Democratic candidate Beto O'Rourke started strong when he announced his presidential bid, but he soon flatlined in public opinion polls and saw his fundraising fall off. | Chris Covatta/Getty Images 2020 elections Beto O’Rourke resumes campaign amid calls for his exit Persistent calls for the former Texas congressman to run for Senate have exasperated his…
Ever since the mass shooting in his home town, the media has become intrigued — once again — by Beto O’Rourke.
The question now is whether voters will give him a second look.
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Initial signs for O’Rourke aren’t especially promising, as the former congressman edges closer to resuming his presidential campaign.
His numbers haven’t budged in the most recently released national polls.The latest Morning Consult poll, released Tuesday, put O’Rourke at 3 percent nationally, about the same position he held before pausing his campaign and returning to El Paso, Texas, following the shooting that left 22 people dead at a Walmart there.
The editorial board of the Houston Chronicle — one of the largest newspapers in Texas — called over the weekend for O’Rourke to drop his national ambitions and run for Senate again instead.
“Beto, come home,” the headline read. “Texas needs you.”
For more than a week since the shooting, O’Rourke served as a passionate voice for his border city and for immigrants more generally, with his wrenching criticism of President Donald Trump. And if O’Rourke had wanted to run for Senate, this would have been the time to make the jump — summoned home by tragedy, not limping back amid a sputtering campaign.
But O’Rourke has never expressed interest in running for Senate this year, after his near-miss loss to Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018. The El Paso massacre only redoubled his resolve to campaign against Trump, according to sources close to his campaign, while persistent calls for him to run for Senate exasperated his supporters.
In an op-ed for CNN on Tuesday, O’Rourke said the country is facing a “defining moment of truth.” A politician who has long tethered his political core less closely to ideology than to the culture and geography of his border city, O’Rourke wrote, “I believe El Paso can light our path forward, even as America now stands in sympathy and solidarity in its hour of heartbreak and anger.”
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Or, as a more guttural O’Rourke put it to a television reporter recently, “He’s been calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals … Members of the press, what the fuck?”
O’Rourke’s return to the campaign, potentially as early as this week, comes at a precarious time. A Democratic sensation when he announced his presidential bid in March, O’Rourke soon flatlined in public opinion polls and saw his fundraising fall off.
O’Rourke raised only about $3.6 million from April through June, the latest fundraising period, less than half the $9.4 million he raised in the first quarter of the year.
“The tragedy gave him a bump in the minds of the media,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a longtime Democratic strategist based in New York. “Is it likely that he will be the president of the United States? It is more likely that Texas will secede from the union again. Is it likely that he will raise the money needed to run a presidential campaign in the 21st century? … The answer is also, ‘Unlikely.’ But does he have one moment to make his case because of something extraordinarily awful that occurred? The answer is, ‘Yes.’”
O’Rourke has taken painsnotto capitalize on the shooting. The only fundraising emails he has sent since the massacre directed donors not to his campaign, but to charities to help with the response to the shooting and, separately, to assist immigrants following the Trump administration’s immigration raids in Mississippi last week. He refused to call donors and, until recently, to discuss campaign plans, according to two people close to his campaign.
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