She cannot, of course, although her answer isn’t bad. Put on the spot, she offers some empty blather about O’Rourke championing environmentalism — which is not the worst brand for a new candidate in a Democratic presidential primary. Her answer was not, at least, Eisenhower-esque. O’Rourke can be grateful for that.
A truthful reply would have been, “He was here for only six years. How many three-term congressmen do you think have ‘signature accomplishments’?” How many three-term senators have signature accomplishments? Rob Portman and Pat Toomey are among the most well-respected Republicans in the Senate, each with more than 15 years of experience in Congress. What are their “signature accomplishments”? What are Marco Rubio’s and Ted Cruz’s signature accomplishments? Negatives ones in both cases, I’d say: Cruz is best known to the public for the 2013 shutdown and Rubio is best known to his own party for backing the Gang of Eight immigration bill the same year. Each thought he was helping his 2016 presidential chances by doing so and ended up hurting them instead.
So maybe “signature accomplishments” are overrated.
Jonathan Last warns the GOP today not to take Beto lightly. I agree, although I think his fear of a Biden-Beto ticket is borderline bananas. Yes, right, I know, Team Biden is reportedly already thinking along those lines, but the fact remains that an all-white-guy ticket is not in the offing for the Democratic Party in 2019 (and maybe not in any future years either). But could a lightweight like Beto at the top of the ticket defeat Trump? Hell yes. Just look at a map.
Or think about it this way: Trump’s reelect hinges upon him holding all of his 2016 states and praying for an inside straight again. His chances of flipping anything other than New Hampshire are awfully small.
On the other hand, if either Biden or Beto is the nominee, Michigan, Arizona, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Texas—Texas!—are all live propositions for the Democrats.
And that’s before we even start talking about Florida or Ohio.
That’s a very, very, very bad map for the Republican party.
One of the reasons the Club for Growth started running ads against O’Rourke a few days ago, before he even officially announced, is because the White House is worried about Texas if Beto is the nominee. Cruz had a better job approval in his home state last year than Trump does and Cruz barely held on against O’Rourke to retain his seat. Being a “lightweight” against an unpopular incumbent president isn’t all bad either, especially when the incumbent isn’t known for his policy chops. The more the election is a referendum on Trump rather than a choice between two flawed candidates, the greater the danger to POTUS. Precisely because he’s blandly inspirational and vague on policy rather than radically left-wing, O’Rourke would have an easier time than most Democratic candidates winning over voters looking for a generic “Not Trump” alternative next fall.
We underestimate at our peril the appeal of an extremely basic Kennedyesque white dude mumbling about hope and change while strumming a mandolin, is what I’m saying.
Exit question: Is the early White House messaging strategy against O’Rourke really just to emphasize that his real first name is “Robert”? I don’t think we need to worry about voters remaining unaware that Beto isn’t actually Latino; there’ll be plenty of coded and uncoded attacks on him in the primary for being one of those damned Caucasian men who are always monopolizing political offices. If “Hussein” didn’t work against Obama and “Drumpf” didn’t work against Trump, “Robert” probably isn’t going to sink O’Rourke.