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 Cruz. A recent poll by Morning Consult showed O’Rourke trailing only former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (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.

{mosads}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 Obama 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 Clinton 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 Crowley 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 Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn 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 Schumer and company aren’t exactly spring chickens. The Democratic leader is 68 — as are the third and fourth ranking Senate Democrats, Patty Murray and Debbie Stabenow. The No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, Dick Durbin, 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 Trump or any other GOP presidential candidate.

{mossecondads}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 Brown 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.

Tags 2020 election Barack Obama Bernie Sanders Bill Clinton Brad Bannon Chuck Schumer Debbie Stabenow Democratic Party Dick Durbin Donald Trump Joe Biden Joe Crowley Milliennials Nancy Pelosi Patty Murray Sherrod Brown Steny Hoyer Ted Cruz Texas White House

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