Beto O'Rourke lost to Ted Cruz, but the elegies for the 46-year-old are in many cases reading a lot more like a 2020 presidential pitch. What's being said about the Texas Democrat's loss and the future of both the candidate and the party in the state:
- At Slate, Ben Mathis-Lilley makes the case for Beto 2020 (though he also suggests no case needs to be made: "Don't Overthink It, Just Nominate Beto," reads his headline). Elements of his argument: "His Uplifting Articulate Guy persona presents a clear alternative to Trumpism without coming across as scolding or patronizing. While he lost his Senate race, he has experience in Congress, but not so much experience that past votes will haunt him."
- At CNN, Raul Reyes says "Beto" has become a "household name" that won't soon disappear from our tongues. He runs through the what-ifs of his loss (among them: "Maybe O'Rourke should have run a more traditional campaign, instead of refusing to run negative ads") while acknowledging the way O'Rourke ran his campaign is the reason why he "captured national attention." Reyes raises the possibility of a presidential run, too: "O'Rourke has shown that a progressive Democrat can mount a serious challenge in a red state ... and he did this while refraining from personal attacks and staying true to his inclusive values."
- "Texas Democrats were aiming for historic wins in 2018. What they got instead was hope for 2020." So writes Emma Platoff for the Texas Tribune, where she acknowledges that "Democrats achieved little more than a crack in the dam" in the state. But where that crack occurred matters: "O'Rourke led battleground suburban counties like Williamson and Hays. And he cut down Republicans’ traditionally hefty margins in reliably red counties, coming neck-and-neck with Cruz in Tarrant County, suggesting the state is purpling faster than many expected" and could be very much in play in two years' time, particularly if O'Rourke is gunning for the White House.
- At the New York Times, Mimi Swartz suggests O'Rourke's 2020 run will actually be another Senate one, for John Cornyn's seat. But that's not the upshot of her piece. As a Texan, her take is that his failed campaign was actually one filled with good: "a chance to see the Texas I've always known was there—a place where working people and immigrants still have the right to thrive alongside those with much more; a place where we aren't so devastatingly divided; a place where people are energized by the political process ... I hope they don't take his defeat as a sign that victory is beyond their grasp."
- At the Washington Examiner, Becket Adams sees a different takeaway: "Money can't buy elections." O'Rourke raised $69 million (to Cruz's $40 million) and spent $59 million, though all the polls predicted his loss. "So, that was smart," quips Adams. "Going forward, the real fun will be watching O'Rourke supporters convince themselves that his defeat is really a moral and incremental victory. Just you wait and see. There’ll be no shortage soon of news articles spinning what the polls called from the get-go as a good thing for the Democrats."
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