The liberal New York Times is searching everywhere, even Texas, for candidates to dislodge the Republicans from Congress in November, by trumpeting any Democrat, no matter how hopeless the cause. The latest, Tuesday’s lead National section story, tried desperately to pump up prospects for Beto O’Rourke, a long shot candidate up against Sen. Ted Cruz, in “A Blue Spark In the Heart Of Deep-Red Cruz Country -- El Paso Lawmaker Fights Uphill Battle.”
The reporters sure sound like they’re rooting for O’Rourke, who is favored to win the Democratic primary, in their 1,700-word behemoth that covers an entire page.
Operating on two hours’ sleep, Beto O’Rourke was 20 hours into his day and looked it. His white shirt and gray slacks were an accordion of wrinkles. His hair, flecked with gray, drooped on his forehead and small dark rings had formed under his eyes.
But he hadn’t lost his voice. The Democratic congressman from El Paso was speaking to a crowd of several hundred at Suga’s restaurant, 830 miles from home, trying to make an improbable case: that he can defeat Texas’ incumbent Republican senator, Ted Cruz.
He appealed to their sense of virtue. “This smallness, this bigotry, this paranoia, this anxiety,” he said, cadence accelerating, “we’ve got to be for the big, aspirational, ambitious things.”
He appealed to their sense of humor. “There’s a reason that Congress has an approval rating of around nine percent. Nine percent! Communism ten percent. Gonorrhea eight percent. We’re right in the middle.”
The crowd cheered, they hooted, they left saying things like “he was great” and “I’m in.”
But there is power in the giant-killer narrative and signs that his anti-campaign playbook campaign is working. He raised $2.4 million in the last quarter, and gets applause when he notes that was $500,000 more than Mr. Cruz took in.
He has a restless energy that has put him in 217 of Texas 254 counties, driving tens of thousands of miles, fueled by bad coffee and Hostess cupcakes that supporters bring him.
In Lufkin, he was greeted with chants of “Beto, Beto, Beto.” His campaign took in $1,258 in checks and cash dropped into a large jar.
The reporters glossed over the candidate’s silver spoon upbringing and arrests.
And Mr. O’Rourke’s campaign is all about a sense of the possible.
His biography does not have any of the bootstraps appeal of a Lyndon Johnson, or even Mr. Cruz, the son of immigrant parents. Mr. O’Rourke’s family was well-to-do in El Paso. Born Robert Francis O’Rourke, he has been known as “Beto” from infancy. His voice shows no hint of a Texas accent until his says his first name and sounds like he is speaking Spanish -- which he does, fluently...
And the congressman has vulnerabilities. Mr. O’Rourke has been arrested twice, once for a college prank, a second time, in 1998, for what he called the “unforgivably” bad decision to drive after “having too much to drink.” Both charges were dismissed.
Over lunch at the Lufkin BBQ, Mr. O’Rourke said his campaign strategy was in part drawn from the 1968 presidential campaign of his political hero, Robert F. Kennedy, long on hope and aspiration.
Mr. Kennedy was not driven by “polls or consultants, but he really seemed to be grounded in the things that he found important,” he said, adding that he often seemed to be going directly against the advice of what was going to be popular.
Those seemed to be the words of a long-shot, a candidate with nothing to lose.
News not mentioned: A head-to-head poll taken in January by a left-wing group still showed Cruz up by eight points, while Cruz’s own polling showed him up by 18.