Democratic presidential candidate Robert “Beto” O’Rourke paused his campaign to return to his hometown of El Paso, where a deranged gunman killed 22 people at a local shopping center on Aug. 3.
Now, after 12 days of photo ops with the grieving families of the victims and carefully choreographed profane rants blaming President Trump for the tragedy, O’Rourke is re-launching his presidential campaign with “new, bold solutions” that will “focus heavily on three key issues: racism, white supremacy and guns,” NBC News reports.
— supportive ricardo (@THEVonRoll) August 15, 2019
O’Rourke’s “major address” Thursday is his latest attempt to attract attention to his floundering campaign, which is plagued by lackluster fundraising, flat polling, small event crowds, and desperate social media antics.
And while many political “experts” and strategists believe O’Rourke’s compassion for the victims and hate for Trump is authentic, they’re skeptical that his response to the El Paso massacre will ultimately be enough to save Beto 2020.
“One hesitates to call something like that an ‘opportunity,’ but it has given him an unfortunate opportunity to re-present himself to the public,” James Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin, told The Hill.
“His ability to emote and convey empathy and an air of commitment to his politics, is certainly one of his strengths,” Henson said. “But one of the things that we’ve seen is that is not enough, at least in this field, given that he is not the only one able to do that – and that there are more established candidates in the field.”
Hank Sheinkopf, a Democrat strategist in New York, seemed to share a similar perspective Politico.
“The tragedy gave him a bump in the minds of the media,” he said. “Is it likely that he will be the president of the United States? It is more likely that Texas will secede from the union again. Is it likely that he will raise the money needed to run a presidential campaign in the 21st century? … The answer is also, ‘Unlikely.’ But does he have one moment to make his case because of something extraordinarily awful that occurred? The answer is, ‘Yes.’”
The El Paso shooting refocused the media on O’Rourke at a critical time for his campaign, and he’s seemingly making the most of it by framing the tragedy as a byproduct of President Trump’s alleged racism.
“You know the shit he’s been saying,” O’Rourke told reporters in the aftermath. “He’s been calling Mexican immigrants ‘rapists’ and ‘criminals.’ I dunno, like members of the press, what the f*ck?… It’s these questions that you know the answers to … He’s not ‘tolerating’ racism, he is promoting racism.”
O’Rourke plans to contrast that narrative with a campaign strategy that aims to reach out to illegal immigrants and others ignored by other politicians, casting himself as the savior of the little people.
The former Congressman will focus less on “traditional” events and more on places not visited by other candidates, “reflecting the gravity of the situation we’re in, even if that means doing things differently,” a campaign official told NBC News.
— Susie Draper (@susiedrapes) July 24, 2019
Whether that means more staged social media stunts remains unclear. The 46-year-old’s cringeworthy online videos include livestreams of his visit to the barber and dentist, as well as attempts to court black voters in Detroit with his wife Amy’s “amazing spaghetti.”
Beto changes a tire pic.twitter.com/i41vUH0OmE
— Behind 2020 (@Behind2020) August 11, 2019
Last weekend, he changed a tire on a truck in a video that received little to no widespread attention.
The Beto 2020 re-launch is at least the second since the failed Senate candidate announced his bid for president, following a previous attempt to reboot with an appearance on “The View” and a round of other media appearances this spring.
O’Rourke skipped a traditional campaign stop for Democrats at the Iowa State Fair, where about two dozen of his competitors ate pork chops and corn dogs with the masses last weekend, and where he’s currently polling at less than one percent.
Instead, O’Rourke was prepping his relaunch in El Paso, where he explained on Thursday that he will continue that strategy, visiting places where he believes Trump’s policies are hurting minorities or others he’s counting on for support.
“I don’t know that I’ve been doing a good enough job to match that threat with the urgency and the honesty and the clarity that it deserves,” O’Rourke said, according to The New York Times. “Being with those who have been denigrated and demeaned is more important than it has ever been.”