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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Beto's Bust

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the early stages of the 2016 campaign, when many candidates were unknowns.  The update  -- just published --includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms.  We are now in the early stages of the 2020 race.

The most obvious reason for Beto’s boom-and-bust media cycle is that running against a reviled Republican in Texas is a far cry from running in a Democratic primary against a bevy of qualified opponents, many of whom have devoted followings in various corners of the left. “It’s not good enough to not be Ted Cruz anymore,” said Republican media strategist Matt Gorman. “In a state, you have a baseline of party support that’s with you no matter what if you’re running against a Republican. Not in a primary. He needs to make an identity for himself. When he is on that debate stage, what’s the rationale against Kamala [Harris] or Mayor Pete or Joe Biden? Why Beto?” Force of personality is not enough to carry a campaign without an underlying reason for running, Gorman said, especially in a Democratic Party flush with options. But having a clearly defined reason to run for president—that simple thing called “a message”—is what carries a campaign forward, inoculating a candidate from the daily traps and potholes of the presidential media storms. Buttigieg is one of only a handful of Democratic candidates who is using his campaign to tell a story—his is about generational change—and it’s allowed him to parry attacks and mostly avoid stepping in mud. Even though it’s doubtful that a Harvard-educated polyglot who can name every Radiohead B-side since The Bends doesn’t know who Alfred E. Neuman is, Buttigieg brushed off Trump’s name-calling this week with a simple, youthful aside: “I had to Google that.” Next question.