The Democratic primary got a little smaller on Friday afternoon. Former Representative Beto O’Rourke announced that he was ending his campaign, as first reported by the New York Times. “My service to the country will not be as a candidate or as the nominee,” he said. According to the Times, his campaign has been “under extreme financial strain,” and would have had to make cuts to continue.
Thanks to a savvy grassroots organizing effort, O’Rourke nearly defeated Senator Ted Cruz in 2018. O’Rourke had hoped to channel the publicity he generated into a successful run for president. As his campaign faltered, he tried to distinguish himself with strong positions on gun control and climate change, and had cultivated a looser, almost informal image. O’Rourke made made headlines for his use of profanity amidst a moving display of emotion after a white supremacist murdered 22 people at Walmart in El Paso, Texas.
But the former congressman never quite found his footing. O’Rourke was a long-shot, even in the heady early days of the primary. Though he was well-known for his close race against Ted Cruz, he lacked national name recognition. In polls, he hovered near the bottom of the pack. His fellow Democrat from Texas, Julián Castro, roundly criticized his immigration policies. O’Rourke recently came under fire again, after he seemed to tell CNN’s Don Lemon that religious institutions should lose their tax-exempt status if they “opposed same-sex marraige.” A policy implementing O’Rourke’s viewpoint would probably violate the First Amendment. Another candidate with better name recognition, more money, and higher public support could possibly survive these controversies, but O’Rourke was already vulnerable.
His future plans are uncertain. There has been some speculation that O’Rourke would launch another run for Senate, since Republican John Cornyn is up for re-election. But there are several Democratic candidates already in the race. Rob Friedlander, aide to O-Rourke, likely ended that speculation on Friday. “Beto will not be a candidate for U.S. Senate in Texas in 2020,” he said on Friday.