Photo credit: Inter-American Dialogue via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

“Betomania”: O’Rourke Enters 2020 Race — But Can He Win?


Will “Betomania” be going nationwide next year?

The mediocre former Texas congressman Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke today announced he is running for president in 2020. The announcement comes after he declared just a few months ago he would not run for president.

O’Rourke became a leftist superstar in his high-profile challenge to Sen. Ted Cruz last year. His cool nickname, relative youth and good looks, and insinuations to Hispanics that he was “one of them” made him a rock star within the Democratic Party, with Democrat donors salivating over the prospect of turning Texas blue funneling over $70 million to his campaign. Despite outspending Cruz by more than $30 million (almost 2 to 1) and outperforming Cruz in many key demographics, O’Rourke still lost to Cruz by over 250,000 votes. He distinguished himself on election night by dropping an f-bomb on live TV.

Now O’Rourke is back for more — but can he maintain his rock star status? He seems to think so, declaring in a Vanity Fair interview, “I want to be in it. Man, I’m just born to be in it.”

But he is already drawing scrutiny from the identity politics obsessed Democratic Party. O’Rourke is not actually Hispanic; his parents are both white and gave him the Spanish nickname “Beto” to distinguish him from his grandfather, who was also named Robert. The nickname is leading to accusations of “cultural appropriation” from the Left. He also had a relatively privileged upbringing, attending a private boarding school in Virginia and majoring in Spanish literature at Columbia University. He’s being harangued by the Left for being a white male — and he’s actually apologizing for that fact, saying, “I totally understand people who will make a decision based on the fact that almost every single one of our presidents has been a white man.”

He is also sure to draw scrutiny from a national audience. His record as a congressman is exceptionally thin — in three terms, just one bill that he sponsored or co-sponsored passed, and it was to name a courthouse in El Paso. He was arrested in college for burglary, though charges were later dropped. He was arrested again at age 26 for driving while intoxicated, though charges were dropped after he completed a DWI program. (George W. Bush paid a hefty price in 2000 when reports of a decades-old DUI charge surfaced shortly before election day.) Like most of the Democrat field, he supports taxpayer-funded abortion on demand. While a city councilman in El Paso, he called for an “honest, open national debate on ending the prohibition on narcotics.”

O’Rourke may not be the first failed 2018 candidate to jump in the 2020 race either. Failed Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams has been dropping hints that she will jump in as well, and failed Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum is also teasing a 2020 run.

Some Republicans are worried about the prospect of facing O’Rourke in 2020 after he attracted so much attention, money, and support in a red state last year. But a left wing obsessed with eating its own and O’Rourke’s laughable record may ensure he never gets far.

Photo credit: Inter-American Dialogue via Flickr, CC BY 2.0

Thomas Valentine

Thomas Valentine is a columnist for

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