Beto O’Rourke says campaign not about him after Texas magazine calls him unpopular and a ‘polarizing figure’

Texas Monthly confronted former presidential and Texas gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke with his unpopularity after the Democrat announced he is a launching a campaign against Gov. Greg Abbott, R. 

O’Rourke enjoyed widespread support from progressives when he first hit the national scene and announced a run for the Senate against Sen. Ted Cruz. But in the latest survey from the University of Texas at Austin and The Texas Tribune, just 35% of voters rated O’Rourke favorably, while 50% rated him unfavorably.

“Abbott’s popularity has waned, but you enter the race even less popular,” Texas Monthly’s Jonathan Tilove said to O’Rourke after he announced his run. “Unlike in 2018, you are now a well-known and polarizing figure, and the Abbott campaign will make sure Texans repeatedly hear the statements you made when you ran for president that put you to the left of most Texas voters. Will those define you negatively?” 

O’Rourke responded by arguing the campaign is not about him but the people of Texas, before listing some of what he described as his bipartisan accomplishments.

BETO O’ROURKE RUNNING FOR TEXAS GOVERNOR AGAINST GOP INCUMBENT ABBOTT

“I don’t think this will be much of a campaign if it’s about me,” O’Rourke said. “I think it really has to be about Texas. It has to be about all of us.” 

In this Sept. 7, 2019 file photo, Democratic presidential candidate former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, speaks during the New Hampshire state Democratic Party convention, in Manchester, NH. He exited the presidential race on Friday after raising approximately $17 million for his campaign. 

In this Sept. 7, 2019 file photo, Democratic presidential candidate former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, speaks during the New Hampshire state Democratic Party convention, in Manchester, NH. He exited the presidential race on Friday after raising approximately $17 million for his campaign. 
(Associated Press)

Without directly addressing his poor poll numbers, O’Rourke said he had a record of creating high-wage, high-value jobs as a small business owner, and touted having passed the Honor Our Commitment Act while serving in Congress, a bill intended to expand mental health care for combat veterans. 

But the outlet also asked O’Rourke to explain how he planned to “overcome” the drop in approval for President Joe Biden and the low expectations for Democrats in the midterms. 

“Midterm elections are historically bad for the party in the White House. President Biden’s favorables are underwater here, with only 35 percent of Texans approving the job he’s done,” Tilove said. 

O’Rourke said focusing on election turnout would be his winning strategy.

“I want to make sure that I am reaching out to and listening to those who either had an obstacle in place that prevented them from voting, or never heard from a candidate and felt forgotten or written off or not included in the conversation and in the future of this state,” he said.

BETO O’ROURKE VANITY FAIR PROFILE MOCKED FOR STORIES ABOUT EX-GIRLFRIENDS, BOOKSHELVES AND HIS ‘NEAR MYTHICAL EXPERIENCE’

O’Rourke’s 2020 presidential campaign took a hit and did not seem to recover following the publication of a 8,600-word cover story for Vanity Fair in which he was quoted as saying, “I want to be in it. Man, I’m just born to be in it.” He also frequently made the joke that he “sometimes” helps raise his kids. The Texas Democrat was mocked mercilessly for the story and his comments were called sexist by critics who noted a female candidate would perhaps not be able to get away with the same narrative.

FILE PHOTO: Former Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visit a Whataburger after O'Rourke endorsed Biden's campaign for president in Dallas, Texas, U.S., March 2, 2020.

FILE PHOTO: Former Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visit a Whataburger after O’Rourke endorsed Biden’s campaign for president in Dallas, Texas, U.S., March 2, 2020.
(REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz/File Photo)

Confronted with the criticism during an appearance on “The View,” O’Rourke said he regretted the photoshoot and it reinforced the “perception of privilege.”

Several months after the story’s publication, Vanity Fair published a telling piece called, “How the Media Fell Out of Love with Beto O’Rourke.”

Texas Gov Greg Abbott shows off Senate Bill 1, also known as the election integrity bill, after he signed it into law in Tyler, Texas, Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021. The sweeping bill signed Tuesday by the two-term Republican governor further tightens Texas’ strict voting laws. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

Texas Gov Greg Abbott shows off Senate Bill 1, also known as the election integrity bill, after he signed it into law in Tyler, Texas, Tuesday, Sept. 7, 2021. The sweeping bill signed Tuesday by the two-term Republican governor further tightens Texas’ strict voting laws. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
(AP Photo/LM Otero)

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In his conversation with the media on Monday, O’Rourke also stood by his controversial call to require buybacks of assault weapons

“Most of us understand the responsibility that comes with owning a firearm, and we will vigorously protect that Second Amendment right and also protect the lives of those around us,” he told The Texas Tribune. “But I think most of us also understand that we should not have military-style weapons used against our fellow Texans. We have four of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history right here in Texas that took place over the last five years.”

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