Whatever becomes of Congressman Beto O’Rourke’s entry in the Democratic Presidential race, by any reasonable analysis it would be a mistake to underestimate his chances. At least, not at this early stage. He’s an outsider in what is generally an insider field of candidates. And in modern Presidential nominating race history, outsiders have have won enough for special notice. Democrats Jimmy Carter (1976) and Barack Obama (2008); Republican Donald Trump (2016).
Like those three, Beto has about him as he starts a base of supporters who see in his candidacy an aura of the aspirational and inspirational. (I know many of you don’t see President Trump as embodying either of those qualities, but there is no denying that his power is derived from millions of people who are inspired by his rhetoric, no matter – or maybe because of – its divisiveness).
Yes, Beto is short on experience and policy. But being long on aspiration and inspiration can transcend that. That being said, there are many questions that surround his candidacy in addition to his level of experience. He has a moderate voting record that is already being placed under deep scrutiny by a party energized by its progressive base. And in a diverse party driven by female voters, many are questioning whether Beto’s standing can withstand questions of privilege. These are all issues he will have to address.
To most people he is still an unknown. Whether he’ll prove to be a stayer and a finisher, or just another fresh, young face that wilts and fades, we’re about to find out.