Reviving Betomania: How Beto O'Rourke Can Save His Campaign | Teen Ink

Reviving Betomania: How Beto O'Rourke Can Save His Campaign

August 18, 2019
By RaniaMichaela PLATINUM, Abu Dhabi, Other
RaniaMichaela PLATINUM, Abu Dhabi, Other
21 articles 0 photos 4 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Don't watch what they say, watch what they do." ~ Rachel Maddow

Keeping track of all of the 2020 presidential candidates is exhausting to say the least. There has never been so many presidential candidates and besides the obvious frontrunners, it’s easy to forget who’s running for President. Candidates have been grasping at straws to get through to the next Democratic debate, the newest addition to the debate stage being entrepreneur Andrew Yang. Surprisingly, one of the candidates whose campaign has had to worry about making it to the next round is Beto O’Rourke.


Before he declared his candidacy, O’Rourke was considered a “top-tier” candidate for the presidency. The only candidates ahead of him in the polls in early January were Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, now he’s a candidate people forget about. Lots of pundits are scratching their heads and asking themselves, what happened? What happened to this young, rock star former Congressman who was going to defeat Ted Cruz and take the political world by storm? What happened to “Betomania”? What happened to the man American liberals fell in love with? 


In short, where did it all go wrong?


Needless to say, he had a good start. He raised a ton of money ($6.1 million to be exact) in the first 24 hours of his campaign, the media spotlight was on him and he seemed to be a force to be reckoned. Then he fizzled out and the media pretty much forgot about him. The focus was on other candidates like Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg. Before the first Democratic debate, the only big cable news event he did was a town hall on CNN with Dana Bash that didn’t get much attention on other networks like MSNBC and Fox News. 


The first Democratic debate rolled around and let’s just say that it wasn’t a good night for O’Rourke. Fellow Texan and former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro constantly went after him and was one of the standouts of the night because he attacked O’Rourke. That’s to be expected at debates, but Beto didn’t put up much of a fight. He tried pandering to Latinx voters by answering a question in Spanish, which just ended up being forced and awkward. When he was on stage, it almost seemed like he was trying to put on a persona as “the perfect politician” but it didn’t work for him. He wasn’t himself out there, and it showed.


Then the second Democratic debate came, and it was better but still not great. As German Lopez, P.R. Lockhart, Dylan Matthews, Zack Beauchamp, and Ella Nilsen from Vox point out, O’Rourke was practically invisible on stage. He wasn’t the “center of the conversation” quite like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren or even John Delaney and he didn’t have any “breakout moments” that made voters take a second look at him. His performance wasn’t bad in any way, just ‘meh.’


After the two debates, hope seemed to be dwindling for Beto’s campaign. To pundits, “Betomania” is gone and he would be lucky to make it to the next debate (which he has). People were urging him to drop out of the presidential race and run for Senate instead, a possibility he has forcefully ruled out. All of a sudden, a tragic turn of events put the spotlight on O’Rourke once again. That was the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, O’Rourke’s hometown.


Immediately after the deadly shooting, voters began to see a different side of the so-called “Kennedy 2.0” that charmed the nation in the 2018 midterms. America saw a man who cared about his hometown, cared about his country and was willing to help. Voters saw the man Texas (and most of America) fell in love with in 2018. He took a short break from campaigning and went back to El Paso to meet with grieving families and a hurting community. CNN reported that O’Rourke was “visibly shaken” as he announced his return to El Paso as a result of the shooting. He missed out on events and focused more on the people rather than politics. It’s a move that fellow candidates including Cory Booker and oddly enough Julian Castro have publicly applauded. O’Rourke showcased his humanity in his anger and his frustration over gun policies and President Trump. Rather than giving a calculated answer whenever cable news hosts press him, Beto responds the way a regular human would. Politics seems to have gone completely out of the window for him and he’s focusing more on what the presidential race should really be about, the people.


O’Rourke isn’t much of an actor, pretending to be something he’s not didn’t work for him. Being politically reserved wasn’t the best strategy, and his debate performances prove that. This very relatable, passionate politician is the Beto O’Rourke that pundits and voters alike got all excited about. The Beto O’Rourke whose voice wavers as he describes how he has to tell his children about the reality of gun violence in America. He’s proving to voters why he got so much attention during the midterms. He wants to show people that he’s not in the race to play politics, he’s still in because he wants to defeat Donald Trump and help people he believes have been “terrorized” by Trump’s policies. Nearly every Democratic candidate is at the Iowa State Fair pitching to voters as they try to strategically snag the nomination. O’Rourke is proving that he doesn’t work that way by saying that he will not campaign in early primary states like Iowa and New Hampshire.


It’s a bold move, some strategists think it’s a reckless one, but O’Rourke has been showcasing his political bravery for the past week or so. He was one of the first candidates (if not the first candidate) to call President Trump a white nationalist on national television. It’s a comment he hasn’t shied away from as he reaffirms it time and time again. He has officially “thrown the playbook” as Mother Jones’s Pema Levy has pointed out. O’Rourke tried to suppress who he is by running a clean, polished campaign. He gave up swearing and he tried to be someone calm and collected. Now he has realized that neither of those have worked and he has reverted back to “2018 Beto”. If the sudden wave of media attention is any indication, pundits (and possibly voters) are loving it. A recent YouGov poll is putting him at 5%, the highest percentage he has been for a while.


The big question is, where should Beto go from here?


So far, O’Rourke’s on the right track by reverting back to his old self. He’s picking up support, he’s attracting the media and he’s regaining his confidence. The next big hurdle in his way is the third Democratic debate. He has to make up for 2 lackluster performances, which is not an easy task. Beto really needs a standout moment and he needs to hold his own against the other candidates instead of just being in the background. Throwing away the playbook might’ve been the best decision O’Rourke has made in his campaign so far. If he keeps this up and gets the long term attention of the public, the media will confidently be able to say “Beto’s back.” 


He’s already doing much better when it comes to working the media. Yesterday, O’Rourke attended a gun show in Arkansas. Seemingly random, right? One of the most interesting things about that visit was that it was the top headline on the ABC News website. Usually, that spot would be reserved for top tier candidates. That's an achievement in itself. What's even more important is what he did there. He talked about gun control with gun owners, something too few politicians do. He talked to a man named Preston Linck, an independent who was selling guns at the show who seemed genuinely interested in what O’Rourke had to say. Linck agreed with many of O’Rourke’s views except for one, a mandatory assault weapons buy-back. 


Later, O’Rourke talked to Larry Beaver, a Trump supporter. The two didn't agree on much, but Beaver did see the merit in Beto’s mandatory assault weapons program. Beaver told O’Rourke what he thought about the rhetoric Democrats like him have been using about guns. With all of that aside, O’Rourke earned Beaver's respect for even coming to the gun show and talking to him. Instead of just talking to people he agrees with, Beto is trying to show voters that everyone should be a part of the policy conversation, even Trump supporters. Given the extreme polarization between the two parties, respect from a Trump supporter is a big win for a Democrat.


Does this mean that he’ll win the nomination? Probably not, but he has a shot. If his campaign doesn’t end up being successful, he might get enough attention to get candidates like Joe Biden interested in having him as their running mate. Either way, it’s a win-win situation. It just depends on whether or not Beto O’Rourke wants to keep this momentum going. We’ll see if his new strategy works, the strategy of having no strategy at all.

The author's comments:

Ever since Beto O'Rourke announced his run for President, I have been fascinated by his campaign. He re launched his campaign last week after the El Paso shooting and I wanted to give my perspective on where he's been and where he's going in his fight for the presidency.

Similar Articles


This article has 0 comments.