Is it time for Beto O’Rourke to go home?
The Houston Chronicle’s editorial board wasn’t mincing words.
“So Beto, if you’re listening: Come home. Drop out of the race for president and come back to Texas to run for senator,” an op-ed aimed at Democratic former Texas Rep. Beto O’ Rourke said. “The chances of winning the race you’re in now are vanishingly small. And Texas needs you.”
What’s remarkable about that piece — and it’s far from the only one expressing the sentiment that O’Rourke should drop out of the presidential race and run against Republican Sen. John Cornyn in 2020 — is that it was sparked by what was, without question, Beto’s best moment as a presidential candidate in months.
In the wake of the murders of 22 people in a mass shooting in El Paso earlier this month, O’Rourke was asked whether President Donald Trump bore some responsibility for the tragedy.
“Um, what do you think?” O’Rourke said. “You know the s he’s been saying. He’s been calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals. I don’t know. … Like, members of the press — what the f? It’s these questions that you know the answers to …”
It went viral and reminded many people of the passion and excitement O’Rourke created during his 2018 campaign against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. His heart is in Texas, the argument goes. He can only be the Beto we love when he is running for office in Texas!
Now, O’Rourke’s campaign for president isn’t entertaining the possibility of switching races, according to CNN’s Dana Bash. Which makes sense! While he has been a disappointment to date in the presidential race, it’s still only August 2019. Things can change!
But if they don’t, there’s a very strong case to be made for him to switch races. Consider:
1) The filing deadline to run for Senate in Texas isn’t until December 9, which leaves O’Rourke plenty of time to see if he can make noise in the presidential race.
2) While there are several Democrats running for the nomination against Cornyn, none carry the cachet — or record of vote-getting — that O’Rourke does. While he lost the 2018 race to Cruz, he came closer to victory than any Democrat in a very long time in a statewide race in Texas.
3) O’Rourke has $5.2 million on hand in his presidential account. If he decided to run for Senate tomorrow, he could transfer that entire sum into a Senate account — a pretty nice amount of seed money to start that race.
4) O’Rourke has no job right now. He gave up his House seat in 2018 to run for Senate. Which means that if the presidential race continues to look like a very long shot, he has to make a real-world assessment of what race gives him the best chance of being gainfully employed in politics come 2021.
The Point: O’Rourke doesn’t need to decide on a Senate race today. But this storyline isn’t going away unless he suddenly takes off in the presidential race.