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On Beto’s campaign strategy

The Trib writes about the places Beto O’Rourke has gone.

Rep. Beto O’Rourke

There was a frantic energy in the air Saturday morning amid a downpour of chilly rain as cars circled the sprawling John M. Tidwell Middle School parking lot in search of spaces. But the candidate was about to speak, so a number of cars gave up.

Crying uncle here, however, didn’t mean leaving. Instead, they haphazardly parked in fire lanes and were out of their vehicles practically before the engines stopped running.

It’s the type of scene that plays out every four years in states such as Iowa and New Hampshire: Curious voters cram into gyms and cafeterias and warehouses to see the latest buzzed-about candidate who’s come to town.

Except this wasn’t an early voting state, and this was not a candidate for president.

Instead, hundreds of Texans turned out on Saturday to hear U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, a Democrat from far away El Paso, make his case for the U.S. Senate. This has been happening around the state but O’Rourke assured these Texans that they were special in his path to victory against Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz.

“If there is one county that is the linchpin of the 254 [counties] that will determine the outcome of this election, it is Tarrant County,” O’Rourke said.

[…]

Consciously or not, O’Rourke is following then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama’s Iowa strategy in 2007 of campaigning hard in conservative areas with an aim to lose less badly there and make up the difference in urban areas.

There is scant reliable, public polling on this race, so the best indicators of where it stands are anecdotal evidence like crowd sizes. If a candidate drew these kinds of crowds in smaller states, alarm bells would ring.

But Texas is massive in population and in geography, and it is an open question whether this strategy will work.

Beto’s visit-everywhere strategy has been written about multiple times, but the Trib’s summary of it is accurate. It could work, but we have no way of knowing right now. It’s different, which makes it interesting, and it’s not like the playbook everyone else had been running has much to recommend it. We just don’t have any basis for comparison except the other not-similar campaigns. And when all is said and done, we won’t know how much of Beto’s final result will be because of this strategy, and how much will be due to other factors like the national atmosphere and the loathing all decent people feel for Ted Cruz. I think the strategy he is using is a sensible one, and I think this is the perfect year to try it. It may or may not work, and even if it does work as well as it could have he may not win. We’re still a Republican state, even if the prognosticators warm to his chances. Whatever does happen, I hope we learn the right lessons from it for the future.

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