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Beto O’Rourke Must Compensate for Coming Late to 2020 Race

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People who’ve been talking to O’Rourke stress that  he was genuinely exhausted from the Senate campaign and sincerely searching for what to do. He had come off a non-stop, two-year campaign and then had to finish his final weeks in the House, working both in Washington and back in  his El Paso district.

“It’s a good thing that you have people who really put the thought into what they can do for the country, what they can offer, whether they have a role to play,” said one person close to O’Rourke. “A traditional politician who’s only looking out for their career and their next election, is thinking, ‘What’s the next election I can seek?’ or, ‘Can I get an appointment?’ or, ‘Who can I do a favor for?’ For him, it was really, ‘Let me process what just happened.’”

“You don’t want to just stumble into it–you want to really have a clear mind about what you’re doing,” the person said.

“He’s an emotionally-bound candidate following his heart,” Representative Maloney said. “He’s the least calculating person in the race.”

Of course, O’Rourke is not some political naif. He got to Congress in the first place by running a tough primary against an incumbent in 2012, and landed on his no PACs, no consultants, no pollsters pledge for his 2018 Senate campaign in part out of belief, but also in part by reading the political winds and knowing those pledges would resonate.

Likewise, despite flubbing some meetings and outreach, he’s been deliberate in calling others, such as former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack, who’s acting now as a party elder and gatekeeper in the caucus process. Even as O’Rourke has made himself out to be just taking in the country on his road trips and journaling about it on Medium, he’s been monitoring how people are talking about him on Twitter. He’s become agitated by some of the criticism.

And so far it’s mostly just been trolls online. While O’Rourke has been operating with a shoestring staff, other campaigns have been massing opposition research on him, most of which he’s never had to answer for—Cruz, of course, wasn’t looking to paint him as too far to the right. His prospective 2020 opponents are raring to. (He got the first taste on Sunday with a video put out by the Republican group the Club for Growth, railing on O’Rourke for being a privileged white man and appearing to do government favors for his billionaire father-in-law, who had donated to a PAC that supported his first congressional campaign.)

His fans are raring to go too, said Nate Lerner, the founder of Draft Beto. Their “Beto Alert” online campaign, urging people to sign up to get the news when he announces, nearly doubled the email list just last week, Lerner said, bringing them close to 12,000 addresses. Almost every person who clicked on the list signed up, Lerner said, which is an extremely high conversion rate.

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