Beto really, really doesn't want Biden to campaign for him

AP Photo/Charles Krupa

Normally a candidate would jump at the chance to have the president come and campaign for him but this is Biden’s America and these are not normal times. When asked about the possibility of Biden coming to Texas to campaign for him, Robert Francis O’Rourke, a.k.a. Beto, danced around the question like his feet were on fire.

Last week Beto announced his candidacy for governor. He immediately hit the campaign trail. He’s known as an energetic campaigner and this race will be no different. His playbook centers around hitting Abbott on his management of the state, from the failure of the power grid last winter during the Big Freeze, to immigration and the pandemic response.

Dana Bash happily gave O’Rourke a platform on CNN’s Sunday morning show State of the Union. She was all smiles as she introduced him, a contrast to her welcome extended to Winsome Sears, the Lt.Gov.-elect of Virginia in the interview before Beto’s. She asked Beto if he would like Biden to campaign for him. She prefixed the question by saying that Beto campaigned for Biden after he dropped out of the 2020 presidential primary, so will he ask Biden to return the favor? The short answer is no. Beto delivered a deliberately vague, rambling answer, clearly trying to say no, he doesn’t want Biden’s help without actually saying so.

O’Rourke gave the same answer to Bash that he did to Axios last week – the race isn’t about Biden or Trump. Neither men live in Texas and his campaign is all about Texans. That’s his story and he’s sticking to it. Biden isn’t popular in Texas and his polling numbers are low. O’Rourke would prefer to not be dragged down by Biden in the midterm election.

“This campaign in Texas is not going to be about Joe Biden, it’s not going to be about Donald Trump, it’s not going to be about anyone outside of our state,” O’Rourke said. “This is going to be about the people of Texas and what the people of Texas want.”

Anchor Dana Bash followed up, asking if O’Rourke would prefer that Biden did not campaign for him amid poll numbers that show just 35% of Texans support the president.

“I’m focused on Texas and on my fellow Texans,” O’Rourke said. “Those are the people most important to me. There is no politician, there is no other person from outside of this state who can help change the course of this election for better or for worse.”

As he did in the Axios interview, O’Rourke again criticized Biden for not doing enough about the border crisis.

“I do not think we have seen enough urgency when it comes to rewriting our immigration laws to match the needs and the reality that we see, especially in our border communities,” O’Rourke said. “So, yes, we expect more of our president and those who represent us in Congress.”

Beto said that Abbott scapegoats Mexicans as he deals with the Biden border crisis. That was odd since that isn’t something Abbott does. There is also the fact that Greg Abbott is married to his wife Cecilia, a Mexican-American. She is the first Mexican-American first lady in Texas and is held in high regard, certainly with Texas Republican activists. Beto, as we know, is married to a wealthy white woman so he may want to tweak that sort of criticism of Abbott.

Polling for a run against Abbott hasn’t been very good for Beto since he began talking about running. Beto consistently polls lower than Abbott, most recently in a new Dallas Morning News/University of Texas at Tyler poll released Sunday. Abbott is six points ahead of O’Rourke in that poll.

Freshly announced gubernatorial hopeful Beto O’Rourke is running six percentage points behind Gov. Greg Abbott in a direct matchup, and Abbott leads both the Democrat O’Rourke and Hollywood actor Matthew McConaughey in a three-way race for Texas governor, according to a Dallas Morning News-University of Texas at Tyler poll released Sunday.

In a race between Abbott and O’Rourke, the two-term GOP incumbent leads among all registered voters, 45%-39%. A substantial 22% want someone else to be governor, the poll found.

After a dip in favorable polling in recent months, Governor Abbott is rebounding at a time when O’Rourke is counting on portraying Abbott as not up to the job. This isn’t Abbott’s first run for re-election, though, and Texans are familiar with the pros and cons of another term for Greg Abbott. There is no evidence that Abbott will lose his bid for re-election. Matthew McConaughey is the wild card in this race, not Beto. Beto and Abbott are the faces of the two political parties. McConaughey, if he decides to run, which I am not at all convinced he will do, would run as an independent candidate. His whole thing is to talk about unity and not being beholden to party politics. His mother has been active in Republican politics for decades, though, and I don’t see Beto running as a Democrat, even though his ideas about gun control, for example, align more closely with O’Rourke.

The poll was taken between November 9-16, and O’Rourke formally announced on November 15, for clarification. It polled registered voters, which typically leans more Democrat in results. Generally speaking, polls using likely voters are more accurate. The clock is ticking and McConaughey has to make a decision soon.

In the hypothetical three-way general election contest, Abbott is the choice of 37%; McConaughey 27%; and O’Rourke 26%. 10% of voters want someone else. The poll, conducted Nov. 9-16, surveyed 1,106 adults who are registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.

With the race taking shape, McConaughey has just more than three weeks left in the candidate-filing period to jump in, noted UT-Tyler political scientist Mark Owens, the poll’s director.

“It appears that if Matthew McConaughey chooses to enter the race before Dec. 13, he will be more on par with Beto O’Rourke than Governor Abbott,” Owens said. “Even if McConaughey delays a start in public service, both Abbott and O’Rourke have become the face of the two political parties in Texas.”

Aubrey resident and large-equipment salesman George Altevogt, a Maryland native who moved to Texas 4 ½ years ago, said McConaughey “should stick to playing make-believe.”

“O’Rourke is completely anti-2A so he has zero chance,” said Altevogt, a gun rights supporter who was referring to the Second Amendment and O’Rourke’s 2019 comments about assault-style weapons.

Biden isn’t popular in Texas and he has shown little ability to competently run the country. Maybe Beto is worried that Sleepy Joe will come to Texas and tell another whopper of a personal story. Beto has his own troubles answering for his DUI story from back in the day when he runs for office. It’s hard to sell Abbott as incompetent if Beto’s going to bring in Biden with his record.

This race is going to be a battle. Greg Abbott is going to have to run as he hasn’t had to do in the past. Beto is relentless and the media will be on his side, giving him tons of airtime. Beto raised $2M in his first 24 hours in the race. Abbott has a big war chest of his own and is a solid fundraiser himself – he has more than $60M.

“It’s going to be the battle of bank accounts,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at University of Houston.

“It’s hard to know. This is definitely a heavyweight battle, it’s Ali vs. Frazier. It’s going to be pretty seriously contested from both parties but obviously this is a different race than O’Rourke and Cruz was,” said Rottinghaus.

Now we wait for McConaughey to make his decision.