Beto Tries to Get His Groove Back

With early buzz fading, candidate hopes to gain new momentum with 'reintroduction'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 12, 2019 8:45 AM CDT
Reintroducing: Beto O'Rourke
In this May 5, 2019, file photo, Beto O’Rourke addresses a town hall in Shenandoah, Iowa. O’Rourke entered the 2020 presidential race in March as a political phenomenon, addressing overflow crowds around the country. Now, with that buzz cooling, O'Rourke is preparing a "re-introduction."   (AP Photo/Will Weissert)

Beto O'Rourke barreled into the 2020 presidential race with breakneck energy and a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants campaign style that saw him leap atop tables to address overflow crowds with the organic, off-the-cuff candor that had made him a Texas sensation. But since his mid-March campaign launch, the AP reports that the buzz has evaporated. Competing in a massive field of Democratic White House hopefuls, O'Rourke has sagged in polls. He's made few promises that resonated or produced headline-grabbing moments, instead driving around the country meeting with voters at mostly small events. In a tacit recognition that this approach isn't working, O'Rourke is planning to try again, taking a hands-on role in staging a "reintroduction" ahead of next month's premier Democratic debate. O'Rourke has entered an intentional "quiet period" to build out campaign infrastructure. That will end soon.

O'Rourke plans to step up national media appearances after skipping most of that kind of exposure in recent months. He's also set to offer more concrete policy plans on top issues. So far, he's issued just one, on climate change. O'Rourke acknowledges he's struggled. "I was just trying to keep up when I first started out," he said. "I really feel like I've found my rhythm and my pace, and I just feel comfortable, and I feel like this is what I'm supposed to be doing." His top aides deny that a full reinvention or "Beto 2.0" is in the works. They note that O'Rourke will still venture into off-the-beaten path locales that include rural, heavily Republican areas. But his team also acknowledges that for all its excitement, O'Rourke's initial campaign launch exposed some disorganization. It took O'Rourke nearly two weeks after announcing his campaign to hire Jen O'Malley Dillon to run his team. "It has been building up over time," O'Rourke said of his campaign apparatus. "I think we're getting better organized all the time."

(More Beto O'Rourke stories.)

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