There is no doubt that that glamour candidate of the Democrat 2020 presidential field is former Texas Congressman – and losing Senate candidate – Beto O’Rourke. He has charisma – a quality that makes his personal appearances more exciting to audiences. It has nothing to do with issues, but just the way he looks, he talks.
There are scores of Democrat congressmen who are more experienced, more knowledgeable, more capable, but they lack charisma. Without it, Beto would be nothing more than an obscure former congressman. When Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked about Beto’s legislative accomplishments, she clutched. She said he was a member of a couple of House committees. Her fumbled answer addressed “being” not “doing.” In fact, she pretty much covered his legislative accomplishments.
One cannot deny that he made a respectable showing in his race against incumbent Senator Ted Cruz. And he did raise a lot of money for that campaign. That money, however, was more in response to charisma – driven by a fawning national news media – than credibility or even his prospects for winning the race. For sure, there was excitement throughout the Democrat ranks based on an irrational belief that he might actually win. When the last ballots were counted, Beto lost by more than 200,000 votes – not exactly a cliffhanger.
Beto’s charisma is not original. It is borrowed. Virtually every admiring report compares him to the Kennedys. It is not an unreasonable comparison. He has the Kennedy look – more like Bobby than Jack. He also has the Kennedy ability to speak in the loftiest language without getting into too many details. That is not a talent to be demeaned. It moves people.
Some compare him to President Obama – a handsome and articulate Democrat who succeed to the Oval Office with a rather thin resume, blank record of accomplishment and what they call a compelling personal narrative. There may be a bit of “if him why not me” in Beto’s precocious ambition.
So far, Beto is style without substance. He is a two-dimensional political figure.
His challenge is to add substance. He needs positions on issues. He needs a Beto agenda for America. He has time to do that, but it will not be easy. First of all, there are many challengers in the race – and they have pretty much sucked up all the issues and positions. If he goes hard left, he bumps into Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Peter Buttigieg and others. If he tacks to the center, he will find the space filled by Amy Klobuchar and Joe Biden – who can only be considered centrists in the contemporary left-wing Democratic Party.
The only open space in the Democrat ranks is on the right – and that is tantamount to primary election suicide. Beto does not have enough charisma or money to overcome the wrath of the radical left. In fact, a couple of his positions – guns for one – is already raising eyebrows among the Party’s fringe.
Beto has made a few brash promises. He will not waste money on polling. Internal polling is essential to campaign strategy. He says he will not go negative. He represents a positive message. Unfortunately for Beto, a large chunk of the Democrat base does not want to play nice-nice. They do not want to reach across the aisle. They want confrontation. The loyal opposition is not to be part of a collegial process, but to be annihilated. None of that “killing with kindness.”
Beto is – for the moment – the brightest star in the Democrat firmament – a supernova, as one admirer put it. Beto should not take too much comfort in that analogy since a supernova is a bright star that is about to implode.
So, there ‘tis.