Two of Texas’ biggest Democratic stars will take the debate stage Thursday in their home state but they’ll be far from the center of attention
"They can fight each other over a scrap, or they can go after one of the big dogs for the whole steak."
Story Continued BelowIt’s a bit of a muted homecoming for the state’s prized Democratic prospects, both of whom entered the primary accompanied by high expectations but have since failed to build momentum.“I really like the guys. I mean, they’re terrific,” said Mike Collier, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor in Texas in 2018 and endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday. “But the presidency is the most important job in the world, and there are an awful lot of Texans who view it the way I view it, which is that we want somebody who’s a seasoned hand.”
O’Rourke, who eclipsed Castro last year during his near-miss Senate run against Republican Ted Cruz, has had the more humbling experience. He entered the race in March amid much fanfare only to see his campaign fade. Castro, the only Latino candidate in the sprawling field, is still struggling to break out of the low single digits in polls.
Both find themselves in essentially the same position in the debate: high enough in polling and fundraising to qualify for the debates,but in desperate need of a breakout moment.“I thought either or both of them could gain traction nationally, and I certainly thought that traction that they gained nationally would have put them in position to take the best advantage of a homecoming debate,” said Chris Lippincott, an Austin-based consultant who ran a super PAC opposing Cruz in the Senate race.
POLITICO Playbook newsletterSign up today to receive the #1-rated newsletter in politicsEmailSign UpBy signing up you agree to receive email newsletters or alerts from POLITICO. You can unsubscribe at any time.Their priority now, he said, is just to “stay alive.”
“The first rule of being a shark: Stay moving, and find something to eat,” Lippincott said. “They have to stay relevant, they have to stay in the discussion, and they have to hope that that is enough to give them enough fundraising, give enough money to their campaigns to keep moving.”
The debate’s Texas backdrop could help. Recent shootings in Odessa, Midland and El Paso — O’Rourke’s hometown — offer an opportunity to talk about gun safety in personal terms. The border state’s demography and experience with immigration issues provide an opening to seize on a hot-button campaign issue that both candidates are uniquely qualified to speak about.
“I think both the Texans are at least potentially in a pretty good position to be able to capitalize on whatever opportunities may come their way on Thursday night because [the debate] is in Texas and there’s some built-in enthusiasm for the hometown team and because both of these guys are pretty quick thinkers on their feet,” said Harold Cook, a Democratic consultant in Texas. “They at least have the capacity to jump into a void if one appears.”
The Houston debate will mark the first time the two Texans will share a stage since Castro memorablycastigated O’Rourke over immigration policy in the June debate in Miami, an encounter that suggested a frosty relationship.Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke. | Paul Sancya
That confrontation came on the heels of several other passive-aggressive moves between the hopefuls that have captured attention. Castro’s campaign sent out a news release of his Texas endorsements on the same morning O’Rourke launched his candidacy; O’Rourke’s team once sent out a press release pointedly boasting of a 25-point polling lead over “fellow Texan” Castro in the Lone Star State.
Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, downplayed any friction between the two as a “sibling rivalry.”“They don’t normally get into a competitive situation because they live in totally different parts of the state and they’ve followed different paths towards where they’re headed in terms of their political careers,” Hinojosa said.
Neither is dominant in their home state:Biden narrowly edges out O’Rourke for the most support in Texas, according to a Univisionreleased Tuesday, with Biden leading with 20 percent support to O’Rourke’s 19 percent. Sen. Bernie Sanders is third with 13 percent support, and Castro and Sen. Elizabeth
Warren are tied at fourth at 12 percent.A University of Texas/Texas Tribune pollreleased Wednesday showed Biden as the clear front-runner in Texas with support from 26 percent of potential Democratic primary voters, followed by Warren with 18 percent, O’Rourke with 14 percent, and Sanders with 12 percent. Castro finished near the bottom with 3 percent.
With both O’Rourke and Castro struggling to break through in national polls, there appears to be little incentive for either O’Rourke or Castro to skirmish on Thursday.“They can fight each other over a scrap, or they can go after one of the big dogs for the whole steak,” said Colin Strother, a veteran Democratic strategist in Texas. “It makes far more sense for them to tag team and go after Bernie [Sanders] or Warren or Biden and try to make a significant dent.”
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Beto's name isn't Beto. It's Robert. Robert Francis. DemocraticDebate VoteBlueNoMatterWho2020 BetoORourke JulianCastro Given the right packaging you can even sell crummy cookies... What's missing here are two guys who didn't hire good PR firms out of Madison Avenue... Beto has no shot... hes running left. Only power more is to go right and gain electability..
neither of them count!! Our mission at is to build the social media platform that ends fake news Julián Castro: I will help Ted Cruz win again because Beto is better than me. Thank god Beto O'Rourke will never win. BetoORourke DemocraticDebate And we as a country are in desperate need to FLIP THE SENATE. I hope either Beto or Castro STEPS UP and puts country before ambition to run for the US Senate in Texas. None of the other ~20 presidential candidates can do that.
Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders slam Trump over data showing fewer Americans have health insuranceHealth care likely will be a crucial topic in Thursday's Democratic presidential primary debate in Houston. More than 70 million have health insurance but they can't afford to use them. So they really do not have health insurance. By 'Americans', i'm sure they mean illegal immigrants Some people, especially young, healthy people, choose not to have insurance at that point in their lives. After the Obamacare mandate was removed, many decided to stop paying for health insurance because there was no penalty for not having it.
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HuffPost is now a part of OathLol “gun control” 🤣 So, you're just gonna hand Trump reelection then, huh? Big mistake, Democrats. Advocating for taking away Constitutional rights is not smart.
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