By Jon Dougherty
Gone are the heady days of the sometimes riotous support for Robert “Beto” O’Rourke’s 2018 bid to unseat incumbent U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), as was painfully evident during a late weekend rally in Iowa, as the 2020 presidential contender struggled to fill a room.
As noted by the Washington Examiner, O’Rourke played to a room of dozens as he “saw firsthand what it’s like to be just another presidential candidate during a sleepy town hall event Sunday afternoon as the enthusiasm and star power he sought to generate hit ground truth in Iowa.”
O’Rourke hit the ground walking…and late by 30 minutes…for an event at the University of Iowa student union ballroom, which stayed less than half-full during his campaign pitch. Crowd estimates, according to the WE, were less than 150 people, and many of them weren’t sold yet on O’Rourke
The news site noted further:
A number of attendees remarked to the Washington Examiner that O’Rourke’s crowd was smaller than they anticipated, particularly in a city of 75,000 with a major university. The crowd was less than half the size of audiences drawn by O’Rourke’s rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders, at similar events in smaller towns.
Some high school students appeared to have ulterior motives for being there. Julian Wallace, 18, was clad in O’Rourke garb but told the Examiner that he was only wearing it as proof for an extra-credit assignment. His friend Aaron, 17, seemed to be sizing up the competition for his preferred candidate, saying he thought O’Rourke lacked the “big ideas” of former tech executive Andrew Yang.
Some observers noted that the O’Rourke campaign seemed to have difficulty getting out information for the candidate’s appearance. Also, others thought that the timing of the event — a late Sunday afternoon when students were attending religious services or doing other activities — was also misplaced.
Still, if O’Rourke’s level of enthusiasm had carried over from his campaign against Cruz the surely more people would have made the effort to come see him.
But it’s early, and the Democratic presidential field is vast — and continually expanding.
As for O’Rourke’s chances, here’s a fun fact: Rasmussen Reports released a survey on Monday showing that 67 percent of “likely voters” believe illegal immigration is a “serious problem” today, with 47 percent calling it “very serious.”
O’Rourke, who hails from El Paso, which is right on the Mexican border, wants to tear down walls and fences, not build new ones — which puts him and every other Democratic candidate who feels the same way massively out of step with most voters.
- Follow Jon Dougherty on Twitter at @JonDougherty10