In politics, some losses are better than others. Or, in the case of Beto O’Rourke, a loss may be almost as good as a win.
The “buzz” around O’Rourke possibly running for the White House no doubt would have happened also if he had WON in his race against Cruz. But his biggest fans, including Democratic strategists, are saying his loss doesn’t mean he shouldn’t run for president.
In fact many Democrats all over the country are saying that O’Rourke should run for president because he has the potential to win the primaries.
“If he wants to run, he should do it,” said Democratic strategist Maria Cardona. Then she added:
“I hate to say this because it would piss off a lot of Democrats but the fact is, we have so many people and we really have nobody that’s thrilling, nobody that would send a thrill up Chris Matthews’s leg except for Beto.”
(The reference was to MSNBC “Hardball” host Matthews who expressed such excitement when he first heard President Obama speak.)
Cardona then added:
“You know how I know? I had friends calling me to ask about him. I would overhear conversations about him. He’s generating the kind of buzz we haven’t seen since [Obama’s] hope and change.”
GOP operatives in his home state have developed grudging admiration for O’Rourke’s abilities and think he may have the potential to make a run for the nomination in 2020.
“He was able to raise an enormous act of money and that alone separates him from the crowd,” said Matt Mackowiak, a Republican strategist based in Texas. “He has a bit of a star quality to him. People in Texas were mesmerized and moved by him. The fact that he lost by 3 percent is impressive.”
O’Rourke is definitely in a highly unusual situation. Candidates who lose a political race usually step back and reassess their career plans. Sometimes they wait it out and run for the same office again. Rarely do candidates who lose then turn around and run for a larger office — especially the presidency.
“It’s hard to know what he should do,” said Cal Jillson, a professor of political science at Southern Methodist University. “It’s not that he’s not an attractive candidate. It’s just that making a jump from a losing Senate race to a winning presidential race when you’ve got two dozen competitors and Donald Trump. Show me an example of that. It doesn’t mean he can’t do it, you just don’t see a path.”
People close to O’Rourke say he has no plans to run for president since he had his sights set only on winning the Texas Senate seat. He met with campaign aides earlier this week and did not mention a White House bid.
Some strategists say that if he chooses not to run he might miss out on a golden opportunity.
“He has to think hard about it because moments like this don’t come around often in politics and they tend to be fleeting,” said Democratic strategist David Wade, who was a senior aide to John Kerry.
Wade compared O’Rourke’s moment now with Barack Obama’s moment when he captured Democrats’ imagination giving the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
“Imagine if Barack Obama has deferred his instant connection from the 2004 convention and waited for a safer cycle to run for president,” Wade said. “You can’t guarantee that these moments last forever. Moments change. Political demand signals change.”
Having just finished a very difficult campaign against Cruz, it is doubtful that Beto O’Rourke right now would relish the thought of taking on a national campaign. However, as we move closer to the 2020 primary season, it is possible that his attitudes might change, and he may decide this is his time in history.
And then the calls for “Beto in 2020” will grow louder.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.