We may have seen this movie before. Three years after becoming a US Senator Barack Obama was elected president. Could lightning strike twice?
Like Obama, who heavily lost a House race before his successful Senate run, Beto O’Rourke was a minor political figure, a Congressman from El Paso when he announced his run for the US Senate.
There was little expectation to start with. O’Rourke was not a leading figure among House Democrats and his election chances against Ted Cruz, who would likely have won the Republican nomination for president if Trump had not run, were considered pretty slim.
Expectations were low but then Beto caught fire. The great-grandson of an Irish railroad worker ran a completely different campaign to what was expected.
There was no big PAC money, no consultants, no pollsters. The focus was not on Cruz or even President Trump. It was bringing people together.
GOP figures called him a phony, especially focusing on his Spanish nickname Beto when his real name was Robert Frances. Donald Trump Junior tweeted, “What’s authentic about an Irish guy pretending to be Hispanic?” prompting one Texas wiseass to say this was the first ever election where the Anglo (O'Rourke) was trying to be Hispanic and the Hispanic (Cruz) was trying to be Anglo.
O’Rourke seemed unfazed by everything. Alone among the Democratic heavyweights of Biden, Warren, Sanders etc., O'Rourke was a fresh face and at just 47, he promised something different. His call was for people to come together, not come apart.
And get together they did, in every Texas county - all 254 of them in which O’Rourke campaigned.
Driving to Houston!Posted by Beto O'Rourke on Dé Sathairn 27 Deireadh Fómhair 2018
Along the way, he live-streamed every trip, every possible occasion. Beto’s road trip and the resultant media mania turned it all into an epic journey and caught the imagination of celebrities from Willie Nelson to Lebron James.
The crowds continued to grow and Beto became almost a magical figure on the stump with comparisons to Bobby Kennedy often made. Ten thousand volunteers showed up, rallies got bigger and Beto got better. The national media loved it and soon a trip to a Beto rally in Texas became a must-see for media commentators.
Cruz, a doughty fighter, was suddenly battling for his political life. Never especially popular, particularly with his GOP Senate colleagues, his snake-oil salesman look contrasted poorly with O'Rourke’s patented idealism.
But politics ain’t beanbag and Texas has not elected a statewide Democrat since 1994. Cruz held a lead throughout the polling season but at the end, the gap seemed to narrow.
Read more: Is Beto O’Rourke the new Bobby Kennedy?
Some have suggested it would be ideal for O'Rourke to run Cruz close but not win, allowing him to run unfettered for the Democratic nomination. After all, there are only two years to go until 2020 and O'Rourke would hardly have warmed his seat before launching a presidential bid.
Whatever happens, however, he was moved to the forefront of the Democratic front-runners.
Like Obama, he has that special potion that attracts voters, like Obama he has a relatively brief political career making it tougher to dig up dirt and like Obama, he may have that priceless commodity; being in the right place at the right time.
The Democrats know they need a new face for 2020. O’Rourke provides one.
Would you vote for O'Rourke or Cruz? Let us know in the comments section, below.