When US congressman Beto O’Rourke crashed a press conference by senator Ted Cruz to endorse Elizabeth Warren in the Massachusetts primary on Thursday, I immediately began wondering: why didn’t Google detect that he was running for president of the United States of America?
There are a few significant differences between the two campaigns. One is that Beto is essentially running for president of the United States of America with a $40 million war chest and, for reasons we will soon discuss, with his eyes on the 2020 nomination.
Another difference is that Beto is still running for Senate and wasn’t at the Boston press conference in question. So to be honest I was thinking this all through his speech:
Here are some things I do: I go to Annapolis on Thursday for the American Naval Academy induction ceremony. And then I do an event for VoteVets on Friday and a dinner in Colorado for the Americans for Honest Politics, then I have to be home to vote. Well, that isn’t how anyone plans to run for president, so what I’ve been able to do as a member of Congress is to find time to do this on short notice. And that’s because we’ve made the system work for us. We’ve stood up for the little guy and because of that, I now have a strong campaign that will face the incredible challenge of being a Democrat in a Republican primary field. But we’re going to win this nomination—we’re not going to be dumb and run scared. The country needs us, and if we’re not willing to fight hard for a progressive agenda and instead default to just issuing ultimatums—for the interests of the wealthy and powerful, not for the needs of the majority of this country—then we’re going to be in serious trouble. I love Houston and Texas, and I love my family, so when the sun goes down in the new year, I think about my wife Amy, and I think about our kids and my grandchildren and I think about all the reasons why I chose to run for president. And I’m ready to get to work.
Throughout this campaign, not just over the past week, but over the course of my 10 years as a United States congressman, I’ve built relationships, I’ve earned respect, and I’ve served with honor and dignity. But I haven’t always been able to pull it off. Not everybody who says they’re going to run for the president of the United States of America has ever had to do it. So I think—I think that the people of this country are going to decide on March 4 whether that’s what we’re going to do. If that’s what we’re going to do, I’m ready to get to work.
– Beto O’Rourke, Annapolis
O’Rourke is a little too optimistic. For starters, he is only 33 years old—too young to even be considered a serious prospect for president. He is almost certainly running for reelection to the US House of Representatives in 2020, and I would be shocked if he won that.
Moreover, Beto’s congressional district in Texas leans heavily red. And his two major Washington endorsements, Elizabeth Warren and Barack Obama, have both said in recent weeks that they do not intend to run for president in 2020. But let’s say O’Rourke did win this Texas seat in a special election in 2020, and he had hundreds of millions of dollars of combined personal wealth—a figure we can probably guess is considerably higher than $40 million in the final figures. If he were to begin a long and difficult campaign in earnest, how would it look to call the Democratic nomination “hard work”?
So we have a lot to say about the 2016 character assassination of Beto O’Rourke for participating in the El Paso mayoral election in 2012, when he was just 35 years old. He was the “safer” choice.
But a few months ago, no one would have dared say that Beto O’Rourke was running for president.