Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke is having a tough time on the road as he campaigns across the state. He’s finding out that he isn’t a rock star anymore and opponents are ready to let him know. O’Rourke’s campaign tried several venues in Comal County last weekend only to find that the Democrat challenging Republican Governor Greg Abbott was not welcome in any of them.
Comal County is south of Interstate 35 between San Antonio and Austin. Normally, it would be expected that Democrat candidates would not be warmly welcomed, as it is one of the most Republican areas of the state. O’Rourke is campaigning across the state, though, and his claim is that he is reaching out to everyone, regardless of political affiliation. In 2016, Trump won the county by 50 points. In 2020 he won by about 40 points. It’s a very conservative area in a large red state.
Beto is naively targeting rural areas in Texas as places he can find his future voters. Nonetheless, Comal County must not have gotten the memo. Comal County is a reminder to Beto that not all Texans are on board. Beto is courting Independent voters and young voters. His campaign wanted to book a venue for a town hall last weekend and after the fourth rejection, he moved the event to private property.
But this past weekend, in a small community an hour north of San Antonio, the O’Rourke campaign, hoping to hold a town hall, tried and failed to secure the use of four different event venues and was effectively run out of town.
His charm offense is not winning over new voters for his campaign in parts of the state Beto wants to encourage to consider voting for Democrats in November. After the fourth attempt to find a venue, the campaign held the event on private property. The attendees were only given the address after they signed up. This was an attempt to avoid the shenanigans that those who don’t support Beto engaged in to deliver their message to him.
The campaign first announced that O’Rourke would speak at Maven’s Inn & Grill. Some locals threatened to boycott the restaurant if it hosted the event, according to the local news website My Canyon Lake. On Facebook, the restaurant’s patrons made clear their displeasure. “So I heard y’all are hosting Texas’s most famous drunk driver on Saturday,” one wrote, referencing O’Rourke’s 1998 arrest for driving while intoxicated. Maven’s soon canceled the event. Another woman, voicing what clearly was a minority view, objected. “Knuckling under to bullies,” she wrote. “This is how democracy dies and autocrats rise.”
The campaign then announced that it would hold the town hall at Canyon Lake High School. (It’s not uncommon for politicians to rent out school gyms and auditoriums to hold events.) Shortly thereafter, officials with the Comal Independent School District quickly reassured county residents that the event had not been “fully and properly vetted internally,” that the campaign had prematurely announced the town hall, and that the district did not, as a rule, allow rallies to take place on school grounds. Facebook commenters believed they now had Beto on the run. “DON’T BE SURPRISED TJAT BETO WON’T STEAL SOMETHING OUT OF COMAL CTY. OR BIRGLARIZE SOME BUSINESS,” wrote one man, with the tone that’s typical among users of the social network.
The campaign looked for a third venue. It believed it had found one in the Canyon Lake Resource and Recreation Center. But the center, too, backtracked. The head of the nonprofit group that runs it said his team was worried about “safety” at the event and that O’Rourke was polarizing. The campaign then briefly planned to hold an event at the nearby Whitewater Amphitheater, but that offer was rescinded too.
Finally, the campaign gave up plans for the Canyon Lake event and instead held a rally on private property in New Braunfels. Guests could learn the address of the event only when they RSVP’d. On Saturday, O’Rourke appeared on a pastoral Hill Country lot to speak with a few hundred supporters who had hung with him through the turmoil.
By Monday, O’Rourke tested positive for COVID-19. He didn’t have any campaign events planned for this week anyway according to his campaign.
This is Beto’s third attempt to win elected office in recent years. He came surprisingly close in his challenge to Ted Cruz’s re-election in 2018. Big Democrat donors fell in love with him because they hate Cruz and when O’Rourke lost, he was encouraged by everyone from Oprah to Hollywood celebrity activists and far-left advocacy groups to run for president in 2020. He fell for it and ran. Despite slobbering press coverage, his candidacy quickly flamed out.
Beto brought on some culture canceling during the 2020 election cycle when he supported door-to-door gun grabs from law-abiding citizens. Rural Texans in very red counties have neither forgotten that absurd promise nor have they forgiven him. He may want to reach out to everyone but his audiences are always comprised of loyal supporters, he isn’t getting new supporters.
During the question-and-answer period following O’Rourke’s address, a man told the candidate that he “just wanted to apologize to your campaign for the fiasco it took to get you here.” The man said the experience was familiar. “This happens to all of us as Democrats living in this county.” He urged his fellow party members to assert their presence and to say forcefully that “we live here and we have a different point of view than other people do.”
O’Rourke agreed. “There’s real power in what the gentleman just said,” he noted. He added that he had seen the shock on some Texans’ faces at rallies when they saw that so many of their neighbors were Democrats. When the stigma against being one wears down, he said, “that will give people permission to believe.”
Dream on, Beto. The political divisions felt across the country are felt in Texas, too. Republican voters aren’t fooled by a candidate that flips and flops on key issues, depending on which way the wind is blowing. There is no way a gun-grabbing progressive is going to win a gubernatorial race in Texas any time soon.
Tuesday Beto announced that he hired Cecile Richards as the national finance chair for his campaign. She is the former president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the daughter of the late Gov. Ann Richards. Hiring one of the most pro-abortion high-profile figures was not the brightest move on Beto’s part, especially as he pays lip service to reaching out to everyone. He just doesn’t learn.