O’Rourke has ‘significant advantage’ over other 2020 Dem contenders, says GOP strategist

Republican strategist Mattie Duppler on Wednesday said that Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) has a “significant advantage” over other candidates running for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 presidential election because he will no longer be an elected politician.

“Beto has a significant advantage in the sense that he will no longer be an elected politician, so [Sen. Bernie] Sanders (I-Vt.) and the rest of the bench, all of these senators running for president in 2020, they actually have to take hard votes, they have to keep the government open, they have to fund priorities that may not be in line with the progressive platform,” Duppler, founder and president of Forward Strategies, told Hill.TV’s Buck Sexton and Jamal Simmons on “Rising.”

Duppler added that O’Rourke could be a particularly strong alternative to potential progressive candidates like Sanders. 

“Republicans, we always had this issue with each person running for president want to be more conservative than the other conservative — Beto will be the most progressive guy out there because he won’t have to take any votes that Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren, Buttigieg fight echoes 2004 campaign, serves as warning for 2020 race Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash Sanders, Omar to hit campaign trail in New Hampshire MORE, [Sen.] Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump calls Warren 'Pocahontas,' knocks wealth tax Warren, Buttigieg fight echoes 2004 campaign, serves as warning for 2020 race Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash MORE (D-Mass.), and [Sen.] Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBooker campaign rakes in million after Harris exits 2020 race Democrats battle for Hollywood's cash Yang expands campaign with senior hires for digital operations MORE (D-Calif.) may have to take,” she said.

O’Rourke grabbed national attention this year in his long-shot bid to unseat incumbent Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSunday talk shows: Lawmakers gear up ahead of Monday's House Judiciary hearing Trade deal talks expand as Congress debates tech legal shield Sanders meets with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred MORE (R-Texas) in a state that hasn’t elected a Democrat in a statewide office in more than two decades.

The El Paso congressman’s ability to rally the state’s Democratic base, and draw thousands of supporters to his platform has drawn comparisons to former President Obama. 

“That ability to make people feel invested in his campaign and his story does remind me of Obama ‘08,” said Obama’s former speechwriter David Litt.

Duppler said she doesn’t blame Democrats for getting excited about O’Rourke’s potential presidential bid, citing that unlike many of the other Democratic candidates, the El Paso congressman offers a fresh face to the Democratic ticket.

“I think Beto has all of those characteristics of Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe House Judiciary Committee's fundamental choice Teaching black children to read is an act of social justice Buttigieg draws fresh scrutiny, attacks in sprint to Iowa MORE where he’s young, enthusiastic, a new shot in the arm, especially when you’re looking at people like Bernie Sanders,” she said.

But the Republican strategist emphasized that there’s one key difference between Obama and O’Rourke: Obama won his senate race before winning the Democratic nomination in 2008.

Duppler said time will tell whether Beto’s unsuccessful Senate bid will be a “liability or an asset for president in 2020.”

O’Rourke is currently serving his last term representing Texas' 16th Congressional District and is set to be replaced by former El Paso county judge Veronica EscobarVeronica EscobarFive questions looming over impeachment Rep. Veronica Escobar elected to represent freshman class in House leadership Brindisi, Lamb recommended for Armed Services, Transportation Committees MORE (D) in January.

Despite repeatedly rejecting the notion throughout his Senate campaign, O’Rourke said Monday that he isn’t ruling out a potential 2020 presidential run.

— Tess Bonn