Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Evaluating Beto

I think this is about right.

Rep. Beto O’Rourke

Beto O’Rourke, the candidate running the most high-profile statewide race, [scored] only 61 percent in his primary, against two lesser-known candidates.


A lot of weird things happen in the Democratic Primary, because the party is far from cohesive. A few years ago, a LaRouche acolyte made it into a Senate runoff, and it’s not unheard of for the party’s contender to get crushed in the first round for unclear reasons. The fact that [Sema] Hernandez and [2014 gubernatorial candidate Ray] Madrigal won in many of the same places seems to point to the benefit of running with a Hispanic last name in the Democratic Primary. It’s possible voters really took to Hernandez’s and Kimbrough’s message, of course, but it seems likely more evidence that lots of Democrats enter the primary booth with limited knowledge of who is on the ballot and select names — ask Grady Yarbrough and Jim Hogan. And it’s hard to blame them, because the “frontrunners” that usually are on the ballot aren’t exactly titans.

That said, O’Rourke’s soft spot so far has been name recognition. If you’ve seen 30 news stories a day about O’Rourke for the last six months and seen some of his packed rallies, that might seem strange, but there’s room to question whether all the hype about the “punk rock Democrat” is translating to the masses.

The Trib has a map showing the county-by-county results, and now they have a story covering the same topic. Some polls have shown that O’Rourke’s name recognition, while perfectly decent for a three-term Congressman making his first statewide run, is hardly universal. I think that’s exactly what these results show, and it’s the basic weakness of his otherwise well-lauded “visit everywhere” campaign strategy. The simple fact is that even in a low-turnout statewide election, there are way more voters than there are opportunities to meet and interact with them. If you’re not already well-known in the state, a condition that describes nearly every current Texas Democrat, you’re going to have to fortify your outreach with some old-fashioned communications. O’Rourke has raised an impressive amount of money so far, and is close to even with Ted Cruz in fundraising. It would have been a good investment to drop a few of those bucks on something other than a volunteer-powered text message outreach to voters (which annoyed a few of them of my acquaintance, by the way). This is again a reminder that one should never overestimate one’s name ID.

All that said, this is hardly a disaster. He still won handily, which is mission one. He’s getting under Ted Cruz’s skin, which ought to provide a little free advertising for him as Cruz generates news about him. I doubt he has to worry about people voting on a name in November, when party affiliation will be part of the process. But if O’Rourke wants to be someone who will push people to the polls – and Lord knows, we all want that for him – and not just someone who will be voted for by those who do show up, he’s going to need to look at these result and figure out what he could be doing better. He has time to introduce himself to a (much) wider audience, but he needs to be a bit more strategic about that. You can do this, Beto.

UPDATE: Stace has more.

Related Posts:


  1. Manny Barrera says:

    Whoever is the person running for Governor will get most of the headlines and will either help or hurt the Democratic Party. I think White would be a better window dressing to be head of the party, but I don’t think that will be the case.

    Beto will bring voters out and he did what he had to get to the next part. My opinion he now has to start hanging Trump around the Canadian’s neck. He has to do it often of course and some of us will have to become like the Russian trolls that helped the traitor, that is presently occupying the White House, will also have to occur.

  2. Bill Daniels says:


    That’s great advice, and I hope Beto takes that advice, because that guarantees he loses. People like Trump here in Texas, and as Kuff admits, there are a lot of Dem voters that don’t know anything about the candidates, but will vote for the person with a Hispanic name. Advantage: Cruz.

    “it seems likely more evidence that lots of Democrats enter the primary booth with limited knowledge of who is on the ballot and select names”

    Remember Wendy Davis? She ran on a traditional Dem platform, and even made a point to say she wasn’t interested in taking guns, that she was pro-gun, and still got blown out. ‘Beto’ can’t even say that. He wants, what she wanted, and he wants to take our guns, too.

    That dog won’t hunt, at least, not in Texas….not yet. Hang your hopes on Mike Collier, instead. He’s got a better chance than Beto.

    Oh, and Manny, why do you hate immigrants so much? Immigrants built this country, remember? Cruz is an immigrant, and Hispanic. He’s got two oppression points, Beto has none. You are clearly racist and xenophobic for supporting a natural born white person over an immigrant person of color.

  3. TexMex Dude says:

    My tip for Beto would be to invest campaign time and money in some of those South Texas and border counties that he lost.

  4. Manny Barrera says:

    Bill you are a supporter of a traitor to this country, why would I take advice from you?

    November is around the corner, we will see how he does against the Canadian.

  5. Gary Denton says:

    Bill Daniels is clueless on Trump popularity in Texas, among many other things.
    I will point out that the activist progressive base which turned out was not completely sold on Beto’s policies compared to Sema Hernandez’s. And of course the lack of media coverage of the race, particularly in rural areas, is shown by the map results. Texans have gotten out of the habit of being engaged in politics and reading newspapers but I think Beto is doing the right things in trying to get a message and a brand identity out.