Don’t bet on a Beto comeback – Washington Examiner
Now that Beto O’Rourke’s star has faded in the 2020 Democratic nomination contest, I wouldn’t bet on a comeback. In fact, I would be more surprised if the former congressman won a single state than if he dropped out of the race before Iowa.
The problem for O’Rourke is not just that he’s polling in the low single-digits per se. After all, there are a number of candidates bunched up in the single digits. If front-runner Joe Biden falters at some point, it will be a whole new race, and a number of the other candidates will have an opening to break through. I just don’t think that O’Rourke will be one of them.
The difficulty for O’Rourke is that his fundamentals are so weak. He holds no office, lost his most recent race, and he has nothing unique to offer. Ideologically, Biden has monopolized the center-left of the primary field, and the left flank is crowded by candidates who have a much stronger claim to make to those voters. There also aren’t any early primary states that are a natural fit for him.
The only thing that O’Rourke had going for him was the odd media love affair and the perception that he was young and exciting. But media turned on him shortly after he announced his run for office, and his glow seems to have faded among the general public. That’s a really big problem.
In many ways, O’Rourke is turning out to be the kind of candidate that skeptics thought Barack Obama was going to be back in 2008. That is, a young rising star who generates a lot of enthusiasm and then turns out to be a passing fad. As I wrote last December when buzz was growing for an O’Rourke 2020 campaign, the Obama comparisons were unwarranted given that Obama’s candidacy had a lot more going for it, even back in 2007.
When Obama entered the race in 2008, he generated adoring coverage from the media and excitement among a strong portion of the party that never faded. He had a sharp contrast to draw not only as the prospective first African American president, but also as the only major candidate who opposed the Iraq War before it was launched. Furthermore, Obama never experienced a similar polling crash to what O’Rourke is going through. Obama’s polling was steady throughout 2007, even during the many months he trailed Hillary Clinton, at about the 20s nationally. His support provided him a solid base from which to surge in Iowa in the fall of 2007 and then eventually take over the national lead the following February as he racked up primary wins.
Somebody like O’Rourke, who is running with a lack of accomplishments, has to be able to sustain and build the sense of excitement and enthusiasm. It’s one thing to stagnate in polls for awhile, and then shine at just the right moment, as Obama did. It’s another thing to have your time in the spotlight, have people lose interest and move on to other candidates, and then try to recapture the excitement. It’s especially hard to do with over 20 other candidates running.