New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, a former White House reporter for the paper, went to Houston to personally deliver an embarrassing fanboy letter to the latest Democratic hope against the loathed conservative Sen. Ted Cruz, in “Watch Out, Ted Cruz. Beto Is Coming” in the Sunday Review. The text box: “The Senate race in Texas just might be the happiest political fable ever.” With Cruz standing in for the big bad wolf, or something.
Count me among the swelling ranks of the infatuated. I, too, have been Beto-struck.
I have seen the alternative to Ted Cruz -- Lord knows we need an alternative to Ted Cruz -- and he’s a peppy, rangy, toothy progressive with ratios of folksiness to urbanity and irreverence to earnestness that might well have been cooked up in some political laboratory. Could that formula enable Representative Beto O’Rourke, a Texas Democrat, to wrest Cruz’s seat in the Senate from him in November?
By now you’ve probably heard of Beto -- seemingly no one calls him by his surname -- and that in and of itself is a marvel. When else has a long-shot Senate candidate with no prior celebrity drawn so much coverage? He has been the subject of lengthy profiles in The Times, The Washington Post, Politico, Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair, which bestowed upon him the mightiest political adjective of them all: “Kennedyesque.”
“Kennedyesque” may not be the best adjective, given that a movie about Chappaquiddick is playing in theaters.
They talked in the aftermath of O’Rourke’s interview with Bill Maher in which O’Rourke assented to the host using an obscenity to refer to Sen. Cruz.
“I think I was just moving the conversation along,” Beto said. “Anyhow, I don’t think that Ted Cruz is an asshole.”
“You don’t?” I asked, incredulous.
“I certainly don’t think that publicly,” he answered.
Cruz is a rare and precious gift. He’s so loathed that any passable Democrat with a picayune chance of toppling him was bound to draw more attention and inspire more hope than the political dynamics warranted....
But Beto is more than passable. Many of his campaign events are mobbed. People line up for selfies and then insist on hugs.
Beto’s answer to those odds is an oddball campaign. This has freed him to be freewheeling. He has no speechwriter, because he never speaks from a fixed script. He has no pollster, because he’s not going by polls.
(To be fair, the paper’s February “news” story about Beto was hardly less fulsome.)
....After a town hall meeting on Thursday, two of the attendees whom I interviewed separately used the same adjective to praise him: “Relatable.”
He hits so many right notes that it’s eerie....
The paper gives this liberal candidate its standard Renaissance Man treatment, while carefully couching and explaining away his inconvenient leftist stands.
He talks about fried catfish one second, James Joyce the next. (The older of his two sons is named Ulysses.) He’s fluent in classic punk rock and contemporary country. He’s fluent in Spanish, too.
He’s clear about his beliefs that health care should be guaranteed, marijuana should be legal, Trump should be impeached and the border wall is ridiculous. That puts him to the left of many Texans. But he’s just as voluble about his exhausting effort to visit every county in Texas, including the most staunchly conservative ones, and about the need for people of all political stripes to be respected.