For the third time since March of this year, former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke is trying to launch a new spin on his presidential campaign. After coming out of the gate with the highest fundraising rate in the field, his candidacy quickly faltered as he failed to connect with voters at small campaign events and eventually became lost in the mix while other candidates spent their time making national television appearances.

Some of the polling for Beto has been gruesome, at one point he received zero percent support in a poll of New Hampshire Democratic primary voters. With two debate appearances under his belt and no bounce in support to follow those performances, something had to change if Beto is going to continue seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination.

Then, on August 3, an unspeakable tragedy happened in Beto’s hometown of El Paso, Texas. A gunman entered a Walmart and opened fire killing 22 people and injuring countless others. From the moment the events unfolded, Beto suspended his campaign and returned to his hometown as a show of solidarity with his community.

In making numerous television appearances and speaking to national media from El Paso, Beto found a new sense of direction for a campaign, and the plan was formed to relaunch his candidacy and try a different strategy, as ABC News reports:

Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke gave a speech in El Paso, Texas Thursday, looking to revive his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, in the wake of a mass shooting in the city that resulted in the deaths of 22 people.

“We must take the fight directly to the source of this problem,” O’Rourke said, naming President Donald Trump. “I want to be the leader for this country that we need right now and we do not have … I want to be the kind of leader for this country that El Paso has raised me and taught me to be.”

O’Rourke said that during the rest of his campaign, you’ll find him in “places that Donald Trump has been terrorizing and demeaning” — here meaning immigrant communities.

It’s a more unconventional campaign approach to focus less on early primary states, like Iowa and New Hampshire, and more on areas with large immigrant populations. But O’Rourke said he wanted to be there for them, explaining, “Anyone that this president puts down, we’re going to do our best to lift up.”

It’s easy to empathize with this kind of slaughter taking place in Beto’s hometown, but will this new direction really help to carry him to the 2020 Democratic nomination? The idea of throwing off the conventional campaigning in early states such as Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, is nothing new, and it’s been tried before, usually to failure on the part candidates who ignore the early states.

Beto has already qualified for the September and October Democratic debates, so he’s at least locked in for wide exposure to bring his campaign relaunch theme to a national audience.

What about running for Senator in Texas against Republican John Cornyn? Beto says, in his opinion, that job is now beneath him, and he owes it to his hometown of El Paso to press forward:

Beto O’Rourke has to keep finding new ways to tell people he isn’t running for Senate.

On Thursday night it was MSNBC and The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.

“You know the question’s going to keep coming up,” O’Donnell told the former Texas congressman, “this question of what about dropping out of this presidential race and taking up the race for the Senate.”

O’Rourke has never expressed any interest in running for Senate this year, after his near-miss loss to Ted Cruz in 2018. And it was only hours earlier, in a speech in his home town of El Paso, Texas, that O’Rourke rejected the suggestion, saying, “That would not be good enough for this community. That would not be good enough for El Paso. That would not be good enough for this country.”

Beto is trying his hardest to build some kind of coalition of Democratic voters to start moving his poll numbers which have been terrible for several months now. In some ways, the defiance is understandable, he doesn’t want to run yet another Senate race after having come so close last year to beating Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. Cornyn would be a different kind of battle, and Beto still has plenty of time to continue a presidential campaign before deciding to return to his home state for another senate run, if he eventually decides to switch gears despite what he’s saying now.

As noted above, he’s guaranteed at least two more Democratic debates, so there really isn’t any reason to drop his campaign based on low poll numbers. It’s well worth sticking around for the next few months to see if he can present himself as a better, more youthful alternative to the Bernie/Biden/Warren trio. His biggest rival, and perhaps the candidate with whom he shares the most voters, is probably Pete Buttigieg, Mayor of South Bend, Ind. Buttigieg is also young and looking to offer himself as a “fresh” option for the party, but he’s been able to do it in a way which has usurped Beto’s momentum.

The bottom line is that whenever candidates have to spend time figuring out how to relaunch their campaign after months of campaigning, it’s rarely ever good news moving forward. Perhaps the one exception is then-Senator Barack Obama, who retooled his campaign to better fight against Hillary Clinton in 2008. Obama figured out the right messaging and won the nomination, but his appeal is much different than Beto’s.

Beto’s newfound focus on President Trump is also somewhat perplexing since Trump has always been and continues to be the defined opponent of all the Democratic contenders. Trump is, after all, the incumbent in the White House, and Beto’s new relaunch vowing to “focus on the source” of the county’s problems sounds like reiterating every reason he already gave for launching campaign back in March.

Time will tell if Beto’s new campaign strategy will bear fruit, but he’s got the cash on hand and the national exposure of two debates coming up to keep him moving and give him another chance to connect with Democratic primary and caucus voters.

22 COMMENTS

  1. I listened to Beto’s speech. Beto said he’d rather be in El Paso than Iowa. He said in Iowa they have Corn and a carnival.

    Great job Beto. I’m sure you and your 27 followers will be loved in Iowa. No wonder his presidential candidacy is failing.

    • I’m not a Beto fan, but I’m sure his point was that Iowa is a safe and fun place, where he might go for personal gain; but he felt he should remain in his own district, which is still suffering the results of the mass murder.

      • You could be right but I doubt it. Why? Beto is politically ignorant. He’s a con man and his numbers show it.

        Poor Beto my foot. People know he’s disingenuous.

        The sad part is he laughs all the way to the bank.

  2. The mass shooting that happened in El Paso was evil and horrible. Nobody in their right mind would do that. But to blame President Trump for the hatred of the lunatic shooter is false. After all the Dayton shooter was as left wing as they come and an Elizabeth Warren supporter, would it be right to blame Elizabeth Warren for his rampage??

    Your retooling of your campaign by visiting all the places President Trump isn’t going to visit ie Immigrant communities is at best stupid. By doing so you are telling American born and Naturalized citizens that they aren’t worthy of your time. Good luck with that approach.?

    • The Dayton shooter didn’t write a manifesto in which he specifically explained that his reason for committing the attack was Warren’s talking points about for example medicare. The El Paso shooter did make it clear that he shot these people because he honestly believed that the things that Trump and his supporters are saying about immigrants and Mexicans. The El Paso terrorist’s words are indistinguishable from those of for example Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham. Take a look in the mirror. You are responsible for this terrorist attack on American soil. Are you proud?

      • At the risk of wading into a hornet’s nest, it’s worth pointing out that the El Paso shooter mentioned right-wing and left-wing politics in his manifesto. His “solution” to climate change involved genocide of Mexicans which is akin the the most extreme examples of limiting population growth to help the environment.

        https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2019/08/the-el-paso-manifesto-where-racism-and-eco-facism-meet/

        https://www.thenation.com/article/el-paso-mass-shooting-fascism/

        • People miss the point if they try to analyze a shooter’s political leanings. The real problem is the rhetoric, and support for conspiracy theories, that current politicians use that then seem to justify a violent act in the mind of those who are vulnerable to hate-speech.

          • Correct. This sort of scapegoating, conspiratorial thinking, fear mongering, and violent rhetoric simply doesn’t exist on the left on any significant level. Republicans trying to pin the Dayton shooter on Warren is painfully stupid, since nothing Warren has ever said can be logically linked to shooting random people. But then, logical thinking isn’t a conservative virtue.

            The Trump administration is still supportive of the Twitter trolls, calling themselves journalists (Posobiec, Cernovich, Wohl, etc), who pushed the Pizzagate conspiracy theory which culminated in a Trump supporter committing a terrorist attack. This is not a bug, but a feature. Inspiring large scale domestic terrorism is part of the mainstream Republican platform.

      • You can disagree with my post and state your own opinions. You however cross the line when you attack me on a personal basis. This isn’t the first or second time you have attacked me personally but the third time. Stick to the topic being posted and avoid personal attacks. If they continue it shows that you are incapable of restraining your juvenile behavior.?

        I suppose the moderator weighing in on my complaint would help.

          • I am having a difficult time understanding if it is your comment that is stupid or it is you. I would expect your one line diatribes from a petulant child but not from an adult. Of course I may be wrong and you never outgrew that petulant child.?

        • You’re a boomer who has grown so toxic that not even your family wants anything to do with you anymore. You spend every holiday alone. This is the life you have chosen.

        • I agree with Straight Shooter, who has toned down his venom considerably.

          It’s understandable for a person to be upset if he or she is afraid that he or she doesn’t have the power or intellect to argue a point. Anger is a sign of weakness, not strength. It’s a sign of fear that he or she can’t defend what they believe.

          It would be nice if we could state our belief, view, or opinion, and accept that the other side genuinely believes the opposite.

          But, yes, I agree that Straight Shooter has been the victim of a greater degree of irrational attack lately.

  3. As has been noted here, Beto has not been drawing big crowds. His new approach–going where mass murders have occurred–could bring crowds of people who want to promote background checks, etc. And, while that is a crass reading, it could make Beto appear to be a champion of gun victims. And that might impress people in the early primary states.

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