Beto O'Rourke announced his candidacy for president Thursday, following months of speculation after he lost a Senate seat in Texas.
Democrats need Beto, even though he embodies what they 'hate'
By Allie Beth Stuckey
Robert "Beto" O'Rourke should worry Republicans. With less baggage than Joe Biden and Sens. Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren; more name recognition than Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg; greater likability than Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker; and better media support than former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, O'Rourke might just be a force to be reckoned with. Plus, he has gotten a few other unique things going for him.
Like most liberal candidates, he’s appealing to young voters. O'Rourke, 46, won 71 percent of the millennial vote in his unsuccessful Texas Senate campaign last year. But his age and his apparent "relatability" might be able to mobilize even more young people than older, experienced candidates like Biden. Seeing as millennials are soon to be the largest voting bloc, securing their widespread support is key.
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O'Rourke might also be able to gain support from a more unlikely group: white evangelicals, many of whom seem to be increasingly sympathetic toward the leftist position on border policy and refugees. He was a guest on the podcast of Jen Hatmaker, a popular Christian influencer whose audience is largely made up this demographic. The New York Times ran a piece in October on the appeal he has to previously conservative evangelical women. This group, though typically Republican, could help lead Democrats to a 2020 victory.
Lastly, O’Rourke is from Texas. Democrats want Texas. If Democrats are able to flip the state the way they flipped California and Colorado, they can count on dominance for years to come. O'Rourke might have lost the senatorial election to Sen. Ted Cruz, but only narrowly. He could pick up more traction in a presidential race, which could be enough to win the state.
Of course, without these things, O'Rourke is a terrible candidate. He's inexperienced, professionally and politically unaccomplished, and is unable to accurately articulate his policy positions. He embodies everything the left says it hates: white, male, rich privilege.
Even so, for Democrats, the question isn't whether he or any of their candidates embody their values, or even whether or not any of them would make a good president. The only question is: Can the candidate beat President Donald Trump? For O'Rourke, the answer is, probably, yes.
Allie Beth Stuckey is the host of the podcast "Relatable," where she analyzes news, culture and politics. You can follow her on Twitter: @conservmillen.
What others are saying
Julian Zelizer, CNN.com: "As Beto O'Rourke enters the crowded field of Democrats running for president, the party's voters face a key question: Should they opt for the 'safe choice' — the candidate with the most experience, the most moderate positions and the one least likely to ruffle feathers by advocating controversial stances — or opt for someone such as the former congressman from Texas who might be perceived as riskier. ... The best bet is anything but clear-cut. Democrats should not assume one candidate has a better chance than the other because he or she is the most conventional or risk-averse."
Jennifer Rubin, The Washington Post: "The question for O'Rourke, the Democrats and the country is whether he has the discipline and tenacity needed for a long campaign. We don’t yet know if he has enough humility to know what he doesn’t know and learn what he needs to. He thinks he can reinvent presidential campaigning. Maybe he can. Maybe voters don’t so much care about policy proposals and ideological labels. Maybe they simply want to stop feeling angry and anxious."
Nate Silver, Twitter: "(Out-of-state House moderates endorsing O'Rourke is) probably not great for Joe Biden, but there could also be some generational divides. I'd expect Beto to do well among relatively moderate members of Congress in swing/suburban districts first elected in the past couple of cycles. And Biden to do well among the old guard."
What our readers are saying
Interesting move by Beto O'Rourke. I think he is running for the experience and, in essence, is auditioning to be the vice president on the Democratic ticket for 2020. O'Rourke is a rock star with the millennial group and would balance out the ticket if paired with a more experienced candidate. He is young enough to be patient for his turn down the road. Make no mistake, O'Rourke is a powerful weapon. He surprised the world with how well he competed against Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas.
— Martin Lopez
How did running for a bigger office work for O'Rourke in Texas? He couldn't beat Cruz, and O'Rourke had basically free media-induced commercials for the whole of his campaign and tons of support from Hollywood and others. He should've stayed in Congress longer and learned more about things before taking this step. There's too many people running.
— Matthew Brogowski
Bringing this country together means meeting conservatives halfway, in the center. It means bipartisan cooperation and seeking common ground. As an independent centrist who voted third party in the last election, I'm listening to O'Rourke. What is the plan? How is he fundamentally different than the pack?
— Debbie Latimer O'Neill
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Beto O'Rourke embodies everything the left says it hates: Today's talker