CNN host Poppy Harlow and MSNBC correspondent Garrett Haake noted the lack of detail Beto O'Rourke provided while responding to questions at an Iowa campaign event on Thursday.
The former Texas congressman, who formally announced earlier in the morning he was running for president, delivered a speech at a coffee shop in Keokuk, Iowa. After giving his stump speech, he took about half a dozen question on multiple issues, including teacher pay and climate change.
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"I didn't hear direct answers," Harlow said. "When the first question was about ‘what you do with my kid whose prescription costs $444 a month even after insurance,' I didn't hear, ‘Well, here's how I'd deal with the big Pharma companies' or, ‘Here's what I do on allowing the government Medicare to negotiate with them.' I actually didn't hear an answer on UBI, on universal basic income. What that is, is that means regardless of income or your resources or your employment status, that every American would get a certain sum of money to get by each year. I didn't hear direct answers. Is that going to matter to voters?"
Jess McIntosh, the former director of communications outreach for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign, said she will excuse O'Rourke for not providing specifics on his first day of the campaign, but she added he will soon have to be more specific.
"Iowa voters don't actually appreciate if they ask a specific question and you instead answer in the spirit of it for very long. So I think pretty quickly he's going to have to come to specifics on things like that, especially since the rest of the field has been so policy-heavy," McIntosh said. "Sometimes the conversations that happen in D.C. are just completely different than the conversations that are happening in America. Every single one of those questions was a ‘How does this policy affect me and my family and my life?' kind of bread and butter question."
MSNBC correspondent Garrett Haake was also critical of the candidate, telling host Hallie Jackson, "He didn't get into specifics, right? This is one of the criticism of O'Rourke."
O'Rourke is expected to run a grassroots campaign in the coming months that "looks a lot like what we just saw in this coffee shop here," Haake said.
The Texas Democrat will be "dropping in, shaking hands, taking advantage of the fact that he does not have a day job right now and can spend a lot of time on the ground here talking about issues and taking questions," he said.
Haake said the event showed "both what people like about Beto O'Rourke and what they don't": his inspirational messaging hindered by his lack of "specifics."
"He spoke to these broad and inspiring themes, about the importance of combatting climate change, about the importance of improving the dignity of work for people, but he didn't get into specifics," he said.