When Beto O’Rourke announced he was going to run for president in 2020, it stirred controversy throughout the nation, or at least in his home state of Texas.
Some people are thrilled with his announcement, while others question whether O’Rourke is qualified for the position.
Look back on O’Rourke’s background: his résumé is thin for a presidential candidate. He served three terms in the House of Representatives before challenging incumbent Ted Cruz in the race for one of Texas’ U.S. Senate seats in 2018. O’Rourke lost the election to Cruz by less than 3%, a historic achievement for a red state, according to The Texas Tribune.
The remarkable thing about O’Rourke’s Senate campaign was his fundraising ability. O’Rourke raised almost $80 million during his run against Cruz, over $30 million more than his opponent. Nearly half, 45%, of the funds were from people who donated $200 or less, according to cnbc.com.
O’Rourke raised $6.1 million in the first 24 hours after announcing his presidential campaign for 2020, according to CNN. It was the largest first-day haul of any Democratic contender this year to date, beating Sen. Bernie Sanders by about $200,000.
NOT A MINORITY
Lori Feldman, an accountant who attended a Cory Booker rally in Indianola, Iowa, March 16, was blunt. “I think we really need a strong black man to turn our country back after Trump,” she said, according to the BBC. For her, O’Rourke is not going to cut it, she said.
Even Elana Joram, a University of Northern Iowa professor who praised O’Rourke’s rhetorical skills, had concerns. “I am a little concerned that he’s a white male, and not that I think that’s intrinsically a problem, but there are groups of people that I think may not get motivated to come out and vote for him,” she said, according to the BBC.
O’Rourke has the charisma the media loves. According to Vox, Will Herberich, a Boston resident who co-founded the Draft Beto 2020 PAC, a group that organized O’Rourke supporters across the country to encourage the Texas-native to run, said, “He has this unique ability to inspire people to take action and organize.”
Herberich said, “He was able to turn out millions of voters in Texas who hadn’t voted in a midterm election before.”
Right now, things do not seem too easy for O’Rourke. He has faced backlash for joking about being a parent with his wife, according to CNN.
“Not only will I not say that again, but I’ll be more thoughtful going forward in the way that I talk about our marriage, and also the way in which I acknowledge the truth of the criticism that I have enjoyed white privilege,” O’Rourke said during the recording of Iowa podcast, “Political Party LIVE!”
Being too vague about policy is another issue of O’Rourke’s. “I’m not big on labels,” he said at a town hall in El Paso in December, according to the BBC. “I don’t get all fired up about party or classifying or defining people based on a label or a group.”
He is trying to play it safe by staying in the gray area on all of his policies, but for a national election, he has to either go big or go home.
O’Rourke has been compared to former President Barack Obama because of their shared charisma, slim résumé and ability to hold a crowd’s attention.
His presidential campaign message called for renewed kindness and decency in the country, according to the BBC. He insists that Americans need to change the way they interact with people of different political views. This is similar to Obama’s campaign mantras – hope and change.
O’Rourke has a lot to work ahead of him if he wants to get out of Obama’s shadow, and even more to get to the White House.