Media Darling, ‘Lovable Loser’ O’Rourke Joins 2020 Election Fray
Texas’ Beto O’Rourke is the latest Democrat to join the race for president in 2020, announcing his intentions Thursday to run in a crowded field for the Democratic primary.
President Donald Trump reacted to the news in typical fashion, insulting O’Rourke in an interview in the White House.
Per The Hill:
“I think he’s got a lot of hand movement,” Trump said when asked in the Oval Office about O’Rourke entering the race.
“I’ve never seen so much hand movement. I said, ‘Is he crazy or is that just the way he acts?'” added Trump, who is himself known to be expressive with his hands during campaign rallies and other events.
Trump referenced a video of O’Rourke campaigning in Iowa, where the candidate waved and shook his hands emphatically as he spoke.
“I’ve actually never seen anything quite like it,” Trump said. “Study it. I’m sure you’ll agree.”
The president declined to say whether he viewed O’Rourke or former Vice President Joe Biden as a stronger opponent in 2020. Biden has yet to announce whether he’ll run for president again, but he is widely expected to do so.
“Whoever it is, I’ll take him or her on,” Trump said.
O’Rourke narrowly lost a bid to unseat incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican in the deeply red state of Texas. Cruz won by just 2.5 percent and the fanfare around O’Rourke’s latest announcement echoed the mainstream media frenzy during his Senate run.
The magazine Vanity Fair released an O’Rourke cover story Wednesday night with images from famed photographer Annie Leibovitz. Cable networks MSNBC and CNN carried O’Rourke’s comments from his first official campaign stop in Iowa on Thursday morning.
The ex-House member has enjoyed a level of celebrity rarely seen for a politician who represented a small corner of Texas. Even so, he has some work to do to become as well-known in key states as top-tier Democratic presidential candidates such as former Vice President Joe Biden and Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing for O’Rourke as he tries to take on President Donald Trump in next year’s election.
O’Rourke is wildly popular in Democratic circles where some see him as the next Barack Obama, a young, charismatic who was relatively unknown before suddenly being thrust into the limelight.
About 43 percent of Democratic primary voters have a favorable view of O’Rourke, opposed to just 9 percent unfavorable. However, about 49 percent of those polled say they’ve never heard of him, or know of him but don’t have an opinion.
In the key early caucus state of Iowa, 36 percent of likely Democratic caucusgoers said they are not sure how they view O’Rourke, according to a Des Moines Register poll earlier this month. Meanwhile, 56 percent of registered voters from all parties in the general election swing state of Florida said they have not heard enough to have an opinion of O’Rourke, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday.
For comparison, here is the percentage of respondents to the Quinnipiac survey who said they did not know enough to form a view of other Democratic candidates. It includes the net favorability ratings for each candidate in Florida, which is the percentage of respondents who say they have a favorable view of the candidate minus the percentage who say they hold an unfavorable opinion.
O’Rourke does have better name recognition than some contenders, such as Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.
- O’Rourke 56 percent (-5 net favorability)
- Biden: 14 percent (+14 net favorability)
- Sanders: 12 percent (-12 net favorability)
- Warren: 28 percent (-18 net favorability)
- Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.: 46 percent (-7 net favorability)
- Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.: 48 percent (-10 net favorability)
- Gillibrand: 67 percent (-12 net favorability)
- Klobuchar: 72 percent (-5 net favorability)
O’Rourke’s relative anonymity gives him one advantage over some of his better-known rivals. He has more opportunities to define himself positively to voters, said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll.
Voters have largely baked-in views of prominent figures such as Biden, a former vice president, and Sanders, who ran a highly publicized campaign against Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. O’Rourke has a chance to define himself to 2020 voters.
Of course, Republicans will also try to create their own version of O’Rourke — which poses risks for him as more voters develop an opinion of him.
“What you’ve got now is a race to define Beto O’Rourke,” Brown said. “Either Trump’s going to define him or Beto is going to define him, essentially.”
The Republican Party started that effort on Thursday morning. It shared a Twitter graphic outlining what it called “some of what you need to know about the left’s lovable loser, Beto O’Rourke.”
“Best known for losing an election, after which he spent months on widely-mocked road trip to find himself,” the GOP list concludes.
Here’s just some of what you need to know about the left’s lovable loser, Beto O’Rourke: pic.twitter.com/n1G3Iv4V4c
— GOP (@GOP) March 14, 2019