It looks like Democratic hopeful Beto O’Rourke’s run to unseat Republican Gov. Greg Abbott will be greeted with the same partisan enthusiasm by the New York Times that it showed when O’Rourke failed to knock off conservative Sen. Ted Cruz despite massive out-of-state help in 2018.
Witness reporter Jazmine Ulloa’s piece in Saturday’s paper, “For Beto O’Rourke, Talk of Gun Control Has Become Both a Political Risk and Reward.” Beto’s grandstanding at a press conference now looks….good?
When Beto O’Rourke interrupted a news conference in Uvalde to criticize Gov. Greg Abbott, Jason Smith bristled.
Mr. Smith, a Fort Worth lawyer and Democrat, worried that Mr. O’Rourke’s approach was too confrontational in that moment, a day after an 18-year-old gunman stormed into Robb Elementary School. But in the days that followed, as details emerged that the police waited in a school hallway for more than an hour as children called 911 for help and Mr. Abbott acknowledged being “misled” about the response to the massacre, Mr. Smith changed his mind.
“I was really glad he did it,” he said of Mr. O’Rourke.
Mr. O’Rourke, 49, clearly took a political gamble when he disrupted the governor in an emotional outburst that Republicans and some Democrats believed crossed a line in the aftermath of a mass shooting that left 19 students and two teachers dead. He was speaking not only as an outraged parent and Texan, but also as Mr. Abbott’s Democratic opponent in the race for governor.
Now he’s vindicated at least in the eyes of “Democratic lawmakers.” His talk of confiscating your AR-15 doesn’t sound so tone-deaf any more?
The very issue that had haunted his campaign for governor for months — his remarks during his 2020 presidential campaign calling for more aggressive gun restrictions — has suddenly helped revive it. Those past comments — “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47,” he said on a debate stage in 2019 — had seemed politically foolish as he campaigned in gun-friendly Texas, and he had sought to moderate them. Now, to many Texans saddened and angered by a deadly attack on schoolchildren by a gunman with an AR-15-style rifle, Mr. O’Rourke’s stance on guns has taken on a fresh resonance.
Is Beto actually resonating? Ulloa admits it’s not looking awesome. “No Democrat has won a statewide race in Texas since November 1994 and no Democrat has occupied the governor’s mansion since January 1995, the last day of Gov. Ann W. Richards’s tenure.” But the Times still thinks Beto-style gun confiscation has a chance in Texas.
For some Democratic state leaders, the massacre and Mr. Abbott’s response compounded their frustration with the governor after his hard-right push on abortion and his rhetoric against immigrants, as well as his handling of the state’s troubled electric grid. Mr. O’Rourke has embodied that breaking point.
Still, Democrats and some independents said they hoped this was the moment that would transcend politics. For many, the emotions from the attack are still raw as funerals have begun in Uvalde, and the trauma has made it difficult for many to even discuss its political ramifications. In conversations, the voices of Democratic leaders and voters often cracked with emotion, and some of them shed tears.
Were only Democrats sad about the massacre?
Even after O’Rourke lost, the paper didn’t give up hope for “even bigger things…in store?” That was just one of many embarrassingly gushy news stories the Times ran about the Democrats fresh, new, Kennedy-style hero, praising O’Rourke for making Democrats cool in Texas.
Mr. O’Rourke embraced those Texas symbols and reclaimed them for Democrats, jamming with Willie Nelson, steering his San Antonio-built Toyota pickup truck through rural Texas and air-drumming post-debate in the drive-through lane at Whataburger. It used to be an awkward counterculture stretch to be a Texas Democrat. He made it cool.