Just before Friday’s Liberty & Justice dinner, Iowa’s largest political event and the place where Sen. Barack Obama lit his 2008 campaign on fire, Beto O’Rourke sent his regrets. He ended his presidential campaign before the first course was served.
You can know something is coming—scarcely at 2% in the polls, money so short he was traveling by Bolt Bus—yet still feel a shock. Unlike the others who’ve quit, Beto had been a supernova after almost beating Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas, with intimations he could go on to greatness.
He started strong: huge crowds, record fundraising, high energy like his fellow skateboarders at Whataburger. He had appeal to suburban Moms, independents who’d strayed to Trump, Generations X, Y, and Z and Obama bros. After a boffo beginning, the singular sensation in Texas was now one of 20, and seemed to shrink amid the crowd, a restless kid among the adults at the debates, with ordinary, center-left positions, a dreamer next to the planners who came with bullet points. His poll numbers slipped, and then his fundraising, and then came El Paso and something in him died when 22 of his neighbors were killed at a Walmart in his hometown. Over two weeks, he brought his best qualities to the worst situation imaginable.
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