DemDaily: Beto is In!

March 14, 2019

The 2020 presidential field added one of its youngest and most anticipated candidates to the list of contenders this morning with the announcement of former Texas Congressman and US Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke.

"The challenges that we face right now, the interconnected crises in our economy, our democracy, and climate, have never been greater ... The only way for us to live up to the promise of America is to give it our all, and to give it for all of us." --2020 presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke

Robert Francis O'Rourke, 46, was born in El Paso, Texas, the son of a small businesswoman who owned a furniture store and an El Paso County Commissioner and County Judge.

Beto: "I was born to run." Vanity Fair Cover Story out last night (pics by Annie Leibovitz)

Although of Irish-Welsh descent, he goes by the Spanish nickname "Beto" (BET-O), and is fluent in Spanish.

O'Rourke served as a congressional intern for Congressman Ron Coleman (D-TX), before attending Columbia University, where he graduated in 1995 with a degree in English literature.

He was elected to the El Paso City Council in 2005, defeating a two-term incumbent to become one of the youngest representatives ever to have served on the City Council.

In 2012, he unseated eight-term incumbent Silvestre Reyes in the Democratic primary to represent Texas' 16th congressional district in the US House of Representatives.

In 2018, O'Rourke challenged incumbent Senator Ted Cruz for the Texas US Senate seat, becoming a national phenomenon in his bid to unseat the polarizing Republican who had himself run for presidential in 2016.

Although no Democrat has been elected to statewide office in Texas since 1994, O'Rourke came within 3% points of beating Cruz, who had previously won his 2012 election 56.4% to 40.6% over Democrat Paul Sadler.

The Maverick
O'Rourke ran a retail-oriented campaign without professional pollsters or consultants, and effectively employed the use of digital advertising, social media and mass text messages to engage voters and donors.

He infused much-needed young blood into the national political scene, turning out millennials and support from the Latino community in record numbers, and putting Texas and its 38 electoral votes into play as a potential swing state in 2020.

Beto O'Rourke and wife Amy announce bid (click/watch)

In the process the charismatic progressive raised $80 million, the most raised in a US Senate race in history. His nationwide donor base more than doubled or tripled that of other top Democratic candidates, including then-incumbents Claire McCaskill ($32M), Heidi Heitkamp ($25.5M) and Bill Nelson ($25.4M).

Against the Field
It remains to be seen, however, whether Beto's followers, now split among a dozen other progressive candidates, will provide the level of support needed in a national contest. In the first 24 hours after joining the race, Bernie Sanders pulled in almost $6 million online, followed by Kamala Harris with $1.5 million.

Beto also enters the race without the depth of national experience or solid policy grounding of other candidates, and is competing against the potential history-making candidacies of several minority and women contenders in the race.

Like Obama, who he met with last December, Beto seems to have discovered his national voice at an unexpected point in his career, but faces far greater challenges in surviving the primary race. He will hold his official kick-off rally March 30th in El Paso.

Declared 2020 Candidates
Democratic nomination: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (IN), former HUD Secretary Julian Castro (TX), former Congressmen John Delaney (MD) and Beto O'Rourke (TX), Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI), and Senators Cory Booker (NJ), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), Kamala Harris (CA), Amy Klobuchar (MN), Bernie Sanders (VT) and Elizabeth Warren (MA), as well as author Marianne Williamson (CA) and entrepreneur Andy Yang (CA)
Independent: former Starbuck CEO Howard Schultz
Republicans: President Donald Trump, former Governor Bill Weld (MA)

Latest Standings
In a Morning Consult poll, conducted March 4-10, 2019 of registered Democratic primary voters (MoE ±1%) Joe Biden led with 31%, followed by Bernie Sanders (27%), Kamala Harris (10%), Beto O'Rourke (7%), Elizabeth Warren (7%), Cory Booker (4%), Amy Klobuchar (3%), Someone else (3%), and at 1%: Steve Bullock, Pete Buttigieg, Julian Castro, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, John Hickenlooper, Terry McAuliffe, Jay Inslee and John Delaney.

Out of the Race
The most recent names to take themselves out of the race include Eric Holder, Michael Bloomberg, Sherrod Brown and Jeff Merkley. Still in the wind: Steve Bullock, Terry McAuliffe and Joe Biden.

DemList will keep you informed!

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Kimberly Scott

DemDaily: The First Governors 3/4/19 (Inslee, Hickenlooper)
DemDaily: The Contenders: The Current List2/11/19 (Klobuchar, Full List)
DemDaily: Born To Run2/1/19  (Booker, Buttigieg)
DemDaily: Women Wade In1/22/19 (Harris, Gillibrand, Gabbard)
DemDaily: Out of the Gate1/2/19 (Delaney, Castro, Warren)

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Sources: Vanity Fair, Texas Monthly, Politico, the Hill, CNN, MSNBC, NYT

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