Beto O'Rourke launched his presidential campaign with all the grace and apparent preparation of a college student who stayed up all night before a big exam getting drunk at a Guided By Voices cover band concert.
Beto's big pre-announcement tease, a friendly cover story in Vanity Fair, included a number of irritating quotes — "I'm just born to be in it," for example. He has already disavowed and clarified the comment, which many saw as an overtly "privileged" justification for his candidacy. (More on that later.)
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From Wisconsin—-> Beto O'Rourke on his "just born to be in it" quote on VF cover: "I was like, ‘Man, I hope I didn’t say that.’ … I think the context of that which makes sense is the way that I feel is that I’m born to serve, I’m born to try to help bring people together." pic.twitter.com/r8eEOlLsuH
— Vaughn Hillyard (@VaughnHillyard) March 17, 2019
Beto's announcement video got a lot of attention, but probably not for the reasons he intended — a flailing three-minute stump speech delivered from his living room couch, seated next to his wife, who didn't say a word and struggled to come across as anything besides a terrified hostage. The New York Times took note:
NYT: In Beto O’Rourke’s Announcement, His Wife’s Silence Stands Out https://t.co/soyfU1RA3d
— Rebecca Buck (@RebeccaBuck) March 15, 2019
Beto's announcement didn't garner as much attention as other prominent Democratic candidates, even after he received a boost from President Donald Trump, who made fun of his "crazy" hand gestures.
over the 24 hours since O'Rourke's launch, he was searched less, according to Google Trends, than Sanders, Biden, Warren and Harris.
Showing how much Trump can still drive people's minds, the most common search terms about O'Rourke were hand movements and hand gestures pic.twitter.com/LA3uXGViOe
— Edward-Isaac Dovere (@IsaacDovere) March 15, 2019
What about fundraising? Beto, who raised almost $80 million during his failed Senate campaign against Ted Cruz, urged supporters in a campaign announcement email to open their wallets because "What we raise in the first 24 hours will set the tone in the national conversation about the viability of our campaign. Several days later, the campaign still hadn't released those crucial figures, and Beto is struggling to explain why. On Monday morning, the campaign announced it raised more than Bernie had in its first 24 hours, which is pretty, pretty good.
in Washington, Iowa, @BetoORourke is asked again on whether he will be releasing his fundraising numbers for what's come in since he launched.
"I can't," he said.
You could, I pointed out.
"You're right – I choose not to," he said.
— Edward-Isaac Dovere (@IsaacDovere) March 15, 2019
Doesn't exactly inspire a lot of confidence — nor does the fact that Beto's campaign thus far consists almost entirely of vague bromides, usually an appeal to "have a conversation." No bold proposals to imprison billionaires a la Elizabeth Warren. His few actual policy positions appear to have been plagiarized — lifted directly from other candidates.
The good news: Beto is floating some policy ideas
The bad news: They appear to be other people’s policy ideas https://t.co/s4I014G9ZT
— Allahpundit (@allahpundit) March 15, 2019
Beto spent the weekend campaigning in Iowa and Wisconsin, where he addressed a crowd in front of a giant poster of the Soviet Union.
Great advance work putting him right in front of the Soviet Union. https://t.co/aRMwCWoFWN
— Phil Kerpen (@kerpen) March 17, 2019
The candidate continued to regale voters with stories about his "Republican" mom, who has been voting in Democratic primaries for almost two decades, and while attempting to weigh in on the gun control debate, managed to aggravate just about everyone on both sides of the issue.
it takes a special man to alienate both sides of the gun debate in two sentences. https://t.co/rRUCMUJXx6
— Just Karl (@justkarl) March 17, 2019
Beto is also trying to split the difference on healthcare. He opposed Obamacare when he first ran for Congress, but supported a single-payer, Medicare-for-all program during his Senate race against Ted Cruz. Now he's "no longer sure" about that. Same goes for his stance on impeachment.
O'Rourke said when he was first running for Congress that he was against Obamacare. He said during his Senate campaign he backs for a Medicare for All-type program of single payer health insurance.
He was asked yesterday in Iowa if he still supports single payer: pic.twitter.com/C8EHO75D74
— Edward-Isaac Dovere (@IsaacDovere) March 16, 2019
Since announcing his campaign, Beto has had to apologize for joking about being an absentee dad, among other "ham-handed" quips at his wife's expense, and was forced to acknowledge "the truth of the criticism that I have enjoyed white privilege." Oh, and he also had to apologize for writing a fictional piece about running over a group of children with his car.
The "privilege" angle in particular is gaining some steam, and has already produced some unsavory headlines for the Democratic darling of the 2018 election cycle.
"We’re only a day into the Beto candidacy … so far, the rollout of his campaign seems to be little more than an exercise in vanity that would’ve gotten a female candidate laughed out of the news cycle" – @danielleiat_ https://t.co/5lfZ39faNx
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) March 16, 2019
Beto's rivals in the diverse field of candidates are taking notes, especially the ones you already forgot were running.
Julian Castro in Vegas tonight, on being referred to as "the other Texan" in the race: "I'm the one from the other side of the tracks. I'm the one that didn't grow up as a front runner." https://t.co/IlcQQgCqQd
— Michelle L. Price (@michellelprice) March 16, 2019
Don't worry, though, Beto still has his champions within the party. Just ask fellow former congressman and failed candidate Joe Crowley, the long-serving member of the House Democratic leadership team who was ousted by political megastar Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. At least he's got Beto's back in the war against
Donald Trump Bernie Sanders.
— Andrea Mitchell (@mitchellreports) March 15, 2019
Beto might be off to a rocky start, but the Democratic primary is going to be one hell of a show. Enjoy!