on the Texas Southern University campus. After the forum at TSU, most of the candidates will head on over to the African American Mayors Association’s national conference to pander, er, speak to them. It’s a busy day for Democrats in Houston. The Harris County Republican Party plans to be at the TSU location to welcome the candidates in their own way.