Whither Beto?

Beto is fading.

When you are months away from primary season, and you have to start talking about “reintroductions” that is likely a sign that your campaign for the Democratic nomination may not make it to the actual primaries.

Via the AP: Beto O’Rourke plans ‘reintroduction’ as 2020 buzz fizzles.

since his mid-March campaign launch, the buzz surrounding the former congressman has evaporated. Competing in a massive field of Democratic White House hopefuls, O’Rourke has sagged in the polls. He’s made few promises that resonated or produced headline-grabbing moments, instead driving around the country meeting with voters at mostly small events.

In a tacit recognition that this approach isn’t working, O’Rourke is planning to try again, taking a hands-on role in staging a “reintroduction” ahead of next month’s premier Democratic presidential debate.

I suppose that a reintroduction could work, but asides from being young and being able to claim that he might could be competitive in Texas (and I have serious doubts about that, btw), I am not really sure what he offers. And it seems that whatever attention he was getting for being young and new is going to Buttigieg at the moment.

Also, via CNN: Beto O’Rourke is polling worse than ever

A new Monmouth University poll of likely 2020 New Hampshire Democratic primary voters has former vice president Joe Biden leading the pack with 36% and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in second place with 18%. Former Texas US representative Beto O’Rourke was tied for sixth place with 2%.

When O’Rourke jumped into the race in mid-March, he had a boost of momentum. O’Rourke got a high number of Google searches (indicating interest in his candidacy). He raised about $6 million in his first 24 hours. Finally, he hit double-digits in a number of national polls, including CNN’s and Quinnipiac University’s.

Since that point, however, O’Rourke’s support has declined considerably. He’s running sixth in Google searches over the last 30 days behind Biden, Sanders, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, California Sen. Kamala Harris and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. His fundraising has slowed, reports say. Indeed, his fundraising may not have been as strong as initially thought. Some of the money he raised on day one could only be used for the general election. His average daily fundraising haul was considerably less than Sanders in the March days following day one of his campaign.


it’s not just that O’Rourke has seen his numbers decline nationally — it’s that his polls look even worse in the early caucus and primary states. I could not find a single poll in Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina conducted after Biden entered in which O’Rourke polled above 3%. 

At some point the Democratic field is going to have to be winnowed, and right now, at least, it doesn’t look good for Beto.

I still think that perhaps winning a statewide race would be the better career move if he wants to compete for the presidency.

FILED UNDER: 2020 Election, The Presidency, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. It’s hard to say someone is fading when they never really took off to begin with.

  2. @Doug Mataconis: Not unfair. But he is fading even relative to where he was.

  3. wr says:

    This is not a bad thing. It’s time to start the winnowing. And Beto, as appealing as he was on first appearance, was never able to follow through with the substance to back it up. Now Mayor Pete has taken his slot… and we’ll wait to see if he can do what Beto couldn’t.

    There’s a big difference between having a hit single and sustaining a musical career over the long term…

  4. Gustopher says:

    I think the first debates are going to rejigger the field, and that everything going on right now outside of the big two is as much testing different styles of campaigning as the candidates themselves.

    Changing things up — I would desperately avoid the word re-introducing, if I wanted to avoid terms reeking of loser-stink — is better than staying the course with what isn’t working, and there is plenty of time.

    That said, it’s not looking good for prospects of First Turtle Gus, but at least he wasn’t eaten by the O’Rourke family dog.

  5. Gustopher says:

    Meanwhile, Cory Booker would probably love an article somewhere that mentions his name, even to just wonder what ever happened to him… maybe an entry in a “where are they now?” about former Newark mayors.

    I’m really surprised by how little traction Booker has gotten.

  6. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: Black guy running for President? Already been there; need something newer.

  7. michael reynolds says:

    I’m starting to wonder whether the winnowing is happening much more quickly than I expected. Biden, Bernie, Harris, Warren and Buttigieg are the show, right now, with Biden way out in front.

    Klobuchar, Booker, Beto, Gillibrand and a host of others aren’t getting anywhere. Unless Biden hobbles himself (always a distinct possibility) or the black vote abandons him, it’s looking like Biden and a Veep – probably Kamala Harris, possibly Stacey Abrams.

    It’s all speculation until we get to the debates, but Biden outperforms everyone by miles against Trump. I’m not happy about it, but there it is. For now.

  8. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: If I may indulge in a cliche, everyone’s got a plan until they get hit in the face.

    Biden is loved by everyone right now — but he hasn’t actually started seriously campaigning yet. He hasn’t faced the big stage where he can pull off one of his trademark oopsies and remind us all about the Joe Biden who used to run for president, not the one who served as vice.

    Of course it’s always possible that he’s finally outgrown all that stuff and will sail to the White House. But right now I think it’s Memory Joe who’s ahead in the polls, not Actual Joe.

  9. Sleeping Dog says:

    The problem with Beto, to borrow from Gertrude Stein is that there is no there, there.

    The sooner he’s gone the better along with about a dozen more.

  10. Kylopod says:

    I think it’s Pete who did him in, at least in the short run–quickly taking over the “young charismatic guy who never held statewide office” niche that Beto thought he had all to himself.

  11. Gromit Gunn says:

    @Kylopod: Indeed. And Mayor Pete comes off (to me, at least) as more authentically himself than Beto.

    There’s a mini-trend in Texas politics of white Dem politicians adding traditionally Spanish naming to the ballots (my old state rep is San Antonio was a white dude who went by Trey Martinez Fisher). The “Beto” thing has always felt like that to me.

  12. Jax says:

    Lack of a real platform, I suspect. It’s hard to differentiate in a field this big, though, with so many common goals. The hippie, driving around look is not doing him any favors.

    I mean, I like hippies. The next President will take over after Donald Effing Trump and his wrecking ball. I’m not sure Beto has it right now, in 2019.

  13. Guarneri says:

    Spouting vapid comments from a skateboard in your red ball jets doesn’t quite cut it, eh? Sure had the Hollywood “creatives” in a trance though.

  14. michael reynolds says:

    “Grab ’em by the pussy.” You president’s most enduring remark. They’ll engrave that on his tombstone in the yard at Leavenworth. But also:

    ‘I had some beautiful pictures taken in which I had a big smile on my face. I looked happy, I looked content, I looked like a very nice person, which in theory I am.’

    ‘I’m intelligent. Some people would say I’m very, very, very intelligent.”

    ‘I think Viagra is wonderful if you need it, if you have medical issues, if you’ve had surgery. I’ve just never needed it. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind if there were an anti-Viagra, something with the opposite effect. I’m not bragging. I’m just lucky. I don’t need it. I’ve always said, “If you need Viagra, you’re probably with the wrong girl.”‘

    ‘My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.’

    “Something very important, and indeed society-changing, may come out of the Ebola epidemic that will be a very good thing: NO SHAKING HANDS!’

    ‘An “extremely credible source” has called my office and told me that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud.’

    Oh and by the way, why can’t you answer my very simple question, Drew? Why? Why can’t you even suggest an innocent, plausible explanation for why Trump refuses to have any other American present when he meets with Putin?

    You can’t even try to answer can you? Yeah, that’s called consciousness of guilt. That’s you knowing Trump’s a traitor but lacking the courage to face reality. That’s you endorsing your president selling out your country.

  15. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @michael reynolds:

    That’s you endorsing your president selling out your country.

    Assumes facts not in evidence. Maybe Drew is just another Russian bot.

  16. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Nah…Drew’s been with us a long time. Well before Russian bots…

    …unless… …deep cover Russian sleeper bots????????

  17. Matt says:

    @Guarneri: I’m sorry could someone translate this? WTF does a jet have to do with balls that are red and skateboards? Did Beto have a press conference on a skateboard or something silly?

    I usually don’t have issues understanding drew’s snark but this one just reads as gibberish to me.

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: He used to actually make sense occasionally too. I’m not sure what caused him to drive off a cliff mentally.