Liberal heart-throb Beto O'Rourke may not win his upstart race against Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz Tuesday night, but he seems to have no plans to translate the national fervor surrounding his campaign into a presidential operation — something that should come as disappointing news to national Democrats funding and propelling his campaign.
Speaking to MSNBC reporter Garrett Haake Monday while making his last few stops on the campaign trail in Texas, O'Rourke answered the one pressing question that's been on Democrat minds with a firm "no."
"I will not be a candidate for president in 2020,” Beto said.
There's always hope for leftists disappointed that the man who drew comparisons to Kennedy and looked poised to fell the often-controversial Cruz in a David-and-Goliath battle Democrats hoped would prove Texas, one of the fasted growing states in the union, could be turned blue. It's happened before: Democratic state senator Barack Obama quickly rose through the ranks to run for president without declaring his intent from the start.
But O'Rourke needs more than fawning amateur campaign commercials and "modern liberal" good looks to sway national voters, and the mistakes he's made in his Texas campaign could come back to haunt him on the national stage.
Politico Magazine, preparing for a Beto loss on Tuesday, published an article late Sunday asking whether Beto "blew it," running a decidedly progressive campaign in a state that prefers both fiscal and social responsibility from its chosen candidates. Cruz, the article contends, was beatable — something Republicans initially worried about when a strong contender like Beto O'Rourke came on the scene in early 2018.
But O'Rourke made rookie mistakes, playing to a national audience rather than his future constituency, and may pay the price for it in the end. Although internal polls reportedly show the race in a dead heat, professional pollsters have placed O'Rourke between 6 and 9 points behind his Republican opponent, a position he's held since the race began.
There's also concern about O'Rourke's spending. Although he raised a staggering $38 million in the last fundraising quarter — a sum even top-line Democrats might find it hard to rake in — O'Rourke spent a whopping $22 million of that, burning his intake at a rate of nearly 77%.
For all that, O'Rourke failed to make any significant gains on his opponent, even as Ted Cruz made crucial mistakes and unforced errors Beto could have capitalized on, like suggesting that O'Rourke's money was being funneled to a migrant caravan currently wending its way through Mexico from Honduras.
The $38 million — about half of which came from out of state — would have been a nice start on a presidential campaign coffer, but it's likely to be almost completely spent by the time Beto retires to bed Tuesday night.
It would be wrong, though, to suggest that Beto has no future on the national stage. Wendy Davis, the last Democrat to run a nationally hyped yet locally embarrassing campaign in Texas is now a recognized political strategist and is likely plotting her comeback. If Beto loses Tuesday night, it's probably not the last you'll see of him, or the Beto-maniacs.