McNeely: Beto was taught some hard lessons

It took several months to come to the dismal conclusion, but Beto O’Rourke finally conceded Friday that his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination couldn’t get there from here.

“Though it is difficult to accept, it is clear to me now that this campaign does not have the means to move forward successfully,” O’Rourke said on social media.

“My service to the country will not be as a candidate or as the nominee,” said O’Rourke, who had tried to turn a near-miss run for the Senate from Texas in 2018 into a successful race for president.

“Acknowledging this now is in the best interests of those in the campaign; it is in the best interests of this party as we seek to unify around a nominee; and it is in the best interests of the country,” O’Rourke said.

Beto’s decision came just hours before he was supposed to join other Democratic candidates at a party dinner in Iowa.

Volunteers were still collecting voter information and handing out “Beto” stickers” outside the event amid a steady rain as Beto announced he was dropping out.

Beto, as he was called on yard signs for his senate campaign, and for president, learned some things the hard way.

Like, running against two opponents in a statewide primary was simpler than facing more than a dozen in national race.

Then, he was a three-term congressman from El Paso running against two opponents in the 2018 Democratic primary to contest incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz’s reelection bid for a second term.

Now, he was seeking the presidential nomination against more than two dozen — including a former vice-president and several members of the U.S. Senate.

In 2017, Beto had decided to run for Cruz’s job rather than reelection.

Cruz, the state’s solicitor general under then-Attorney General Greg Abbott, had won the Republican Senate nomination in 2012 by upsetting wealthy Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in a runoff.

In Washington, the brash new senator rapidly united the usually divided Democratic and Republican senators on at least one issue: if Cruz were drowning, few would have tossed him a life preserver.

With his party’s nomination, Beto vowed to campaign in all 254 counties in Texas and talk to any person or group. And he did.

Beto also pledged not to accept donations from political action committees, yet still raised some $80 million from individual donors across Texas and the country — the most ever for a U.S. Senate race.

Cruz defeated him by just 2.6 percent, much closer than political watchers had predicted in a state where no Democrat has been elected to statewide office since 1994. Despite his loss, the excitement created from the top of the ticket had an impact on several down-ballot races.

A Democrat in Dallas and another in Houston unseated longtime Republican congressmen. Democrats flipped 12 Republican-held seats in the Texas House of Representatives and one in the Texas Senate.

After his narrow loss, Beto got lots of encouragement nationally to run for president. He also had lots of people urging him to use his considerable momentum in 2020 to face off against Texas’ senior senator, John Cornyn.

Beto, whose name identification had gone national, decided he’d prefer to take a chance on holding an office where he’d be one of one, rather than one of a hundred.

After he announced for president on March 14, his campaign raised $9.4 million in the first two weeks. But the competition increased, for both attention and campaign contributions, and his standing in the polls and donors dwindled.

Beto had trouble keeping up with the continually rising threshold of requirements his number of donors and poll results required to participate in the Democratic debates every few weeks.So finally, Friday, he pulled the plug. He said he isn’t backing any particular candidate, saying the country will be well served by any of the other candidates, “And I’m going to be proud to support whoever that nominee is.”

Lots of backers renewed their calls for Beto to get in the now-crowded Democratic primary race to challenge Cornyn.

No, Beto said through a spokesman on Friday.

“Beto will not be a candidate for U.S. Senate in Texas in 2020,” said Rob Friedlander, an aide to Mr. O’Rourke.

Upon hearing of Beto’s exit, Trump couldn’t resist tweeting about it, rubbing his nose in the earlier Vanity Fair article.

“Oh no,” Trump tweeted. “Beto just dropped out of race for President despite him saying he was ‘born for this.’ I don’t think so!”

— Dave McNeely is an Austin-based columnist who covers Texas politics. His column appears Thursday.

Today's Bible verse

“Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods.”

— Psalm 95:2-3

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