Beto O’Rourke is the Dem’s best chance for 2020


Photo Courtesy crockodile/ Wikimedia Commons

Rep. Beto O'Rourke represented Texas's District 16 for six years, and challenged Sen. Ted Cruz for his seat in 2018. Now, he is running for President of the United States and is vying for the nomination of the Democratic Party.

Beto O’Rourke is (finally!) running for President.

While his fellow Democratic hopefuls announced bid after bid, the Texas congressman who gained national fame for a Senate campaign that managed to come within a few hundred thousand votes of a historic upset took his time. Democrats like California Senator Kamala Harris and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders jumped off to start their 2020 campaigns, but O’Rourke, whether to build suspense or simply to ponder his decision, waited patiently for his turn.

In the first 24 hours after kicking off his campaign on March 14, O’Rourke had raised over $6 million through donations, the most of any of his fellow Democrats in that time. In fact, his fundraising ability was one of the many things that made his Senate bid so important – O’Rourke managed to raise $80 million from individual donations alone. It could be a key advantage that sets him apart from the rest of the pack.

But perhaps most intriguing about Beto is that among favorites like Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, Sanders, Harris and Vice President Joe Biden, O’Rourke has the least to offer in terms of face value. Warren and Sanders have made a name for themselves as progressives who are, somewhat ironically, the faces of the new young socialist wing of the party given their age. Harris is a senator from the nation’s largest state and would be the first ever African American female nominee, and Biden is a household name. O’Rourke’s claim to fame is a failed senate bid. Not exactly the best resume for a presidential candidate.

But, if there is one thing America should have learned from the 2016 election, it’s that the rules of politics have changed. O’Rourke, while travelling to every single one of Texas’s counties in 2018 and raising millions of dollars, managed to make himself not just a national celebrity but a real consideration for the Democratic ticket. His campaign skills and charisma, two things that ultimately led to President Barack Obama’s success in the 2008 primaries, are invaluable assets to have.

Furthermore, Democrats have failed in this century when they’ve settled on the “safe” candidate. Vice President Al Gore, former Secretary of State John Kerry and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were all seasoned vets in the party, each facing an opponent that was vastly underestimated. Gore failed in 2000 even after President Bill Clinton ended his second term on record high approval ratings. Kerry couldn’t manage to defeat President George W. Bush in ‘04 despite the incumbent’s poor management of the Iraq War and the great public sentiment against it, and Clinton bottled a 2016 election that was predicted to be a landslide in her favor. Each of these candidates were safe nominations, and each fell short to an opponent they were supposed to beat.

There are some striking similarities between those elections and this upcoming one. President Donald Trump’s approval rating, at best, hovers around 40 percent, with over half of the country disapproving. It should be an easy victory for any Democratic challenger. But Trump is anything but easy to beat. He will exploit any potential weakness that a Democratic nominee carries with them.

And Democrats’ failures in ‘00, ‘08 and ‘16 each had crippling weaknesses that led to defeat. Gore was smart and composed, but lacked the personality and “common man” appeal of Bush. Kerry was a well-respected member of the party, but his “Swift Boat” controversy hurt him. Clinton had slip-ups in her past that Trump was able to exploit, and she was nearly devoid of charisma.

With that in mind, the best choice for Democrats would be someone who is young, charismatic and a strong campaigner. It should be someone who can draw votes from all sides of the party, not just one sect. Their nominee must be a candidate who does not carry a significant amount of dirt with them. Every candidate in the field has at least one of these weaknesses, except for one.

In 2008, the best choice was Barack Obama. In 2020, it may well be Beto O’Rourke.