Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke, after almost but not quite taking way Ted Cruz’s senate seat, made a big splash when he proposed to run for president as a consolation prize.
He raked in a respectable amount of money and spoke to a large crowd in his home town of El Paso, Texas which he proclaimed to be a city of immigrants and asylum seekers.
His Kennedyesque good looks and his animated speaking style enthralled a lot of voters, as they did during his run for the senate.
However, as spring is starting to give way to summer, Beto has settled down to the single digits somewhere near the back of the pack of Democratic presidential candidates.
He speaks to audiences of not hundreds but a few dozen.
What went wrong?
Margaret Carlson, the venerable political writer for the Daily Beast, thinks she has an answer:
“You can thank, or blame, women who make up almost 58 percent of the primary electorate for Beto’s decline. Disproportionately, they don’t like him.”
“According to my unscientific poll asking every woman I see, Beto reminds them of the worst boyfriend they ever had: self-involved, convinced of his own charm, chronically late if he shows up at all, worth a meal or two but definitely not marriage material. When he should be home with the kids or taking out the trash, he’s jamming with his garage band or skateboarding at Whataburger. He’s ‘in and out of a funk’ which requires long and meaningful runs to clear his head. Every thought he has is transcendent, worthy of being narrated, videotaped, and blogged. He is always out finding himself. At age 46, the man asking to run the country is currently lost.”
“It’s an old story, the boy who doesn’t want to grow up, whom we fall for briefly and then quickly move on from.”
Carlson is on to something, only she and her women friends seem to have stumbled onto something that a lot of people in Texas concluded back when he was after Cruz’s senate seat.
If Gertrude Stein were still around, she would have said of Beto as she once wrote about Oakland, California that there is no there there.
He seems to regard the serious work of running for office as a journey of self-discovery, sort of like a figure from Kerouac hitting the road without a set destination. At least Biden, Bernie and all the rest know who they are, or at least who they want people to think they are.
In other words, as Hank Hill, the Texan family patriarch in the animated series King of the Hill might say, “That boy ain’t right.”
The wonder, therefore, is not that Beto is slipping in the polls, but that he was ever seriously considered to start with.
Bobby Kennedy, whom Beto would like people to think he is, had a solid record of public service when he ran for president in 1968.
Beto, on the other hand, has three undistinguished terms in the House.
Even Teddy Kennedy, whom Beto actually resembles, managed to pick up a senate seat, albeit on the strength of his name and not through any ability.
As long as he can attract a few campaign donations, Beto can continue to travel from town to town and give speeches, even if he never catches fire again.
By the time he starts to lose primaries next year, even he will start to ask himself, what is the point?
At the time he will start offering himself as a running mate or maybe a cabinet secretary to whichever front runner who is disposed to give it to him in exchange for suspending his campaign and giving an endorsement.
Any candidate who hails from one of the blue states may fool himself or herself into thinking that Beto might help deliver Texas.
That supposition would be a forlorn hope.
Incidentally, Carlson referred to Ted Cruz as “the most disliked man in the Senate,” which may well be true, but his constituents regard it as a feature and not a bug. Cruz is super intelligent, hardworking, and tends to not compromise his principles, therefore the hatred bit.
He also, unlike Beto, is great husband material.
He dotes on his wife and two daughters and always finds time for them in his busy schedule.
Cruz might be president had Trump not blown him and everyone else away like a hurricane.
Unlike Beto, he might still gain the Oval Office someday, if he still wants it.