- Tonight’s Democratic primary debate may be the last shot for former Texas congressman, Beto O’Rourke.
- While O’Rourke has made headlines in recent months over gun control and comments about Donald Trump, Insider polling shows a steady, consistent decline in support for the candidate.
- Three months before O’Rourke officially announced his presidential run, the Texan was considered satisfactory as a nominee by 58% of Democratic voters who knew about him.
- By the time he announced his presidential run in March, that number had dropped to 47%. In the six months since O’Rourke’s satisfactory rating dropped even lower to 34%.
- Coming off a Senate run against Ted Cruz, many pointed to O’Rourke as a potentially strong candidate to take on Donald Trump in a potential 2020 general election, but support in those areas has similarly dwindled. In March, 43% of Democratic voters thought O’Rourke could beat Trump, but that’s plummeted to just 20%.
- O’Rourke, who has gained a reputation for live streaming long, explanatory views on complex issues, has generally struggled to find success in debates thus far but will need a breakthrough moment as competition dwindles.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
When former Texas congressman and failed 2018 senate candidate Beto O’Rourke loudly announced his presidential campaign earlier this year by live-streaming himself leaping onto a table, the effort seemed, to some at the time, an announcement made too late. Now, seven months later, O’Rourke’s presidential future is clinging to life.
O’Rourke’s public support shows a steady, consistent decline. Several times each month since last December, Insider asked over 1,100 respondents about the Democratic field, specifically, if they’d be satisfied or unsatisfied with known each of the known primary candidates as the nominee. More details on what we poll and what we ask can be found here.
The polling data, pulled from the recurring SurveyMonkey Audience national poll conducted by Insider (and available for download here), illustrates the percentage of people who said they were “satisfied” with O’Rourke.
- Shayanne Gal/Business Insider
A quick glance at the polling data shows a steady decline since O’Rourke’s initial high in December. In the first three months measured here (from December to March,) the percentage of people who claimed they were satisfied with O’Rourke decreased from 58% to 47.1%. That 11 point decline looks pretty bad, but it looks even worse once you realize O’Rourke didn’t officially announce his campaign until March. In other words, O’Rourke was losing before he ever got started.
It seems that O’Rourke hasn’t caught on. During an interview with his supporters last week, the O’Rourke campaign announced it had raised $4.5 million in the third quarter so far, and the former Texas representative claimed the campaign was on a “wonderful trajectory.” But O’Rourke’s trajectory over the past ten months has been nothing short of underwhelmingly weak. Without a strong breakthrough performance in tonight’s debate, O’Rourke’s downward trend may turn too steep to climb back from.
O’Rourke still lacks name recognition when compared to frontrunners – and time is running out
When O’Rourke started his long-shot climb to the Democratic nomination, one common refrain making rounds involved his lack of proper name recognition: People actually, really like Beto, the story goes, they just don’t know who he is.
Insider’s polling confirms at least part of that equation. O’Rourke is less well known by voters compared to front runners like Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders. O’Rourke’s problem is that despite ten months of campaigning, just 62% of people said they were aware of O’Rourke barely up from the 59% at the beginning of the year.
Nearly a year and over $15 million raised later, O’Rourke is just 3% more well-known. With debate thresholds rising and primaries beginning in just over three months, the October 15 debate will be critical for O’Rourke’s team.
- Business Insider
O’Rourke has had moments of success, but no lasting breakthrough
There have been times since O’Rourke first launched his campaign where it appeared the candidate’s ship might correct course. After limping along for months with bleeding polling numbers and unremarkable debate performances, the former Texas representative regained the national spotlight in the days and weeks following August 3, when a man entered an El Paso Walmart and used a semi-automatic rifle to kill 22 mostly Hispanic Americans.
In a series of impassioned speeches, O’Rourke spoke out strongly and unequivocally about the shootings and set his sights on the gun industry.
“Keep that shit on the battlefield,” O’Rourke said of military-style weapons, during an event in El Paso shortly after the shooting, according to Politico.
O’Rourke, a candidate who began his campaign hesitant to throw political rocks, also spoke out more explicitly against Donald Trump following the massacre, agreeing when reporters used the words “white supremacist” and “racist” to categorize the president.
The strategy worked. Between August 1 and August 11, according to Insider polling, the percentage of people satisfied with O’Rourke jumped up 11 points, the single most significant increase of his campaign by a long shot. The O’Rourke camp took note of the change. During last month’s debate, when asked if he was in favor of taking away certain firearms from gun owners O’Rourke responded with one of the most radical positions on guns proposed by any of the Democratic candidates. “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” he said.
O’Rourke’s seven-month campaign has had moments of ups and downs but has overall trended negative. The campaign acknowledged as much last week during a live stream to supporters where he admitted he needed “a breakthrough.” Whether or not that will happen at the debate is still unclear.
- Read more:
- Beto O’Rourke is running for president in 2020. Here’s everything we know about the candidate and how he stacks up against the competition.
- Why Beto O’Rourke could lose in his quest to win the 2020 Democratic nomination