Last November, Democrat Robert “Beto” O’Rourke nearly accomplished the impossible. He came oh so close to toppling an incumbent senator from the reddest of red states – Texas. In a state where Democrats get routinely pummeled to an embarrassing degree, O’Rourke came within three points of defeating Ted Cruz. But that O’Rourke came so close should be no surprise because all the signs were there – literally. The “Beto for Senate” signs started showing up in neighborhoods not known as Democratic strongholds. And yes, all the smart kids in the room will remind you that yard signs are a poor “sign” of actual strength. Really? It reminds me of a line from a Bob Dylan song, “Something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is, do
you Mr. Jones”.
Eventually, the Cruz campaign staff woke up Rip Van Winkel and showed him the new political landscape full of Beto signs. Cruz began countering with his own signs, but it was no match. My unscientific sampling usually came up with an 8 to 1 advantage for O’Rourke as I drove through neighborhoods in Central Texas. But in the end, the smart kids in the room were sort of right and Ted Cruz seemingly lucky enough metaphorically to escape a fire that singed his eyebrows.
And now, nearly two months after the election all the Cruz signs are gone as to be expected, but the Beto signs? Amazingly, many are still up in the yards of those who supported the losing candidate. It is a very strange phenomenon indeed. But does it portend support for another race? Some pundits predict another senate run in 2020 by O’Rourke against senior senator John Cornyn. But my thinking is that effort would be unsuccessful as well. Cornyn is well liked, well respected, and collegial. He’s everything Ted Cruz is not. As Lindsey Graham once joked, “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you”. Also, two losses in two years would no doubt spell the end of O’Rourke’s political fortunes.
So, that leaves all the “signs” pointing to a presidential run. All that energy, charisma, seasoned staff, and seemingly endless supply of money must go somewhere – probably Iowa where it always begins for presidential candidates. While long on platitudes and short on policy specifics, O’Rourke will find an even more accommodating crowd nationally. And you don’t need a Mark Penn with his fancy, schmantzy, super duper analytical computer to figure that out. He recently floated a trial balloon, predicting that Hillary Clinton would run again in 2020. Or maybe it was just a plea for work. Recent election results have confounded “hip” pollsters like Penn. Maybe he would do better if he divined the yard signs. Yes, the “Beto for Senate” signs will eventually go away…only to be replaced by “Beto for
president 2020” signs. Opponents will ignore O’Rourke at their own risk. Supporters may very well be able to embrace him as their 2020 Democratic presidential nominee.