RSN Fundraising Banner
FOCUS: Beto O'Rourke Blows Up the 2020 Democratic Primary
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=44146"><span class="small">David Siders, Politico</span></a>   
Tuesday, 20 November 2018 11:49

Siders writes: "Top party donors and operatives are eager to see the Texas congressman jump into the presidential race."

The ascent of Rep. Beto O'Rourke reflects the volatility of a 2020 presidential primary that has flummoxed Democratic donors and activists for months. (photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
The ascent of Rep. Beto O'Rourke reflects the volatility of a 2020 presidential primary that has flummoxed Democratic donors and activists for months. (photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Beto O'Rourke Blows Up the 2020 Democratic Primary

By David Siders, Politico

20 November 18

Top party donors and operatives are eager to see the Texas congressman jump into the presidential race.

parked by his narrow defeat in a Texas Senate race, Beto O’Rourke is scrambling the 2020 presidential primary field, freezing Democratic donors and potential campaign staffers in place as they await word of his plans.

Even prior to O’Rourke’s meteoric rise, many Democratic fundraisers had approached the large number of 2020 contenders with apprehension, fearful of committing early to one candidate. But the prospect of a presidential bid by O’Rourke, whose charismatic Senate candidacy captured the party’s imagination, has suddenly rewired the race.

O’Rourke — who raised a stunning $38 million in the third quarter of his race — is widely considered capable of raising millions of dollars quickly, according to interviews with multiple Democratic money bundlers and strategists, catapulting him into the upper echelons of the 2020 campaign.

Mikal Watts, a San Antonio-based lawyer and major Democratic money bundler, said several donors and political operatives in Iowa, after hearing from other potential candidates in recent days, have called to ask whether O’Rourke is running, a sign of his impact in the first-in-the-nation caucus state.

“They’re not wanting to sign on to other presidential campaigns until they know whether Beto is going,” Watts said. “And if Beto is running, what good progressive Democrat wouldn’t want to work for Beto O’Rourke?”

He said, “I can tell you that there has not been this kind of level of electric excitement about a candidate since” Barack Obama ran in 2008.

O’Rourke raised more than $70 million, in total, in his bid to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, mostly from small donors in a race that captured national attention. Though he fell short — losing 51 percent to 48 percent — his closer-than-expected performance in the largest red state on the map was credited with lifting at least two Democrats to victory over House Republican incumbents.

A POLITICO/Morning Consult presidential primary poll last week put O’Rourke in third place among Democratic voters, behind former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

“He’s game changing,” said Robert Wolf, an investment banker who helped raise Wall Street money for Obama in 2008 and 2012. “If he decides to run, he will be in the top five. You can’t deny the electricity and excitement around the guy.”

Although other prominent Democrats, including Biden, Sanders and Sens. Kamala Harris of California and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, have support networks of their own, Wolf said, “Beto comes out of [the midterm elections] saying, ‘Oh my God, if a guy can do well in Texas, he certainly can do well throughout the country as a Democrat.”

“I get the hype,” Wolf said. “I think there’s an incredible amount of excitement around Beto. A lot of people have comparisons around him and a Robert Kennedy or a Barack Obama. And the [Democratic] Party likes young, ambitious and aspirational.”

The ascent of O’Rourke, a three-term congressman from El Paso, reflects the volatility of a 2020 presidential primary that has flummoxed Democratic donors and activists for months. Many fundraisers who have exclusively supported a single candidate in previous years are expected to hedge their bets initially, spreading smaller amounts among several candidates.

One major Democratic bundler on the West Coast told POLITICO he is advising donors against throwing in with one candidate, saying, “It’s naivete, it’s political suicide to do that.”

O’Rourke is a major reason for donors' uncertainty, the bundler said, having “brought a whole bunch of new people off the sidelines.”

“That’s this cycle’s ‘Bernie army’ — it’s ‘Beto’s Army,’” he said, comparing O’Rourke’s Senate fundraising to the crush of small donors who propelled Sanders in his unsuccessful 2016 primary campaign.

“All the guy would have to do is send out an email to his fundraising base … and he raises $30 million,” the bundler said. “That has totally changed the landscape for the tier 1 guys, because now Bernie and Warren, now they have competition. It completely changes the game if Beto runs. And he should run. … He’s Barack Obama, but white.”

O’Rourke said before the midterm elections that he would not run for president, promising to serve six years in the Senate if elected. When asked at a CNN town hall whether he would run for president if he did not win the Senate race, O’Rourke responded, “If I don’t win, we’re back in El Paso.”

But Democrats have not taken O’Rourke’s comments as ruling out a run.

“I think that’s a decision that he has to make as to whether or not he’s going to run for president,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said. “Everybody’s waiting to see what Beto’s going to do.”

Asked about a potential presidential run, O’Rourke told the website TMZ on Friday, “I haven’t made any decisions about anything.”

For Democratic strategists eager to advance a younger nominee contrasting with President Donald Trump, O’Rourke’s appeal rests on his perceived ability to bridge a gulf within the party — between Democratic contenders who are older but come with pre-existing donor networks, and Democrats who are younger but have not yet developed a substantial fundraising base. O’Rourke, at 46, has both.

“People across the country just fell in love with him,” said Christian Archer, a San Antonio-based Democratic strategist. “He was able to raise national-level money, and that’s just such a distinct advantage.”

However, Archer said, “There’s a fuse on that, and the question is how long will that last if he doesn’t make a move within a window of time.”

Archer said, “Right now, he’s on fire.”

If O’Rourke is giving donors any pause, it is largely because his fundraising came in a Senate contest, not a presidential primary stuffed full of marquee Democrats. New York Republican Rick Lazio, who set a single-quarter fundraising record in his losing New York Senate bid against Hillary Clinton in 2000 — a record surpassed by O’Rourke — failed to translate energy from that campaign into future political success. And in a lengthy presidential race, early stars can fade.

George Tsunis, the hotel magnate and Obama megadonor, said O’Rourke “performed very admirably” in the Senate race. But he was skeptical that O’Rourke could replicate his fundraising in a presidential race, saying many donors were likely motivated by anti-Cruz sentiment.

Still, Tsunis acknowledged the donor universe remains wide open. “A lot of people that I’m talking to are in a quandary,” he said. “They may have a half a dozen friends that are looking to do this, and they are so unbelievably torn here.”

There isn’t much modern historical precedent for O’Rourke to draw on. George H.W. Bush was a Texas congressman who won the presidency after an unsuccessful 1970 Senate bid. But his presidential run didn’t come until years later — and it took Bush two tries before he won the White House.

Abraham Lincoln ran for president — and won — after two losing campaigns for Senate. But the last person to go from the House to the presidency was James Garfield in 1880.

"One thing that [O’Rourke] is going to have to overcome is that he did lose to Ted Cruz," said Cappy McGarr, a Dallas-based investor and Democratic fundraiser. “He is the real deal, though. He’s charismatic, he’s thoughtful, he’s able — he is one of the most exciting politicians I’ve seen since Barack Obama ran for president.”

Like many donors, however, McGarr holds a favorable view of several potential contenders, including Biden, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Julián Castro, the former San Antonio mayor and Obama Cabinet secretary.

“I have a lot of friends who might be running for president, and I think the more the merrier,” McGarr said. “And I certainly wouldn’t preclude giving and raising monies for more than one candidate.”

Steve Westly, a former California state controller and major bundler of campaign contributions for Obama, said O’Rourke “has a lot of the wow factor now, and one could easily say, ‘He didn’t win.’ But to get [close] in Texas, that suggests to me that if he were the national nominee running against a non-Texan, he might well pull that state … and he is charismatic as heck.”

Westly said he does not “have complete conviction yet” about which candidate to support, with a primary field that appears “completely, totally different than anything I’ve seen in the last half century.”

Still, as he begins to field calls from potential candidates, Westly said he believes Democratic voters are “looking for newer faces outside the traditional Northeast corridor” of typical Democratic politicians, mentioning Bloomberg and Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, among others, as credible potential candidates.

Most years, Westly said, “Guys like me can say, ‘Hey, it’s going to be one or two people, it’s person A, B or C, here’s why. It’s a short discussion … it’s five minutes, we can narrow it down.”

In 2020, he said, “Here you have something fundamentally different. … In terms of betting odds, it’s really hard to sort out.”

But Watts said O’Rourke could immediately narrow the field.

“I don’t believe that 50-year-old guys like me and 60-year-old guys in Washington who are in an hourly form of political warfare understand how disillusioned that warfare has made the younger people of this country,” he said. “From that perspective, Beto’s unvarnished approach was both refreshing to me, but intoxicating to the younger generation.”

“If Bernie runs and Warren runs and Kamala runs and [Cory] Booker runs, I think they all wash each other out in a certain way," Watts said. “Beto’s got the juice right now. If he goes, he’s going to suck a lot of the oxygen out of the room. A lot … and immediately.”

Email This Page your social media marketing partner


A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

+21 # indian weaving 2018-11-20 12:19
Biden is a vicious old war criminal and fake Democrat who hung big medals around dumdum dubya neck a few days ago. That's who Biden is. Loves Dubya Bush, our hero. Sure, vote for him and continue the disintegration of the nation into full time war against We The People.
+7 # wrknight 2018-11-20 17:32
Forget Biden. He's a has-been that never was.
+6 # Wally Jasper 2018-11-20 17:57
Yeah, the same people who tried to stuff Hillary down our throats would be trying the same with Biden. Yuck.
+8 # REDPILLED 2018-11-20 15:09
Charismatic and thoughtful are not enough.

Where does O'Rourke stand on:

- U.S. imperialism?

- human rights for Palestinians?

- ending all the U.S. wars and deployments abroad?

- drastically cutting military spending, including the suicidal nuclear weapons "upgrade" costing $1.7 trillion?
0 # Thinking 2018-12-19 22:42
"...a matter-of-fact tweet from investigative reporter David Sirota, who told people “Something I didn’t know: Beto O’Rourke is the #2 recipient of oil/gas industry campaign cash in the entire Congress.” Sirota provided a link to campaign finance data." from
+8 # Jude 2018-11-20 15:52
And there’s also Biden’s disgraceful performance as chair of the Senate Judiciary committee during the hearings for Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Biden's actions and inaction were, as Anita Hill described them, a disservice to her (and that’s putting it mildly) and to the public (and We The People have seen the awful results of that).
+8 # PABLO DIABLO 2018-11-20 16:16
Run Bernie, RUN.
+12 # HDSMTS 2018-11-20 16:27
Why, exactly, do I care about what big bundlers think about the candidates? As Larry Lessig and others have explained, their money corrupts the candidates and the democratic process.

Among many things that Democrats might learn from both the Donald Trump and the Hillary Clinton campaigns is to stay away from Goldman Sachs and Wall Street. I will never forget the GOP conventioneers chanting "Goldman Sachs" as Ted Cruz walked to the podium. It was not an encomium. And Hillary Clinton never truly emerged from the cloud of that paid speech to the same investment bank.
+1 # economagic 2018-11-20 16:51
Well, this is, after all, Politico, one of the leading horse race callers in Dick City. Why would they care about Biden v Obama v O'Rourke v Sanders v. . . ? Its all the same to them, just "fair and honest" reporting on the chances of each horse as they see them.
0 # Thinking 2018-12-19 22:50
An in-depth article by political journalist Zaid Jilani — headlined “What Does Beto O’Rourke Actually Stand For?” — indicates that O’Rourke doesn’t stand for much that progressives should embrace. During his six years in the House of Representatives , O’Rourke has been politically close to inert. “While the Democratic base is coalescing around single-payer health care and free college, O’Rourke sponsored neither House bill. During his time in Congress, he never joined the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He has been, however, a member of the New Democratic Caucus, the group organized to carry on the ideas of Clintonite policies. During the 2016 presidential primary, he stayed on the sidelines.”

Check out the article!
+10 # LionMousePudding 2018-11-20 17:25
I really can't see the attraction to Biden. He was sort of a lovable old fool. (Fools speak the truth sometimes-as he did and propelled Obama into supporting gay marriage), but what did he ever accomplish? Michelle Obama was the White House figure who used her position to do good for the nation. She would be great but she has no interest at all in the pressure and stress she has already seen and felt.

I would still vote for Bernie before Beto. What do we even know about him? What are his accomplishments ?
+2 # RMF 2018-11-20 17:25
One thing we can say for sure -- refusing to vote for Biden or any other Dem nominee certainly does guarantee that GOP will retain power -- and I can't think of a more efficient way to continue the shredding of the national socio-economic fabric, and ensuring continuance of "full time war against We The People."

Here on RSN I frequently see these protests against voting for a "MOR" or "corporate" Dem. So the tenor of IW's remarks are not unusual.

But what IW and other posters voicing contempt for the Dem party and mainstream Dems never address is how refusing to vote Dem will remove the GOP from political power. Of course the obvious answer is it won't, but such obstinance will instead help to ensure the GOP retains it's place at the head of US govt.

So, I ask (1) is this magical thinking or (2) do the posters harbor secret fealty to GOP? The answer to this query is a real mystery.
+5 # cynik 2018-11-20 18:05
So his main qualifications for this challenging job are that he's charismatic and is good at raising money -- great. He's had a few years in Congress. I've heard nothing about anything he has accomplished there. AFAIK he has no foreign policy experience.
I would have liked to see him take down smarmy Cruz, but even if he had I would not consider him presidential material yet.
+11 # Texas Aggie 2018-11-20 18:19
Eventually Beto for president, but not quite yet. He needs more exposure to the public in general and more time actually running government. A good stepping stone would be a couple more terms as Congressman, a term as Senator and then the White House.

Strictly from a selfish perspective, a couple of terms as governor of Texas wouldn't be such a bad thing to do either. We haven't had a decent governor since Ann Richards. TX deserves having someone who cares about the Republic rather than the total and complete shipdits that we've been having.

“In Texas, we do not hold high expectations for the [governor's] office; it's mostly been occupied by crooks, dorks and the comatose.” -Molly Ivins
+5 # HenryS1 2018-11-20 18:22
There was a lot of enthusiasm for Beto because a lot of people don't like Ted Cruz. But Cruz won anyway.

Trump would make mincemeat out of Beto, I wouldn't be surprised if Trump clandestinely supports Beto's candidacy so that he has an easy win.

The problem remains, the Dems don't have a good candidate from the point of view of someone who could win. They do have a lot of people that would make good Presidents. But that counts for zero.
+2 # IAMMe 2018-11-20 18:39
Biden tore Paul Ryan a new one in the vice presidential debate. We need someone capable of fighting back. Not saying Beto isn't. Just saying we need someone who can win no matter what kind of Democrat they are.
+8 # lfeuille 2018-11-20 19:03
"One thing that [O’Rourke] is going to have to overcome is that he did lose to Ted Cruz," said Cappy McGarr, a Dallas-based investor and Democratic fundraiser. “He is the real deal, though. He’s charismatic, he’s thoughtful, he’s able — he is one of the most exciting politicians I’ve seen since Barack Obama ran for president.”

Great another Obama. He was an exciting candidate but a mediocre president. This article is all about fundraising. Nothing about his ability to govern or what he would try to do if elected. This is what is wrong with politics.
+3 # DongiC 2018-11-21 05:51
Biden will be a mill stone around the neck of the Democratic Party. Choose him and say goodbye to democracy. O'Rourke failed his most important race in losing to Cruz. How does one build presidential victory on senatorial defeat?

We need someone younger, more progressive and, preferably, a female who is black or Latino. That should narrow the field considerably!