Buttigieg’s Fast Rise Leaves Beto Scrambling to Keep Up

For Texas Democrat Beto O’Rourke, the surge in popularity he felt during the 2018 midterms which carried him to announce his 2020 presidential campaign has waned, and now, upstart competitor Pete Buttigieg stands to eclipse him completely.

Now, Buttigieg’s meteoric rise to popularity among Democrats has experts questioning O’Rourke’s ability to go the distance, especially given the crowded pool of possible nominees.

While O’Rourke’s appeal during the 2018 midterm elections propelled him to the national spotlight, and ultimately to his decision to seek the White House in 2020, his performance on the campaign trail has proven less-than-stellar.

Buttigieg, who has remained a relatively “unknown” contender until his recent rise in popularity, now poses a serious threat to O’Rourke’s already-shaky appeal to liberal voters nationwide.

From The Hill:

Pete Buttigieg’s fast-rising 2020 presidential campaign is cutting into Beto O’Rourke’s viral mojo.

O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman who became a media phenomenon when he nearly toppled Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) last year, has been eclipsed in recent weeks by Buttigieg, the upstart South Bend, Ind., mayor who has won headline after headline and changed national perceptions about his candidacy. 

As white men and two of the youngest candidates in the field, Buttigieg, 37, and O’Rourke, 46, are natural competitors.

Both candidates are seeking to convince Democrats that the party needs a generational change as they chase former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders(I-Vt.), who are both in their 70s.

The polls have been largely steady in recent weeks for all the 2020 contenders except for Buttigieg, who has seen a notable rise and now ranks third in several polls, though behind Biden and Sanders.

Buttigieg has effectively caught O’Rourke to establish himself firmly in the second tier of contenders, along with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).

There was a time when national Democrats seemed deeply captivated by O’Rourke, who captured the imagination of liberals with his improbable run for Senate in deep-red Texas last year.

O’Rourke carried that momentum into his presidential launch, raising $6 million in the 24 hours after entering the race.

But there has been no subsequent bounce in the polls for O’Rourke, who has faced questions about why he’s running and what he stands for.

O’Rourke’s viral campaign moments have both helped him and hurt him.

At campaign stops across Virginia last week, several of his supporters said they decided to back him after watching a YouTube video in which he defended NFL players who kneel in protest during the national anthem.

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More recently, however, O’Rourke has been mocked for livestreaming a trip to the dentist and for setting off on a cross-country journey, in which he blogged about how he was in a “funk” as he languished over whether to run for president.

O’Rourke was also criticized as presumptuous for telling Vanity Fair in a cover profile that he was “born to be” in the presidential race.

“He’s been running on pure adrenaline for so long now,” said one unaffiliated Democratic strategist.

“In a race of 20 people, that’s not going to be enough to help you break out of the pack. He was a great Senate candidate in Texas, but he hasn’t adequately explained why he’s running for president, other than that he can raise a lot of money and has nothing to lose.”

As O’Rourke has stalled, Buttigieg has been on a dream run.

FiveThirtyEight analysis found that Buttigieg got nearly three-times more mentions than O’Rourke on cable news last week and was the second most talked about candidate, behind only Sanders.

O’Rourke’s mentions on cable news, by contrast, have plunged since his presidential launch.