It’s official: Beto O’Rourke has thrown his mop of hair into the ring.
No one knows whether O’Rourke the presidential candidate will be able to scale the magic of Beto the bane of Ted Cruz. But for purposes of defeating Donald Trump, Democrats should hope like hell that he can.
It’s not because he’s cool or "Kennedyesque" or so much better than – or, frankly, different from – most of his fellow Democrats on “the issues.”
It’s not because he’s a white man. (In fact, I’d be happier if he weren’t.)
It’s because Beto O’Rourke is from Texas, also known as the state with the second-highest number of electoral votes. So, of course, is Julian Castro – and if Castro should capture sufficient lightning (and funding) in months to come, the same argument certainly applies to him.
Yes, this is a simplistic way of looking at things – but then again, Democrats are busily thwarting themselves with sophisticated ones.
There’s the whole Rubik's cube of identity:
Would male voters turn out for a woman, or turn on her? Conversely, having had such bitter back-to-back defeats in the last two go-rounds, would women rally to yet another man? If so, does that man have to be black, Hispanic or gay? On the other hand, given the collective fear of Joe Six Pack, would he be allowed to be any of those? Supposing it’s Bernie or Biden, can anyone name a vice-presidential prospect sufficiently fresh to extend the expiration date on those guys?
And the Jacob's ladder of ideology/policy:
Do you have to be for the green new deal or Medicare for All? Is it smart to drop the occasional nice comment about this or that Republican, or is it suicidal? How do you navigate slavery reparations and #me too without coming across as either racist/sexist on the one hand or looney-lefty on the other?
Meanwhile, nobody seems to be looking at a map.
Whatever other qualities they may have to recommend them, Kirsten Gillebrand, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Jay Inslee, Tulsi Gabbard, John Delaney, Andrew Yang, and Marianne Williamson all come from states that the Democratic candidate is almost certainly going to win in a walk.
Notwithstanding the positive buzz he has generated with one stellar performance after another, Pete Buttigieg comes from a state where Donald Trump is just as sure to rock out, and would do even if Mike Pence weren’t a native son. (Buttigieg 2036? Count me in!)
John Hickenlooper and Amy Klobuchar come from states where Hillary Clinton beat Trump, who has only been growing less popular in those places ever since.
By contrast, Beto O’Rourke has just come off building a massive grass-roots organization and one hundred per cent name recognition in a long-Republican state that Democrats have a real shot at taking, partly thanks to him.
Clearly, there are limits to this calculation. Trump lost his native New York and will lose it again, and there is no point of origin that can turn a loser of a candidate into a winner.
Coming off the high of his senate run, it will be quite easy for O’Rourke to come across as a loser. Straight out of the gate, he has only two options: dazzle or fizzle. If he fizzles, there’s no math that adds up for him.
If he dazzles, though…if he dazzles, Democrats should let everybody else fade in his glow. There is just no sense in peeling the shine off a candidate who stands the greatest chance of beating Trump where he most needs to win -- or failing that, can at least force the incumbent to spend a lot of time and money to secure himself where he ought to be safe.