Buzz faded, did Beto O'Rourke wait too long to launch a 2020 presidential bid? – Dallas News

WASHINGTON – Three months ago, in the afterglow of the Texas Senate contest and with few marquee candidates officially running for president as Democrats, Beto-mania was in full swing.

Polls showed Beto O’Rourke in the top three, lagging only a former vice president and the runner-up for the party’s nomination in 2016.

The big question then was whether he would run.

The big question now: Has he missed his window of opportunity?

“It feels a little saturated at the moment,” said Brigham Hoegh, the Democratic chairwoman in Audubon County, in western Iowa. “Kamala [Harris] made a big show and looks really strong in the last couple of weeks. I feel like he could still jump in, but there’s a ton of people in the race that are getting attention. He hasn’t been top of the mind lately.”

Sen. Ted Cruz squeaked past O’Rourke in November, a disappointment for Democrats that also marked their best showing in Texas in 24 years. Still, O’Rourke pulled in a record-smashing $70 million and drew huge crowds, generating national buzz that rarely attaches to someone who hasn’t won a statewide election.

Then he largely disappeared, just as the 2020 field was growing crowded.

Sens. Kamala Harris drew 20,000 at her campaign launch in California and Sen. Elizabeth Warren drew thousands Saturday when she announced her bid in Massachusetts. Harris and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey have been locking down top operatives. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Sherrod Brown of Ohio have barnstormed Iowa, where the only Texan in the race so far, Julián Castro, plans a three-day blitz later this month.

O’Rourke has weighed in on the border fight and the shutdown on social media in recent weeks. When President Donald Trump holds a campaign rally Monday night in El Paso, he’ll march with fellow Democrats who oppose the president’s border policies. But mostly he’s stayed on the sidelines.

“The window certainly has not closed,” said Troy Price, chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party, but some caucus-goers in the state that gets the first look at candidates have begun to pick favorites. “There’s always talent out there. There’s just not as much of it.”

Democrats are looking at the largest primary field in at least a generation.

Nate Lerner, a founder of the Draft Beto PAC, one of two groups formed to encourage O’Rourke to run, conceded that the momentum was stronger three months ago, and even a month ago.

“Yes, strategically it would have been better for him to have announced sooner,” he said.

Last week, Oprah Winfrey offered a lifeline: an interview from Times Square on Tuesday. It hasn’t aired yet but the newsworthy part quickly got out.

“I have been thinking about running for president,” O’Rourke told her, adding that he’ll decide by the end of the month.

That bought him time.

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