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The excuse-making for O'Rourke's campaign has already begun

The excuse-making for O'Rourke's campaign has already begun
AP Photo/LM Otero

Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke hasn’t thrown in the towel, but Texas Democrats are starting to resign themselves to the likelihood that the former congressman turned failed presidential candidate isn’t going to be victorious in his current campaign to become the state’s next governor. It’s been almost two weeks since we’ve seen a poll in the Texas governor’s race, but up to that point Gov. Greg Abbott was leading comfortably in the RealClearPolitics polling average, with a 8.5-point advantage over his Democratic opponent.

Now the Texas media is starting to write the post-mortem to O’Rourke’s gubernatorial bid, weeks before it will officially come to an end. Not a good sign for O’Rourke’s campaign, who was broken Democratic fundraising records this cycle but hasn’t broken past 46% support in voter surveys.

According to the Houston Chronicle‘s Jeremy Wallace, one of the biggest drags on O’Rourke is his Wallace points outinfamous “hell yes, we’re coming for your guns” cry on the presidential campaign trail in 2019. As , while blue state Democrats may have swooned, there were likely a lot of Texans who muttered “come and take it” in response.

O’Rourkesays he still believes those weapons should not be sold, but he’s no longer campaigning on taking them away — a key distinction he makes every time he is asked about the comment. He says he has settled on gun proposals that have more universal support — such as raising the age to buy those weapons as Florida has done.
Abbott has used the debate clip to paint O’Rourke as a flip-flopper, not only on guns but also climate change, border policies and defending the police — all since his campaign for the White House.
Not only is O’Rourke’s current position inconsistent, it’s based entirely on political expediency. I don’t think O’Rourke has changed his mind about wanting to come for our guns. He’s changed his talking points, and he’s hoping that Texas Democrats will either be too stupid to notice or partisan enough to recognize that he’s not backing away from his position, merely making a bid for more “moderate” voters.
Gun control activists are happy to go along. No anti-gun group has come out and chastised O’Rourke for supposedly weakening his stance on an “assault weapons” ban, because they know he’s just saying what he thinks he has to in order to get elected. The problem for Robert Francis O’Rourke is that most Texas voters know what he’s doing as well.
More importantly, however, is the fact that O’Rourke and Democrats simply aren’t focused on the issues that are important to most voters. If you’re going to win as a Democrat in Texas, you’re going to have to not only lock down the left but get a majority of independent voters on your side as well. According to a Quinnipiac poll of the governor’s race last month, the priorities of Democrats are wildly out of touch with what’s on the minds of independents.

Asked to choose the most urgent issue facing Texas today, the Texas-Mexico border (38 percent) ranks first followed by abortion (17 percent) and inflation (11 percent).

There are big differences by party identification.

Among Republicans, the Texas-Mexico border (66 percent) ranks first followed by inflation (20 percent). No other issue reached double digits.

Among Democrats, abortion (36 percent) ranks first followed by gun policy (16 percent) and election laws (12 percent).

Among independents, the Texas-Mexico border (37 percent) ranks first followed by abortion (16 percent). No other issue reached double digits.

The border isn’t even one of the top-three issues for Democrats. Neither is inflation, which is absolutely insane to me. It’s not a coincidence then, that the same poll found Texas independents breaking for Abbott 53-46. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s closer to 60-40 when they start actually counting votes.
O’Rourke didn’t do himself any favors when he went full-on confiscation while running for president, but if that’s how he really feels I’m glad he let us know, honestly. And while his views on gun control have definitely played a major role in his current campaign struggles, his problem is compounded by the fact that the primary concerns of Democrats aren’t the primary concerns of most voters. O’Rourke was hoping that the shooting in Uvalde would make his anti-gun positions not only more palatable to Texas voters, but more of a pressing issue as well. While there have been polls suggesting that a majority of Texans are in favor of raising the age to purchase modern sporting rifles from 18 to 21, it’s not a primary consideration when your grocery bill is higher every week and more than 100,000 illegal immigrants are crossing into the state every month.
Ultimately, what’s going to sink O’Rourke’s campaign is his failure to connect with voters; something that can’t be blamed on a single issue. O’Rourke is less liked than Abbott, his calls for gun confiscation are still remembered, and he’s not trusted on the issues that matter most to a majority of Texas voters. That’s a lot of baggage, and while there’s still the slight chance of an October miracle that would reverse O’Rourke’s fortunes, I don’t think the Texas media are being too premature in issuing their post-mortems of his current (and maybe last) campaign.