The audacious confidence of Democrat Robert “Beto” Francis O’Rourke is something to behold. As a failed Senate and presidential candidate who has never won a statewide race, his hope to become the next governor of Texas is a longshot, but that’s not deterring him from an attempt at failing upward.
Maybe O’Rourke’s hubris shouldn’t come as a surprise after he essentially claimed he was “born” to be president in 2019, but that’s only one of his problems. At a time more than half of Texas disapproves of Democratic President Joe Biden and Democrats are already bracing for 2022 midterm beat down, O’Rourke’s own party serves as a major obstacle, but not more than O’Rourke himself.
O’Rourke ran a competitive and energetic race against Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018. He went from a no-name congressman to capturing moderate voters and even flipped some historically red counties in Texas (even if it was thanks to an abundance of favorable media attention). This time around, he enters the gubernatorial race a much weaker candidate after recently running a clown show of a presidential campaign in which he endorsed far-left agenda items like enthusiastically promising to take away Americans’ guns.
“Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” O’Rourke declared from the presidential debate stage in Houston. He dropped out before the Iowa primary.
O’Rourke’s announcement also likely comes with prayers that the very popular, allegedly bipartisan Matthew McConaughey does not enter the race. The actor has flirted with the idea of running for more than a year now, but not given an answer.
O’Rourke has said he’s aware of how well McConaughey polls against Gov. Greg Abbott, compared to his own polling against the incumbent. A University of Texas poll last month showed O’Rourke behind Abbott by 9 points, and found that more Texas voters have a negative opinion about O’Rourke than a positive one.
For now, he faces Abbott, who is certainly not the villain Cruz was in 2018, nor the DeSantis clone or hardcore conservative that corporate media make him out to be. Texans know that Abbott is nothing more your typical establishment, Big Business Republican governor, who brought in nearly 400,000 more total votes than Cruz did in 2018.
That is not to say that Abbott is some unbeatable opponent, but that the voters O’Rourke would need to pull off a victory include that cross-section of Texans who voted for Abbott but not Cruz. O’Rourke has a lot of ground to make up for in clawing his way back to the middle from the far-left campaign he most previously ran, and he knows it. He said so as much at his announcement on Monday.
“I want to make sure that we have a governor that serves everyone, helps to bring this state together to do the really big things before us and get past the small, divisive politics and policies of Greg Abbott,” he told The Texas Tribune.
Does O’Rourke have the discipline it will take to stay on this message? It’s doubtful he will come even anywhere close to the middle on the issues that he’s already hitting Abbott on like the pro-life heartbeat bill, constitutional carry, and election integrity, but it will be fun to watch him try.
As O’Rourke himself stated during his 2019 presidential campaign on “The View,” his position of white male privilege has helped him advance in his career, and that’s really all we have so far as a reason he’s Democrats’ best choice for 2022 – not because he’s held a statewide office before or actually wants to appeal to independent voters. And that’s the kind of self-confidence you need as a Democrat in Texas.