Former Congressman-turned-perpetual-candidate Beto O’Rourke is on the campaign trail in early primary states taking a retail politics approach to selling voters on his “bold, progressive agenda.”

The El Paso Democrat, who thrust himself into the limelight as a Kennedy-esque political superstar and media darling, is now far from the shiny object of adoration he was less than a year ago when he was on the ballot for U.S. Senate.

In the crowded field of 23 Democrats competing for the nomination and opportunity to run against Republican President Donald Trump, O’Rourke has been spinning his wheels and struggling to get his fledgling candidacy off the ground. He’s probably less popular now than when he first launched his campaign more than a month ago on the cover of Vanity Fair, an admitted mistake by O’Rourke himself. The Real Clear Politics Average, a mean of no fewer than seven major polls in the nation, has him pulling a measly 3.6 percent across all polls, just a tenth of the 31.9 percent that Democrat front-runner and former Obama running mate Joe Biden is currently pulling.

In his desperation to stand out from the crowded field of candidates, O’Rourke this week exercised his best attempt at one-upsmanship by describing the very first legislative priority he would push as president. In a field that is driving each candidate further and further left on issues ranging from post-birth abortion to reparations for slavery, O’Rourke said in a podcast on Friday that addressing man-made climate change and the “hell” we’ll leave to our children was the No. 1 policy goal for his time in the White House.

“If I think about the single greatest threat that we face, it’s the fact that this climate is changing,” said O’Rourke on the liberal podcast Pod Save America. “And that is produced, not as an act of God, not from Mother Nature, but from you and from me and from people in this country and around the world—through our emissions, our excesses, and in our inaction in the face of the facts and the science.”

To show his seriousness, he doubled down and implicated everyone in his exaggeration by saying humankind has so destroyed the planet that we have a mere 10 years to act before it’s too late.

“We have to lead on that, because the clock is ticking. And the scientists tell us there are roughly 10 years left to us to free ourselves from a dependence on fossil fuel, to make sure every one of us is doing our part. [Scientists tell us] that we’re fortifying those communities, very often lower income and communities of color that are on the front lines of climate change and pollution. [We need] to make sure we not only survive this, but we lead the world in making sure we overcome this challenge. So, there are a host of threats and challenges that we face—that is the single greatest. I think it’s important that we begin by bringing this entire country together around the solutions to it.”

O’Rourke isn’t in Kansas (or Texas) anymore. He no longer gets to set the topics of discussion on the campaign trail, but rather is forced to respond to the topics set by front-runner Joe Biden and the hottest new names for the Left, namely U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (CA) or Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana.

Now, competing for airtime and attention, each candidate has to concoct the best and brightest, edgiest, and most liberal crackerjack surprise-of-a-policy idea. But, seemingly, the best O’Rourke can muster is the tired man-made global warming alarmism that has been used for decades. If moving the minute hand a stroke closer to midnight on the doomsday clock is his queen on the chess table, he might soon find himself resorting to a return to El Paso.

O’Rourke has continued for weeks to shy away from a second try at a U.S. Senate bid, where a majority of Texas Democrats still say they would support him despite Army veteran MJ Hegar’s month-old campaign for that seat. With other notable Democrats rumored to be considering a run against John Cornyn, like Dallas Democrat State Sen. Royce West, O’Rourke may be inching closer to a lose-lose situation on the 2020 ballot.

But for now, he seems satisfied filling the role of shrill alarmist.

Destin Sensky

Destin Sensky serves as a Capitol Correspondent for Texas Scorecard covering the Texas Legislature, working to bring Texans the honest and accurate coverage they need to hold their elected officials in Austin accountable.


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