vision 2020

Beto O’Rourke’s Campaign Is Foundering

His new fundraising totals are muy mal. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Beto O’Rourke’s once-promising presidential campaign has well and truly hit the skids.

The Texas congressman, whose performance at the first Democratic primary debate last month was widely judged as lacking, is enduring a run of bad polling and fundraising news that puts him in a precarious position ahead of the second round of debates, which are in two weeks.

A poll of New Hampshire voters released on Monday by Saint Anselm College showed O’Rourke trailing the top contenders with a less-than-ideal zero percent. The pollster is little-known, and New Hampshire may not be the linchpin of O’Rourke’s strategy. But other surveys don’t paint a much prettier picture: Recent high-quality Iowa polls show O’Rourke at 2 percent and 1 percent, while Real Clear Politics’ national polling average puts him at a paltry 2.3 percent.

Perhaps just as troublingly, O’Rourke’s once-prodigious fundraising numbers have cratered. The campaign released its second-quarter numbers on Monday, showing that it had raised only $3.7 million over that period, compared to $6 million on the very first day of O’Rourke’s candidacy, and $9.4 million over the first 18 days. (O’Rourke developed a reputation as a fundraising machine last year, when he raised an eye-popping $80 million in his bid to unseat Senator Ted Cruz.)

By comparison, Pete Buttigieg led the Democratic pack with $24.8 million raised in the second quarter of the year, followed by polling front-runner Joe Biden at $21.5 million and Elizabeth Warren at $19.1 million. O’Rourke’s numbers put him in league with candidates who have gained little traction in the race, like Amy Klobuchar ($3.87 million) and Jay Inslee ($3 million).

The O’Rourke campaign’s operational stability also appears shaky; the New York Times reports that “some of the senior advisers from his 2018 Senate run have departed,” and that “while some candidates had assembled what amounted to campaigns-in-waiting as far back as 2018, Mr. O’Rourke is still building out the top level of his operation; a national press secretary and a national policy director only came on board in recent weeks.”

Since he announced his candidacy in Vanity Fair in March, O’Rourke has struggled to stand out from the enormous Democratic field. He has never quite been able to shake early perceptions that his campaign was substanceless and desultory, despite the raft of progressive policy proposals coming from his campaign in recent weeks, as well as his attempts to frankly reckon with America’s — and his own family’s — past. He has largely ceded the “charismatic new face” lane to South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg. And now, he needs a miracle, or at least a dynamite debate strategy, to rescue his presidential aspirations.

One thing that probably won’t cut it: speaking more mediocre Spanish.

Beto O’Rourke’s Campaign Is Foundering