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O’Rourke’s Campaign Kickoff in Texas Drew Money, Crowds

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A little while later, O’Rourke took the stage, introduced excitedly by the woman speaking ahead of him as “the man—not the myth, but the legend.” In front of him were the official Viva Beto signs produced by his campaign, in what’s now become the familiar, simple but bold white text on black background, as well as a number of hand-made signs, including, Make America Beto Again and Beto is Our Christ.

When Elizabeth Warren lost her voice in the middle of her weekend tour of Iowa in January, some sneered that she was showing her age. When O’Rourke’s voice was cracking hoarse by the end of his third rally of the day in Texas, that was taken as proof of his passion, and how much of himself he’s thrown into the race.

O’Rourke spoke at all three events without a podium, and without notes, each time going on for at least 20 minutes. This produced the same sort of raves that he won from admirers, including some reporters, for standing on countertops and tables, and speaking without notes during his first week of events after announcing—though every candidate speaks regularly without notes.

“I will say, Beto memorizing his entire announcement speech, including what sounded like a few paragraphs of Spanish, is not an easy thing to do,” Jon Favreau, the Pod Save America co-host, tweeted on Saturday.

The speeches were definitely memorized, and expressed support for a wide range of positions: universal health care, universal pre-K, higher pay for teachers, debt-free college, strengthening unions, expanding apprenticeships, investing in rural broadband, exploring new technologies to combat climate change, equal pay for women, paid family leave, legalizing marijuana and expunging records of drug convictions, protecting Dreamers and opening a path to citizenship for immigrants in the country illegally.

At this point, all those positions put him along side pretty much everyone else in the Democratic field.

But stand by O’Rourke, he says, and his belief in unity despite people’s many differences, and that faith will enable him to get things done.

“Let those differences not define us, or divide us at this moment. Let’s agree that before we are anything else, we are Americans first,” he said, in a line that boiled down his whole pitch.

O’Rourke’s confidence in that pitch is rooted in what he achieved in his Senate campaign last year, when he transformed turnout in the state and went on to receive more votes than any Democrat in Texas history. He lost, as he acknowledged in each speech on Saturday, but went on to insist that his campaign worked, because of everyone his coattails helped elect and because of his message that resonated. Now, he says, he has shown that Texas is in play—leaving aside that many doubt that, if he ran instead for Senate again next year against John Cornyn, he probably wouldn’t win and might not even come as close as he did to beating Ted Cruz last year.



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