CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said Saturday evening that his tepid support in polls from the Iowa electorate will not alter his strategy in the state.
“There is a lot of time before the Iowa caucuses. We've never been guided by a poll before, “ O’Rourke told Yahoo News at the opening of his Cedar Rapids field office. “If you were to look at the Texas Senate race, the first couple of months after we were in, no poll was going to say that we were going to win. When I first ran for Congress in 2012, against an incumbent and against some very long odds no poll at any point said that we were going to win. And yet yet we did. And if I am lucky enough to to be the nominee and then to become the president of the United States, no poll will guide the decisions that I make.”
According to a new Des Moines Register/CNN poll, the El Paso native is currently polling at just 2 percent, well behind former Vice President Joe Biden (24 percent), Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (16 percent), Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren (15 percent), South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (14 percent) and California Senator Kamala Harris (7 percent). In fact, O’Rourke’s support has fallen in Iowa since March, when a CNN/Des Moines Register poll found the former Congressman with 5 percent support in the state.
Many Democrats in Texas would like to see O’Rourke run for the U.S. Senate in his home state against Republican Senator John Cornyn in 2020. A Quinnipiac poll released last week found that 60 percent of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters would rather see O’Rourke take on Cornyn rather than continue his presidential bid.
Some supporters at the Linn County event expressed similar hesitation.
“I have very mixed feelings about whether he should run for president versus running for Senate,” admitted Richard, a 57-year-old Cedar Rapids resident. “I think we’ve got a dozen candidates who could beat Donald Trump and do a fantastic job as president. But I think there’s maybe only one person who could win a Texas Senate race.”
Businessman Dennis Naughton, 73, concurred.
“Beto has gained a lot of respect from voters in a conservative part of the country. He should use that strength there,” Naughton said.
O’Rourke, however, maintains that he’s going to continue the ground game he’s been running for the past few months.
“I’m going to continue to meet with people to show up to listen, to learn to include as many people as I can, not just into our campaign, but into our democracy at this defining moment of truth for the country,” O’Rourke said.
Despite his sliding standing in polls, many voters and potential volunteers who spoke to Yahoo News expressed admiration for O’Rourke’s candor, believing his calls for party unity, no matter who ultimately clinches the nomination, is needed during an increasingly fractured political landscape. Some Beto skeptics, including mother-son duo Tina and Corbin Gallagher, said authenticity is what would push them to commit to a candidate in the bloated field of Democratic presidential hopefuls. On that score, Tina Gallagher said, O’Rourke has impressed her.
“I’m very impressed.” Gallagher, a former precinct captain for Barack Obama in 2008, told Yahoo News. “The message of being kind to one another, because nobody is anymore — that sticks with you.”
“He definitely brings a humanity back to politics in America in a way I find very interesting,” said Corbin Gallagher, who has not yet pledged support for a candidate.
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