O’Rourke tells supporters in Iowa that “we do not have the means to pursue this campaign successfully”
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
DES MOINES, Iowa (CFP) — Seven months after beginning his quest for the presidency with high hopes and lavish media attention born of political star power, former Texas U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke has brought his campaign to an abrupt and quiet end.
O’Rourke’s exit from the race, amid anemic polling results and fundraising numbers, was made official November 1 in front of a crowd of supporters in Des Moines, Iowa, where he had been scheduled to speak at a Democratic event with the rest of the 2020 field.
“This is a campaign that has prided itself on seeing things clearly and speaking honestly,” O’Rourke told a small crowd of subdued supporters. “We have clearly seen at this point that we do not have the means to pursue this campaign successfully and that my service will not be as a candidate, nor as the nominee of this party for president.”
An aide to O’Rourke later told reporters that he would not enter the U.S. Senate race in Texas, as some Democratic leaders have been urging him to do. The filing deadline in Texas is December 9.
O’Rourke’s short-lived campaign will perhaps be best remembered for a moment in a September debate where, in a call for mandatory buybacks of assault weapons, he said, “Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47.”
While the audience cheered, even some of his fellow Democrats winced at a soundbite likely to be weaponized by Republicans — and which may have extinguished any hope of a statewide political future for O’Rourke in Texas.
But O’Rourke offered no apologies during his withdrawal speech, saluting his campaign for being “unafraid to confront the conventional wisdom of what it was possible to say in the public sphere.”
O’Rourke, 47 — whose given first name is Robert but who uses his childhood nickname, Beto, a Spanish diminutive — served three terms in Congress representing El Paso before deciding to challenge Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz in 2018.
Given little chance at the beginning, O’Rourke and his campaign fired the imagination of Democratic activists around the country, raising more than $80 million and coming within 3 points of ousting Cruz, the runner up to President Donald Trump in the 2016 GOP presidential contest.
O’Rourke hoped to ride that momentum to the Democratic nomination when he entered the race in late March. While his initial fundraising and polling numbers were strong amid an avalanche of media attention, both began to fade after uneven performances in early presidential debates.
O’Rourke pivoted to the gun control issue in August after a gunman killed 22 people at a Wal-Mart in his hometown of El Paso, but it did not resonate enough to propel him to the front of the Democratic pack.
O’Rourke was polling at 2 percent or less nationally and didn’t even register in one recent poll in Iowa, the first caucus state where he was drawing large crowds back in April.
His fundraising had also dried up, leaving his campaign with just $3.2 million at the end of September with early contests in Iowa and New Hampshire looming.
O’Rourke’s departure from the race leaves just one Southerner in the presidential race, former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro.