Progressive columnist Elizabeth Bruenig on Friday said the idea that Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) is the only Democrat who can beat President Trump in the 2020 presidential election has been “overstated.”
Bruenig, who is an opinion contributor at the Washington Post, argues that any candidate that comes through the Democratic primary has a solid chance against Trump, emphasizing that Democrats held critical Senate seats in states that were pivotal to Trump’s electoral victory in the 2016 election.
“You look at the midterms, a lot of Obama, Trump voters went back blue again,” Bruenig told Hill.TV’s Krystal Ball.
“I actually don’t think that Beto’s the only way that you can win against Trump — I think a lot of that’s overstated,” she added.
The columnist criticized the Texas congressman’s stance on issues that were a hallmark of Democratic messaging during the midterm elections, like his position on Medicare for all, saying he remained “unspecific” throughout his Senate campaign.
“He uses language like single-payer, or universal coverage but it’s pretty indistinct what he actually means by that,” Bruenig said.
She also called O’Rourke’s record on progressive issues like free college and free public tuition, both of which have gained more mainstream Democratic support, “pretty unremarkable.”
In 2015, O’Rourke co-sponsored the America’s College Promise Act, which would make two years of community college tuition-free for eligible students. A companion bill has since been proposed in the Senate.
Bruenig’s comments come after she penned a column in the Post criticizing O’Rourke, saying that the Texas lawmaker lacked “uncompromising progressive principles,” during a time that calls for a “left-populist candidate.”
Bruenig’s column later sparked a debate between Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), another possible 2020 contender, and O’Rourke supporters on Twitter.
The Center for American Progress President, Neerdra Tanden, called the piece “just the latest attack” by left-leaning journalists who back Sanders.
“Bruenig’s piece in the Post on Beto is just the latest attack by a supporter of Senator Sanders on Beto: joining Jilani, Jacobin and Sirota,” she tweeted, adding that it felt “a bit orchestrated and clearly they are worried.”
O’Rourke is still weighing whether or not to make a bid for the White House, but he’s not the only Texan that might throw his name in the mix.
Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro inched closer to his 2020 presidential run earlier this month after launching an exploratory committee to test the waters for a potential bid.
Castro said that he would spend “the next several weeks” traveling across the country to gauge support for a potential White House bid.
Correction: The headline on this story initially misrepresented Bruenig’s argument. It has been updated.
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