History Doesn’t Favor Presidential Bid for Beto O’Rourke or Julián Castro

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Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro (left) and former Congressman Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) have both been seen as possible front runner to declare candidacy for President in 2020.

Composite / Rivard Report File Photos

(left) U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-El Paso) will be taking the Democratic Party debate stage Tuesday night and Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro will get his chance Wednesday on CNN.

Toward the end of the final panel at the Rivard Report’s CityFest on Saturday, a member of the audience asked former San Antonio Mayor and U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro if he was going to run for president. He said he would make up his mind by the end of the year.

Four weeks ago, Castro told Rolling Stone he was “likely to do it.” The story was picked up by a number of national outlets. But since that time, the political news out of Texas has been all about Beto O’Rourke.

The 46-year-old El Paso congressman may have lost his race to unseat U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, but the close margin only spurred more talk about his potential as a Democratic presidential candidate next year.

A quick Google search of “Beto for president” turned up loads of stories touting that possibility in the days since O’Rourke’s election loss. Among them: NBC, CNN, Newsweek, Politico, The Hill, USA Today, and even the British Independent and Guardian newspapers.

Gamblers on the British website Betfair moved O’Rourke’s odds for winning the presidency from 400-1 on Election Day to 10-1 Wednesday morning. That put him behind only California’s U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris at 8-1.

None of this was affected by O’Rourke’s categorical denial that there is any chance of his making a presidential run.

If I’m Julián Castro, I don’t know what to make of the hoopla over Beto, other than to hope – unlike a number of members of the national commentariat – that O’Rourke continues to resist temptation.

On the one hand, I’m thrilled that O’Rourke demonstrated that the possibility of turning Texas purple is no longer a lovely chimera. On the other hand, do I really want to be the Texan who tries to follow Beto’s act? How do I come across as that cool, that energetic, and that positive? Who among us can expect to beat a record of raising $69 million while eschewing PAC money and garnering contributions from more than 800,000 individuals?

Of course, history doesn’t offer either one of them a clear path to the presidency. Neither a mayor’s office nor a cabinet position has served as a good springboard to high national office. Nor does losing your most recent race.

The last former mayor to be elected president was Calvin Coolidge. But he subsequently served as governor of Massachusetts and was vice president when Warren Harding died in 1923. He won one term as the incumbent.

The last cabinet member to become president was Herbert Hoover, who served as Secretary of Commerce under Coolidge and Harding. He was elected 90 years ago.

Although a couple of HUD secretaries – George Romney and Jack Kemp – sought presidential nominations, neither succeeded. Only two former HUD secretaries have won higher elected office. Andrew Cuomo became governor of New York in 2011, though the larger factor may have been that his father, Mario, had dominated New York politics as a three-term governor in the 1980s and 1990s.

Secretary Mel Martínez was elected senator from Florida in 2004, a year after serving as HUD secretary under George W. Bush. He resigned before the end of his term.

Turning to O’Rourke, there is precedent for a congressman (actually a former congressman) becoming president after losing a very close senate race to an incumbent. Abraham Lincoln lost to U.S. Sen. Stephen Douglas after their historic debates in 1858 and was elected president two years later. Richard Nixon also won after losing a governor’s race, but he had previously been vice president.

A potentially better path for O’Rourke has been laid out by an expert who was quite recently a skeptic. University of Texas at Austin political science professor James Henson is director of the Texas Politics Project and runs a poll jointly sponsored by the Texas Tribune.

In early October, Henson wrote an article for The Conversation titled “Why Beto O’Rourke Won’t Beat Ted Cruz in Texas.” Henson’s late October poll put O’Rourke six points behind. He argued that only the most optimistic projections even pulled O’Rourke close, and concluded the piece with this assessment, referring to Cruz’s increasingly negative campaign: “If there is a whiff of desperation to Cruz’s strategy, it may be an indicator that the comfortable margins of victory assumed by Republicans for the last decade are eroding, albeit much more slowly, and less decisively, than Democrats hope.”

On Friday, Henson struck a different tone. His headline in the Washington Post:

“Beto O’Rourke should run for Senate in 2020. He could win.” His major points:

  • Sen. John Cornyn is “one of the least popular top-tier statewide officials in Texas.” Before a boost from the Brett Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings and the election environment, Cornyn’s “positive job approval among Republicans was only 46 percent, 28 percentage points lower than Cruz’s, according to a University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll.”
  • Democratic turnout in the presidential election year will be even greater than it was this year.
  • If O’Rourke chooses not to run, “the assets Democrats gained this year may well dissipate.”

To these I would add one more. With O’Rourke’s demonstrated strength at pulling out unlikely voters, the national Democratic Party and the Democratic presidential candidate are more likely to see the state as a battleground and not an ATM, putting cash into the state rather than just taking it out as has been the custom.

With Texas’ 38 electoral college votes second only to California and guaranteed to grow after the 2020 census, the path to the presidency for a Republican without Texas gets significantly narrower.

12 thoughts on “History Doesn’t Favor Presidential Bid for Beto O’Rourke or Julián Castro

  1. Great report Rick Casey. None of them have a chance for the President’s office. NO experience and realistic check. They don’t have the skills to run a company of 20 people. Very good article. Some people need a realistic check of experience. I mean business experience.

  2. Two words I see missing here Senor Casey-‘changing demographics’. I wouldn’t bet on BETO winning as Senator, and that is due to the “more of the same/nothing will change,” attitude first time voters experience when they seek change, this is why the Beto campaign broke records for voter turnout. Beto running for Senate would be what? More of the ssaammee. Speaking for Mexican-Americans, if it’s one thing that ‘sticks in our crawl’, it’s being tricked into hoping for change, after being talked into going to vote for the first time. Being fooled is no fun Senor Casey:-( However!! Hope is an important ingredient in the Mexican-American dish, along with persistence, and a dash Texan grit for added flavor:-)

    There is a Mexican concept taught to me by my since passed Grandfather called Pelon- meaning extra bonus. I saw this practice exercised after he sold an item to a customer while working with him at a south side flea market many moons ago. It is done as a gesture of respect by the seller to the buyer. Fast forward to Beto for President 2020, I think you know where I’m going with this. So, I think I’ll get to the point. No, we Texans did not win the Beto for Senate campaign, HOWEVER as Pelon for our efforts, we give you President Beto O’Rourke!

  3. Biden/Beto for Pres/Veep 2020 would be a good solid ticket. Biden would pull in the older moderates & Beto would provide the energy & charisma. And Beto would win big in 2024 as former Veep. By then Beto’s older & wiser & the ongoing demographic shift would be massive.

  4. Beto was great in this recent election – History would have suggested he had no chance of winning at all. However, during his debate event he pulled punches when he should have been stronger and commanding. People do not respect supplication and entreaties on behalf of fighting candidates. If your oppositional candidate cannot stand for their family (i.e. Cruz’s capitulation to Trump following then candidate-Trump’s aspersions of salacious material on Heidi Trump, and that Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination), but you refuse to take the lay-up in calling them out on it, maybe you don’t deserve to win.

    Julian Castro is weak-sauce through and through. However, any argument that these individuals lack the experience to run a country, based on business experience… is juxtaposed with the lack of business acumen across numerous previous presidents (Kennedy, Roosevelt, Truman, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Clinton, Obama), in mixed assortment. Farmers Carter, and Bush Sr. should be considered businessmen, although I would consider G.W. Bush primarily a politician, not deeply/previously involved with the machinations of running the Bush ranch – although he was involved in a notorious insider trading scandal regarding the Texas Rangers.

    Our current president has filed for bankruptcy six times. Any businessman would tell you that failure is a necessary steppingstone to success, but there is ample evidence to suggest DJT would not be a first-draft pick for his business acumen. Recent reporting indicates DJT acquired more than $400M through Fred Trump’s establishment of a false corporation and intentional undervaluing to avoid taxes. Upon F. Trump’s death the real estate value would be transferred to the Trump children at $41M, although the NY State assessor has valued the subsequent sell of said inherited properties at almost $700M, constituting tax fraud, albeit fraud now beyond the statute of limitations. Trump has asserted he managed a $1M loan from his father into a multi-billion empire, but Fred Trump’s estate records evidence a $10.3M unpaid loan taken a year before Fred Trump’s death. Perhaps more condemning than any of this however, is the contention that Trump would be 3x richer had he merely invested all his assets into a slow-growing index fund (and this assumes he actually possesses the assets he claims – for which we do not have tax records to compare against).

    The assertion is this: if we need a president with business experience – is abject failure at business, given resources/tools far beyond the means of the average, competent entrepreneur, the standard we should compare against?

    People (constituents – dem/rep alike) are easily lulled by droning media soundbites. Accordingly, a strong voice such as Donald Trump (irrespective of competent experience) is able to prevail above the din. Accordingly, Republicans and corporate Democrats should take stock on what works in the media space. There are competent voices that can outperform Trump, but their names are not O’Rourke or Castro.





  5. Beto and Julian both will need much more credentials before they even think of running for president. In all due respect and all the media hoopla both are still not ready for prime time . They need to win a state wide election.

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