They waited with bated breath for Beto — is he worth it?

They waited with bated breath for Beto — is he worth it?

Ever since Beto O’Rourke lost by a mere 3 points in the race for the U.S. Senate seat in Texas against Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight 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 No. 2 State Dept. official to lead nuclear talks with Russia next week Here's evidence the Senate confirmation process is broken MORE (R-Texas), many have been expecting him to run for president. 

During his Senate race, he raised a jaw-dropping $38 millions dollars, mostly from small donors, and roused the excitement and swoon of countless Democrats across the nation. They have been waiting with bated breath for Beto.    


Will he be the savior many Democrats yearn for? Or will he end up being another also-ran in a sea of experienced, diverse candidates all hungry to take on Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump hails Arizona Senate for audit at Phoenix rally, slams governor Arkansas governor says it's 'disappointing' vaccinations have become 'political' Watch live: Trump attends rally in Phoenix MORE in 2020? That will be up to Beto — and the voters.

For now, Beto fans got their wish. Beto has entered the race with an intimate video talking directly to voters about his decision, a snazzy and well-timed Vanity Fair cover story, and a town-hall-type of diner rally in Iowa.  

His first official meet-and-greet with Iowa voters had Beto speaking off the cuff, absorbing the energy of the audience and showing his penchant for being long on prose but short on specifics — much like Donald Trump. But that is where the similarities end.

In fact, most people like to compare O’Rourke with the fresh-faced Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaEmergency infrastructure needed to keep Americans safe: Public media Kavanaugh conspiracy? Demands to reopen investigation ignore both facts and the law Congress is to blame for the latest ruling on DACA MORE as he entered into the race in 2007. Also short on experience — though possessing the title of U.S. senator — a young Barack Obama injected Democrats with excitement at what he had to offer. 

But as with O’Rourke, many skeptics at the time also questioned the young Obama’s experience and substance. Nonetheless, many differences exist between the political climate in which Obama ran in 2007 and the political climate now. 

Obama entered a much smaller, narrower field of Democratic challengers in which the most difficult competitor was Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden flexes presidential muscle on campaign trail with Virginia's McAuliffe Shontel Brown gaining ground against Nina Turner in Ohio: poll Biden hits trail for McAuliffe in test of his political brand MORE. Obama also had a stark and important policy difference with Hillary that gave him an advantage: He had been against the Iraq war. 

Today, Beto enters a vastly different era and field of candidates. There is a myriad of Democratic challengers who have declared their candidacies, many with higher name recognition, more experience and accomplishments — but also with records that can be scrutinized and weaponized. 

Then there is former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump hails Arizona Senate for audit at Phoenix rally, slams governor Republicans focus tax hike opposition on capital gains change Biden on hecklers: 'This is not a Trump rally. Let 'em holler' MORE. The expectation is that he will jump in the race in a few weeks, and many say he will occupy the same lane that Beto aspires to own — the more moderate candidate who is able to stand up to Donald Trump yet focuses on a positive, unifying message of bringing people together.  

Beto is 30 years younger than Biden, with no record of policy or legislative accomplishments but also no long history or record that can be used against him. Will that be enough to differentiate Beto from Biden? That will be up to Beto — and the voters. 

Many chide O’Rourke for his recent roadtrip of the country he took to find himself after the Senate race. Women correctly point out that a woman, or a person or color would never have gotten away with that. 

Criticism can also be levied on the little-deserved media swoon Beto enjoys, as displayed by the Vanity Fair cover and accompanying ebullient reporting about his life, adventures and aspirations. 

Fair or not, these will be questions and skepticisms Beto will have to answer, especially as his Democratic opponents make up the most diverse field in history. 

In fact, he has already answered the question of why him as opposed to the other more diverse candidates. His answer was the right one: 

“I totally understand people who will make a decision based on the fact that almost every single one of our presidents has been a white man, and they want something different for this country. And I think that’s a very legitimate basis upon which to make a decision. Especially in the fact that there are some really great candidates out there right now,” he told Vanity Fair.  

He gave his answer genuinely, without being defensive. He pointed out that if he is the nominee, his team will undoubtedly have to reflect who we are today as a country.

Many people are still asking the questions of where Beto stands on the issues. He will continue to get asked for more specifics, and voters’ patience with him only answering “the spirit of the question” as he did in the Iowa diner, will quickly dissipate, if he does not deliver more details. 

In the same vein, Beto also will get asked: Why him? As he should. As all the candidates should. 

I hope O'Rourke realizes just how much work is ahead of him if he indeed wants to prove to the country that he was not only “born to be in it” but that he was born to be in it for us. 


I hope he realizes that a media frenzy does not a president make. I hope he understands that his youthful looks and scrappy Urban Outfitter image, while delectable to many young voters looking for a voice with whom they can relate, will only take him so far. 

He worked hard in his Senate race against Ted Cruz. It showed. He will have to work harder than ever to succeed in the Democratic primary and then the general election. 

But one thing is for certain: Beto’s candidacy represents one very important thing for Democrats: our passion and urgency to beat Trump in 2020. Beto undoubtedly will be yet another force for the party to ensure we get the best nominee possible to win back the White House in 2020. 

In the meantime, I will wait with bated breath for the Stacey Abrams Vanity Fair cover story.

Maria Cardona is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a Democratic strategist and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.