Democratic Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke has cultivated an image of a casually cool, non-traditional politician who litters his public speech with F-bombs, is not afraid to take the toughest stands on assault weapons, and rides a discount commercial bus from New York to Boston.
“This is a different kind of campaign,” he told reporters at an event in Boston Thursday night.
Just the fact that he was campaigning in Boston was different.
The way to a presidential nomination is through Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina.
Usually, in the early days of a campaign, candidates only fly into Boston for a few hours to do a big-ticket fundraiser at a pricey downtown hotel, and then skip out to New Hampshire.
O’Rourke didn’t do a fundraiser in Boston and he actually campaigned with voters.
He held a sold out event at Tufts University and then a meet-and-greet at a brewery in Roxbury.
(Does anyone know when was the last time a presidential candidate went to Roxbury?)
But, trailing in the polls, the strategic soundness of his move might be questioned.
Massachusetts doesn’t vote until March. He could be out of the race by then if he doesn’t do well in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Despite trailing in the polls in sixth place with only 4 percent of the vote, he said he doesn’t care.
His campaign is seeking support among all kinds of voters and in every state.
Even blood red states like Mississippi where there aren’t many Democratic votes to be had and overlooked states like Massachusetts.
The trip to Boston, he said, was to connect with young people and voters who might normally feel left out of the process.
Taking a discount Bolt Bus instead of an airliner to get to Boston might sound gimmicky, but he said it showed his commitment to combating global warming and allowed him to meet folks he might not otherwise see at a campaign event.
O’Rourke is also in the interesting position of being the former most exciting new face in the Democratic party, only to lose a close race for Senate in overwhelmingly Republican Texas, to now being just one of the crowd in the presidential race.
At the brewery, the El Paso, he came down hard on President Trump for unleashing hatred toward Mexican-Americans, which he said inspired a mass shooting in his city that killed 20 people.
Perhaps his biggest applause came when he not only endorsed popular gun-control measures such as background checks, but proposed a highly controversial move to force the owners of assault weapons to sell those guns back to the government.
He said the weapons were designed for war, not hunting, and they are intended to rip the guts out of an enemy.
A former Texas congressman, O’Rourke used the F-word in his address, and made no apologies for it later when questioned by the media about it.
So, how did he do? Did he win over many votes?
Adeline Bee, an Attleboro High School teacher, was there and she said he did well. He is an effective public speaker, she said, and has some good ideas, although she was disappointed he didn’t touch on education.
However, she said she is still undecided on which Democratic candidate to support.
She wants the best team possible to beat President Trump and sees O’Rourke as being a more likely vice presidential candidate on the Democratic ticket.