Former congressman and failed Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke needs to make a splash at the first Democratic primary debate in Miami this week if he wants to revive his failing presidential campaign.
O'Rourke is floundering at 3.3 percent in the Real Clear Politics polling average, as Democratic primary voters line up behind old favorites (Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders) and flock to intriguing newcomers (Pete Buttigieg and Kamala Harris). The enthusiasm he managed to generate as a Senate candidate running against Ted Cruz in Texas hasn't carried over onto the national stage.
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Even some of Beto's earliest supporters and financial backers are frustrated and beginning to look elsewhere, BuzzFeed News reports:
BuzzFeed News spoke to more than a dozen small-dollar donors. . .who said they gave O’Rourke money on the day he announced his run for president — in what was, for many of them, their first-ever political donation. Back then, they were excited, energized, and hopeful about the campaign.
As O’Rourke has slipped in the polls and out of the national spotlight, most echoed Simental’s feelings of disappointment, frustration, and confusion, even as they still supported O’Rourke's candidacy. And many share a feeling that O’Rourke’s relative absence from national media at the beginning of his campaign is partly at fault for his struggles.
"Oh my God, I think he needs to get out there more," said Cynthia Esparza, an El Paso resident who said that O’Rourke was the first political candidate she had ever given money to. "I love his philosophy of running for Senate. He was going county to county, and that’s great — but you keep doing that on a national level, and people are going to take your spotlight away."
Who was taking O’Rourke’s spotlight? Esparza, who still backs O’Rourke, thought immediately of "Mayor Pete."
Pete Buttigieg hung like a specter over almost all of O’Rourke’s small-dollar donors who spoke to BuzzFeed News. Two said they were now backing Buttigieg altogether, having switched over from O’Rourke, who had been their top choice when he announced. Nearly everyone else brought up Buttigieg, too.
Indeed, the way in which Buttigieg has managed to completely outshine Beto in the Democratic primary has been an amusing sight to behold. Former Congressman Barney Frank (D., Mass.) is probably right that Beto "may be regretting that he's straight," given that Buttigieg's sexuality has largely inoculated him from the onslaught of "white privilege" attacks that have plagued O'Rourke's candidacy from day one.
Frustrated Beto donors are unlikely to be swayed by the crucial endorsement the candidate received this week from Rep. Salud Carbajal (D., Calif.), his former roommate on Capitol Hill. Either way, Beto will simply have to embrace all the positive news he can in this time of political peril.