Politico takes a look at the polls, crowds, and quarterly fundraising numbers, and comes away a bit wobbly over Beto O’Rourke.
Yet by the time he left the state on Sunday, it was also clear that the euphoria that greeted O’Rourke’s entry into the race three weeks earlier has started to subside. The inevitable slog of competing in a packed Democratic primary is underway, and O’Rourke has not yet drawn the wave of national adulation from the left that his Senate run against Ted Cruz last year received.
“He’s going to have to do the work,” said Scott Brennan, an Iowa Democratic National Committee member and a former state party chairman. “And it isn’t all breathless, 300-person crowds.”
O’Rourke has seen little movement in polls since he announced. He posted an impressive — but not first-in-class — fundraising total for the first quarter of the year. Another young, relatively inexperienced politician, Pete Buttigieg, has emerged as the Democratic upstart of the moment.
And while O’Rourke sprinted from college campuses and coffee shops to house parties across Iowa, a more established contender, Bernie Sanders, was drawing even larger audiences here.
It was a reminder that early in the Democratic nominating contest, Sanders — not O’Rourke — remains far ahead in polling and fundraising, while the putative front-runner, former Vice President Joe Biden, inches toward running.
When the numbers came out on fundraising, Beto supporters where quick to point out he had only been in the race 18 days when the stats were tallied. Fair enough, but that also means his headline grabbing $6.1M was the bulk of his quarterly fundraising, and he managed only $3M the rest of the time. The O’Rourke campaign touted their per-day average, but again that number is skewed by the front loaded $6.1M. Nothing to sneeze at, and certainly enough to campaign on, but with a stagnant poll number in a crowded field a candidate planning on running as the “next big thing” cannot afford to linger in third or fourth place. Especially with the press salivating over the next-next big thing in Pete Buttigieg as of late.
And for those who say “It’s still early,”…while true, consider that by the time of the first debates at the end of July, whoever the top few candidates are will have tremendous advantages. By July of 2015, one Donald Trump had taken a polling lead that he would never relinquish against a crowded primary field. Biden, should he get in, Sanders with his now-humming organization, and Kamala Harris who quietly has been steady in fundraising and slight uptick in polling, should stick around. That leaves one or two more spots for someone to rise above the field.
If Beto wants to be one, he’ll need to do more than just stand on things for speeches.