Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas – once a rising star in the crowded field of Democratic presidential hopefuls – withdrew from the race Friday after belatedly realizing he couldn’t become president simply by attacking President Trump without offering a better alternative.
Although he joined the chorus of Democrats denouncing Trump with ever-growing ferocity and embraced full-blown Trump Derangement Syndrome, O’Rourke never gave significant numbers of Democrats any convincing reasons to support him or his far-left proposals.
As a fellow Texan who watched O’Rourke fail to defeat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in the 2018 election, I wasn’t surprised that O’Rourke quickly went from media darling – most notably with a fawning cover story in Vanity Fair – to two-time loser.
Getting elected president is far harder than getting elected to the Senate. So it always seemed odd that O’Rourke thought he could use his loss to Cruz to catapult himself to the Democratic presidential nomination in a field that once numbered more than 20 candidates, including men and women actually elected to the Senate and a former vice president.
The Vanity Fair story quoted O’Rourke as saying about his race for president: “I want to be in it. Man, I’m just born to be in it.”
After O’Rourke decided he was out of it Friday, President Trump tweeted: “Oh no, Beto just dropped out of race for President despite him saying he was ‘born for this.’ I don’t think so!”
In his losing Senate race, O’Rourke sought to demonize Cruz, who was a perfect foil to excite progressive passions across America. Next to Trump, Cruz is one of America’s most visible conservatives – a man the left loves to hate.
Cruz’s principled stand against ObamaCare and gun control that disregards our Second Amendment rights – along with his strong run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 – made him a prime target for leftist ire. To mobilize that ire, O’Rourke just had to show up.
O’Rourke raised a record $80.1 million for his 2018 Senate race, some three-quarters of that via ActBlue, an online donation portal favored by millions of progressives. By the time the dust settled, the 2018 Senate race in Texas was the most expensive in history, with Cruz raising $37.1 million and outside groups pouring in millions more.
Cruz won reelection with a margin of 214,921 votes or 50.9 percent to 48.3 percent for O’Rourke.
When O’Rourke announced his run for the Democratic presidential nomination in March, he raised $6.1 million in 24 hours, all of it online and from all 50 states, such being the power of the Internet to reach a national audience.
O’Rourke even bested socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders’ $5.9 million first-day fundraising total – making him look like a credible challenger to the Vermont independent and others in the Democratic presidential race.
To put that into perspective, O’Rourke raised in one day about a quarter of what then-Sen. Barack Obama took in in his first quarter of campaigning for president in 2007.
But once O’Rourke announced his presidential candidacy and voters started learning more about him and his radical positions – and he repeatedly stumbled with gaffes on the campaign trail – he turned from an overnight sensation to the butt of jokes.
The desperate Democrat’s videos of his visit to the barber (where he helpfully explained how the barber was cutting his ear hair) and to the dentist were a gift to late-night comedians.
O’Rourke then lashed out, seeking to recapture the imagination of the progressive wing that animates much of today’s Democratic Party.
O’Rourke famously called for a nationwide firearms confiscation scheme, tearing down barriers on the Mexican border, and taxing churches, synagogues and mosques that didn’t adhere to a government-approved worldview.
These extremist proposals were all that distinguished O’Rourke from his opponents and their near-unanimous support for a $15-an-hour minimum wage, eliminating the Electoral College, and other proposals that only a few short years ago would have been on the fringe of the Democratic Party but are now are the consensus.
However, just being angry is a poor rationale for a campaign, leading to O’Rourke to become the highest-tier Democratic candidate to withdraw up to now.
As O’Rourke leaves the campaign trail to come home to Texas, he returns to a state with a booming economy and strong job growth. The success of Texas has been built upon a rejection of more government control and a refusal to impose high taxes – the exact opposite positions of O’Rourke and Democrats still in the presidential race.
Texas voters rejected O’Rourke’s Senate bid because they decided they wanted less government – not more. America’s voters will likely weigh the same choice in 2020 in deciding between President Trump and the eventual Democratic presidential nominee.