No, it's not a gamble for Dems to back Beto for president

No, it's not a gamble for Dems to back Beto for president
© Greg Nash

Beto O’Rourke should reach for the gold ring. He’ll never be hotter than he is now. He is only 46 years old, charismatic, articulate and is the darling of social media. He can clearly raise a ton of dough. O’Rourke raised more than $70 million for his Senate campaign in Texas against incumbent Republican Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrump's Texas endorsement boosts a scandal-plagued incumbent while imperiling a political dynasty Trio of Senate Republicans urges Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade Overnight Defense: US launches another airstrike in Somalia | Amendment to expand Pentagon recusal period added to NDAA | No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia MORE. A recent poll by Morning Consult showed O’Rourke trailing only former vice president Joe BidenJoe BidenRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Iowa governor suggests immigrants partially to blame for rising COVID-19 cases Biden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on MORE and Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWomen's March endorses Nina Turner in first-ever electoral endorsement GOP sees debt ceiling as its leverage against Biden Democrats brace for slog on Biden's spending plan MORE (I-Vt.) for the Democratic presidential nomination.

He is so cool that — like Lebron and Kanye — he has become one of America’s few single-name icons, known to pundits and voters alike simply as "Beto." In fact, Lebron wore a "Beto" cap when he played in Texas before Election Day.

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Insiders will tell him to wait his turn and get more experience. O'Rourke could try to hold his powder and run against the senior Texas Sen. John Cronyn in 2020 — the second most powerful Republican in the Senate.

But Trump’s successful presidential campaign in 2016 proved the old rules don’t apply anymore. Trump hadn’t been elected to anything before he won the presidency. O’Rourke has served for six years in Congress; Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama to join NBA Africa as strategic partner Obama setting up big bash to celebrate his 60th A path to climate, economic and environmental justice is finally on the horizon MORE had only four years of congressional experience before he became commander in chief.

O'Rourke should strike while the iron is hot. Shrinking violets do not become presidents. Risk takers like Jimmy Carter and Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonFor families, sending money home to Cuba shouldn't be a political football Anything-but-bipartisan 1/6 commission will seal Pelosi's retirement. Here's why Could Andrew Cuomo — despite scandals — be re-elected because of Trump? MORE become presidential nominees and presidents. You never know if your turn will ever come around again.

Ignoring millennials is a mistake

There’s a generational war happening in American politics, particularly within the Democratic Party. A battle rages between the boomers who run the party and the millennials who are the strongest Democratic partisans. The defeats of Joe CrowleyJoseph (Joe) CrowleyCynthia Nixon backs primary challenger to Rep. Carolyn Maloney The Hill's Morning Report - McConnell pressures Dem leaders to follow Biden's infrastructure lead The Memo: The center strikes back MORE in New York City and Mike Capuano in Boston by the victories of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley were more generational than they were ideological. Both incumbents had very good liberal voting records that were no match for younger and more energetic challengers.

The two Democratic frontrunners, Biden and Sanders, are in their seventies. O'Rourke’s youth and energy would be an effective contrast. This contrast is vital for the Democratic Party. I am convinced that one of the younger upstarts will come out of the dust to be a serious player and maybe even win the nomination. Why not O'Rourke?

The Democratic leadership in Congress is also advanced in age. In the absence of a young presidential nominee, the face the Democratic Party presents to American voters will be old and jaded.

The top three Democrats in the House, Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiHouse to resume mask mandate after new CDC guidance McCarthy pulls GOP picks off House economic panel GOP up in arms over Cheney, Kinzinger MORE, Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHoyer urges conference talks on bipartisan infrastructure bill Hoyer suggests COVID-19 rules will stay — and might get tougher Senators reach billion deal on emergency Capitol security bill MORE and Jim ClyburnJames (Jim) Enos ClyburnThe absolute farce that was the Biden-Lemon town hall Ohio becomes battleground for rival Democratic factions Internet service providers spent 0M on lobbying, donations: report MORE have seniority in more ways than one. Some of the opposition to Pelosi was a function of the concerns about the age of the House leadership.

Less visible but almost as pronounced is the age of the Senate Democratic leadership. The party’s leaders in the Senate are younger than the House leadership but Chuck SchumerChuck Schumer84 mayors call for immigration to be included in reconciliation Senate infrastructure talks on shaky grounds Could Andrew Cuomo — despite scandals — be re-elected because of Trump? MORE and company aren’t exactly spring chickens. The Democratic leader is 68 — as are the third and fourth ranking Senate Democrats, Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayTech executives increased political donations amid lobbying push Schumer, Tim Scott lead as Senate fundraising pace heats up Sunday shows preview: As delta variant spreads, US leaders raise concerns MORE and Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowSenate passes bill to award congressional gold medal to first Black NHL player The glass ceiling that diverse Senate staff still face Here's evidence the Senate confirmation process is broken MORE. The No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, Dick DurbinDick DurbinBiden officials pledge to confront cybersecurity challenges head-on Senators scramble to save infrastructure deal Senate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines MORE, is 75.

The age of the Democratic presidential frontrunners and the party’s congressional leadership does not reward the overwhelming support millennials gave the Democratic Party in 2018. Millennials were more supportive of Democratic candidates than voters in any other age group. O'Rourke demonstrated his clout with young voters with 71 percent of the millennial vote in his race against Cruz.

Deep in the heart of Texas

The midterm results also suggest a rationale for a Texan presidential candidacy. Democrats have targeted Ohio along with Florida as the two key battleground states in a presidential race. But Texas may be a better bet than Ohio for Democrats. While Ohio drifts away from Democrats, the tide in Texas is close to breaking blue.

Targeting Texas instead of Ohio in a presidential race is risky for Democrats but the reward is a lot bigger. The Lone Star state has 38 electoral votes; the Buckeye state only has 18. A Democratic presidential win in Texas would be a disaster for Donald TrumpDonald TrumpRealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump Jake Ellzey defeats Trump-backed candidate in Texas House runoff DOJ declines to back Mo Brooks's defense against Swalwell's Capitol riot lawsuit MORE or any other GOP presidential candidate.

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There is a larger Democratic base in Texas than there is in Ohio. There were more than twice as many midterm minority voters in Texas there were in Ohio. There were more millennial voters in the Lone Star state and just as many Democrats.

The Democratic gubernatorial victories in Wisconsin and Michigan indicate that the party can restore at least parts of the presidential blue wall in the industrial Midwest.

But the Buckeye state will be a tough nut for Democrats to crack. Another potential Democratic presidential candidate Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSenate Democrats press administration on human rights abuses in Philippines GOP sees debt ceiling as its leverage against Biden Sunday shows preview: Bipartisan infrastructure talks drag on; Democrats plow ahead with Jan. 6 probe MORE won reelection but only with 53 percent of the vote. While Democrats took down GOP gubernatorial candidates in Wisconsin and in Michigan, the Democratic candidate for governor in Ohio, James Corday lost. 

Texas is on the rise for Democrats. Lone Star Democrats elected state representatives and county judges in counties that the party hasn’t won in a generation. Before 2018, the only blue counties were the areas on the Mexican border and in the large metro areas. Now blue spots are inching into the middle of the state.

An examination of the Texas Election Day exit poll should encourage Democrats for 2020. There were almost as many Democrats (34 percent) in the electorate as there were Republicans (38 percent). A quarter (26 percent) of the voters were Latino. Altogether, four in 10 (42 percent) of the voters were black or Hispanic. If minority turnout has been a few points higher as it would be in a presidential race, O'Rourke would have won. 

The battle against the boomers

O’Rourke checks two boxes for Democrats. His background is the best for a Democratic support from millennials and for a victory in Texas.

Democrats would also be better off with a young candidate like O'Rourke. Voters are in a nasty mood which means they will want change. O'Rourke is a change of pace for voters who are tired of the old political establishment.  

The desire for change is a function of a battle between an ascending generation, the millennials who want political power and a descending generation, the baby boomers who have the power and don't want to give it up.

Demography is destiny and the millennials will soon take control from the boomers. It would be much easier for Democrats to win the White House with a younger candidate who represents the future than it would be for an older nominee who stands for the past.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also a senior adviser to, and editor of, the blog at MyTiller.com, a social media network for politics.