Beto’s Republican Roots, Centrist Backing Could Doom Presidential Bid | NTK Network Beto’s Republican Roots, Centrist Backing Could Doom Presidential Bid

Beto’s Republican Roots, Centrist Backing Could Doom Presidential Bid

Beto O’Rourke may have caught the imagination of liberals last fall during his failed Senate run in Texas, but how much do primary voters know about his past?

By NTK Staff | 03.15.2019 @10:30am
Beto’s Republican Roots, Centrist Backing Could Doom Presidential Bid

An explosive story, published in the Washington Post on the same day he announced his presidential bid, is shedding light on former Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s past, including Republican ties and controversial measures he backed while serving on El Paso’s city council.

“Before Beto O’Rourke became the darling of liberal online donors, his top financial backers hailed from a different set entirely — wealthy businessmen who have sought political influence by collectively donating millions of dollars to Republicans,” the story’s opening lines read.

Most notably, O’Rourke’s opponents will likely highlight his support for an El Paso redevelopment project, “which sparked controversy at the time because it involved relocating low-income residents, many of them Hispanic, coincided with property investments by some of his benefactors.”

One group called the project an effort to “bulldoze a poor Hispanic neighborhood.” An El Paso historian essentially shares that view:

“O’Rourke, because of his charisma, can kind of pull off some of this behind-the-scenes power peddling,” said El Paso historian and activist David Romo, who has long opposed the business community’s push to redevelop downtown. “He was the pretty face in the really ugly gentrification plan that negatively affected the most vulnerable people in El Paso.”

Making matters worse, O’Rourke scored several endorsements on Thursday – typically cause of celebration for a campaign. And while O’Rourke’s presidential team will likely trumpet these supporters, a closer look at their names and records reveals yet another primary vulnerability for O’Rourke: they’re all considered moderates or centrists.

O’Rourke picked up the support of Reps. Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), and Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY).

Talking Points Memo’s Josh Marshall explains why these endorsements are actually problematic:

The problem I see for O’Rourke is that these endorsements and the tendency behind them makes him look – maybe accurately – like the presidential candidate of Democratic ‘centrists” – a very thin constituency in Democratic politics at the moment.

What I’m really quite certain about is that the Democratic nominee is not going to be the factional candidate of Democratic centrists. And the way the roll out played O’Rourke made a good start toward becoming that guy.

To be clear on this, these aren’t just centrists, a term which can mean almost anything. They’re elected officials who define themselves by their centrism and often as a critique of the rest of the Democratic Party.

It’s only day 2 of O’Rourke’s candidacy and much is left to be determined in this presidential primary. But have no doubt: Democrats, particularly those who see O’Rourke as a threat, will use his Republican ties and his centrist image against him any chance they get.

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