Beto O'Rourke's campaign to be president started out well enough, but things haven't exactly taken off as expected for the former Member of Congress and once-failed Senate candidate from Texas.
O'Rourke's fundraising began with a bang; the candidate, who had never before launched a national campaign, raised $6.1 million in under 24 hours, besting a previous record set by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). But unlike Sanders, O'Rourke's numbers haven't gone up since he announced his interest in the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, and according to Politico, he's mired in the middle of the pack, competing against only second-string candidates.
Sanders is "far ahead" in both polling and fundraising (though he's still running several points behind former Vice President Joe Biden, who hasn't even entered the race yet), and O'Rourke is now trailing South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who quickly supplanted O'Rourke as the young upstart Democratic "golden child," raising an impressive $7 million in just a few days on the stump, and drawing much larger crowds and much more media attention.
Beto's also having a tough time drawing audiences in early primary states like Iowa. According to Washington Examiner reporter Joe Simonson, who has been following both O'Rourke's and Sanders' campaigns around Iowa, there's no question who voters are more interested in.
"O'Rourke, 46, a former Texas congressman, started 30 minutes late, and the University of Iowa student union ballroom remained less than half filled as the candidate gave his pitch to fewer than 120 students, families, and retirees before taking questions. Many of those were not committed to O'Rourke," the Examiner reported.
That also might be an inflated number. According to the report, several students were there to get extra credit for college classes. One student who spoke to Simonson told him that he actually preferred former tech executive Andrew Yang for the Democratic nomination.
The media presence surrounding O'Rourke, the Examiner says, is also dwindling, but O'Rourke, at least, has a rosy outlook on things.
“I’m learning, I’m becoming a better candidate,” O’Rourke told reporters following his speech.“There are fewer members of the media as we’re leaving these events. I like that the ratio has changed a little bit as we have moved on, but I’m really struck by how kind people are, how seriously they take their responsibility to themselves and the rest of the country.”
One clear indication that O'Rourke is having difficulty distancing himself from other Democratic candidates is his recent rhetoric. The normally soft-spoken Texan, who prefers standing on countertops to talk with everyday Americans in coffee shops and breakfast-only diners, and who campaigned for Senate on his "common sense" progressive approach, has taken to parroting talking points that put him far left of the 2020 field.
Over the weekend, Fox News reports, O'Rourke took aim at President Donald Trump, but instead of sticking to tried-and-true critiques, he embraced a faulty meme circling social media that accused the president of calling asylum seekers at the United States-Mexican border, "animals." The video, from a year ago, showed Trump answering a question about the violent Mexican and Central American street gang, MS-13, and was cut for maximum impact.
O'Rourke also compared Trump's administration to the Third Reich — Nazi Germany — a comparison he drew heat for from Holocaust preservation groups (and historians).
Beto still has a national donor list left over from his previous Senate campaign, and he says his operation is "maturing." He even turned down an offer to accompany an Iowa student to prom.