Beto, the least conventional Senate candidate of 2018, is winning one of the most conventional contests of presidential politics: The Tease.
In a primary group of 2020 Democrats and presidential candidates running for months, the Texas congressman moved his party's Loyalists Monday by simply acknowledging that he was not ruling out his decision. The slow dripping is reshaping the early stages of the campaign, as many activists and donors wait for a decision from O'Rourke before moving on to another candidate.
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"I think having a signal, like the one we had yesterday, is very helpful, because now people can say," Yes, I'll wait and see if it happens, "he said. Jay Surdukowski, of New Hampshire, a lawyer and Democratic activist co-chairing Martin O-Malley's presidential campaign in 2016 in the state, "It's basically a soldering box here." will arrive, he will be so solicited.
O'Rourke enjoys as a relative retarder of a presidential race that has been gaining momentum for over a year. More established suitors such as Sense. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) And Cory Booker (D-N.J.) Traveled to the early states and courted donors and activists for months. But they campaigned so brazenly that their final ads were undermined by much of their plot.
O 'Rourke, on the contrary, took a decisive lead on the contest even though he showed his disappointment, declaring to the MSBNC before the November elections that he "would not be running for president. in 2020 ". Earlier this month, before recognizing that he had changed his mind – O. Rourke was ranked third in a primary poll in the chair of POLITICO / Morning Consult, behind the ### 39, only Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).
On Monday, when O'Rourke said that his wife, Amy, and himself had "talked a bit about the next steps," the remark sparked a spark again. Less than 24 hours after the O'Rourke Town Hall meeting in El Paso, Texas, the Democratic congressman was mentioned in more than 700 news articles and nearly 100,000 social media posts, according to news reports. data provided to POLITICO by media intelligence company Meltwater.
"I've never seen a Senate candidate – including Obama in 2004 – inspiring Beto's kind of enthusiasm in his race," wrote Dan Pfeiffer, former director of communications for President Barack Obama, in an editorial dedicated to Crooked Media. .
The interest shown by donors and Democratic agents seemed to answer an immediate question about the legitimacy of O'Rourke's presidential prospects, after having narrowly lost the race in the Texas Senate over Republican Ted Cruz.
But his appearance this week – his first public event since the election – also laid bare the precariousness of his timing. O'Rourke has not yet taken action in the major critical states, while other Democrats are already seeking militants and activists in the country. And on Monday, O'Rourke hinted that after the rigors of the Senate campaign and post-election vacation in Costa Rica, he would not be deciding for a presidential campaign until he left Congress early. January.
"I think what he said is true," said Mario Porras, who worked for the Congressional Office O & # Rourke and informally contributed to his campaign in the Senate. "It's been just three weeks, and as he mentioned, he just took a vacation with his family … He's back in session (of Congress) the next two weeks, starting from aujourd & # 39; hui ".
On Monday, O'Rourke expressed reservations about the results of a long campaign against his family. his children are 8, 10 and 12 years old
But O'Rourke told The Texas Tribune when he entered the Senate race last year that it was at his wife's request. For the moment, at least, Amy O'Rourke seems as uncertain as her husband of a presidential race.
"It just seems like you have to give up an important part of your private life, including time as a family, as you have done so far," she said. "I do not know if it's a line we want or want to cross."
"For me, and I think for Beto, it's surreal for people to start or ask" about a presidential campaign, "she said. "It's not something we've talked a lot about. I mean, it's incredibly flattering, but I do not know what it looks like, even tangibly. "
In his tighter – than – expected Senate campaign, O'Rourke avoided political strategists and investigators, traversing Texas in a deep red while raising more than $ 70 million, mostly coming from all over the world. a national network of small donors. His massive fundraising list and his ability to run campaigns in the retail trade gave credibility to his presidential prospects.
"The last 24 hours have been very interesting," said Chris Lippincott, an Austin-based consultant who ran a super PAC between Cruz and the Senate campaign. "[O’Rourke] somehow took the time to say that he would not exclude it, which attracted people's attention. … It's less surprising, but we went from writing in pencil to writing in ink. "
Lippincott said O'Rourke had capitalized in his campaign in the Senate against a deeply polarizing figure – a dynamic different from that which O'Rourke would have met during a Democratic presidential primary.
According to Lippincott, O'Rourke "is built in many ways for Iowa and New Hampshire. He is so good with small crowds that he is not afraid to interact with people with whom he might have a legitimate disagreement. The energy and its personal characteristics are made for the kind of retail policy that has defined Iowa and New Hampshire. "
Nevertheless, O'Rourke's lack of infrastructure in these states, as well as in South Carolina and Nevada, will force O'Rourke to immediately set up a national operation if he decides to embark. Antjuan Seawright, a South Carolina-based Democratic strategist who worked for Hillary Clinton's campaign in 2016, said that if Mr. O. Rourke "wants to succeed, he will have to go out with South Carolina very soon." because the only thing about South Carolina Voters is that even though we like to go out together, we like to flirt, we also understand the importance of a long-term relationship. "
Democratic activists from Iowa, New Hampshire and California have said they do not know how to contact O'Rourke. Surdukowski said that he regularly heard Democrats ask, "How can we invite him here?"
Showing both the enthusiasm and uncertainty surrounding O'Rourke, Surdukowski said about his own approach to the 2020 candidates: "I'm not going anywhere until I see what he's saying. made."