We just did a story on Beto O’Rourke running for president. But since he has raised such excitement, it would be good to tell more of the story. As Nate wrote, Beto lacks political experience. He has less than even Barack Obama, though more than Donald Trump. With the hostility toward “Washington,” maybe that’s a good thing. Hillary Clinton was tagged with the “establishment” label because she was thought to have too much experience.
Still, Nate quoted from FiveThirtyEight, which said only Abraham Lincoln and James Garfield rose to the presidency from the House. What was he thinking??
But that claim deserves scrutiny. While it’s true that Lincoln held a seat in the US House—for one term—he held no office when he ran for president. He helped create the Republican Party out of the rubble of the Whig Party, in 1954, and as the leader of the party, it was reasonable to run him for the top office in the land. In that same year, Lincoln was elected to the Illinois Legislature—but refused to serve. He ran for US Senate instead—and lost. It’s probably more accurate to say Lincoln ran for President from his role as head of the Republican Party.
It could also be argued that FiveThirtyEight was wrong about Garfield, too. He was actually US Senator-elect immediately prior to his run for President.
If you accept that, NO US Representative has ever risen directly to the Presidency.
Wikipedia lists the backgrounds of Presidents, including the following:
–18 had served as U.S. Representatives
–17 had served as Governor
–16 had served as U.S. Senator
–14 had served as Vice President
The same article notes that Vice President is an excellent stepping stone, noting that 13 Vice Presidents rose immediately to President. That being the case, Nate may be right that the relatively inexperienced Beto may be putting himself in position to run for Vice President. And, of course, if the ticket were to lose, Beto would be in a position to be the heir apparent in 2024.
But that’s a gamble. If Beto loses his bid for President, and doesn’t make it to the Vice Presidential slot, he would still be, well, unemployed. He dropped his House seat to run for the Senate last year. And after two losing bids in two consecutive attempts, Senate and President, he may be labeled a “loser.”
That being the case, many thought Beto would challenge Texas’ senior Senator John Cornyn in 2020. In fact, Chuck Schumer, who is looking for any way to get 51 Senators in the Senate, met with Beto, according to NewsMax.
After all, Beto came within three percent of unseating Ted Cruz last year. If he won, Beto would then be a “winner,” with the upset of an established Republican in the still very Red Texas. But paraphrasing Texas’ last elected (1971) Democratic Senator, Lloyd Bentsen, “John Cornyn is no Ted Cruz.”
Ted Cruz has a grating personality, who has the ability to unite people—against him.
Here are quotes of famous Republicans:
George W. Bush: “I just don’t like the guy.”
Bob Dole: “I don’t know how he’s going to deal with Congress. Nobody likes him.”
John Boehner: “I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.”. . .
“Ted Cruz Is ‘Lucifer in the Flesh,’
Lindsey Graham: “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.”
Peter King: “I hate Ted Cruz, and I think I’ll take cyanide if he ever got the nomination.”
Donald Trump: “He’s a nasty guy. Nobody likes him. Nobody in Congress likes him. Nobody likes him anywhere once they get to know him.”
Marco Rubio: “Ted has had a tough week because what’s happening now is people are learning more about him.”
Rand Paul: “He is pretty much done for and stifled, and it’s really because of personal relationships, or lack of personal relationships, and it is a problem.”
Chris Christie: “For him to somehow be implying that certain values are more appropriate, more American, depending upon what region of the country you’re from, is to me just asinine.”
Carly Fiorina (aka, Cruz’s hypothetical running mate): “Ted Cruz is just like any other politician. … He says whatever he needs to say to get elected, and then he’s going to do as he pleases.”
Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer: “Everybody who knows him in the Senate hates him. And I think hate is not an exaggeration.”
Conservative columnist Ann Coulter: “Cruz is a sleazy, Rovian liar.”
By contrast, Cornyn is well known nationally, and won in a landslide last time out. He’s held his seat since 2002, and Ballotpedia notes that in his last election, he won with 61.6% of the vote in 2014. In 2008, he won with 54.8%. Notice that his numbers have been rising.
He’s also respected. “The Center for Effective Lawmaking named Sen. Cornyn one of the top five most effective Republican Senators in the 115th Congress.”
And the Texas Tribune reports that Cornyn already has six million dollars in his war chest for next year.
On the other hand, The Hill says Cornyn’s popularity is waning. A recent poll shows his approval rating at 43%. However, this is Red Texas. While Texas Republicans may think Cornyn is too “establishment,” would they really vote for a Democrat, instead?
If Beto lost to Cornyn two years after losing to Cruz, the “loser” label would be super glued to him. Schumer just wants a Democrat in that seat, and Schumer loses nothing if Beto loses.
There’s no real downside to running for the Presidential nomination. Everybody’s doing it. And since there are so many candidates, it’s not so bad for someone else to get the golden ticket.
This writer’s “dream ticket” on the Democratic side would have been Sherrod Brown (the “working class hero”) and Beto O’Rourke (the latter-day Bobby Kennedy). As noted above, whether they won or lost, Beto would be the front-runner in 2024. Maybe that’s one reason Brown bowed out. As we noted elsewhere, no presidential candidate has ever lost in his first attempt and come back in the next cycle and won (under the same party label). Maybe that was Brown’s concern.
However, the common wisdom is that the fact that Brown got out of the race, after going on an extensive “dignity of work” tour means that Joe Biden will soon be in the race. And that would be the ideal circumstance for Beto to balance the ticket:
• Biden is from the Northeast (Pennsylvania), Beto is from the Southwest (Texas).
• Biden is an establishment choice, Beto has solid progressive bona fides.
• Biden is, well, old; while Beto is young.
• Biden is liked in the “Rustbelt,” while Beto is liked on the Coasts.
• Biden’s style is “good old boy,” while Beto is seen as cutting edge and sharp.
The downside of the ticket is that women (58% of Dem electorate) would like to have a woman on the ticket. Also, Biden has a skeleton in the closet: he sat idly by while the GOP savaged Anita Hill, to get ultra-conservative Clarence Thomas onto the Supreme Court. Those old wounds were opened by the recent GOP treatment of Christine Blasey Ford, to get ultra-conservative Brett Kavanaugh onto the Court, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Trump currently has no serious challenger, so this is beginning to look like a rerun of 2016—with the “crowned” candidate on one side, and total chaos on the other. But one should remember that the chaos put all the public attention on that side, and someone rose out of that chaos to win the White House.