A Texas-based political analyst says Democrat Beto O'Rourke, that state's losing candidate for a U.S. Senate seat last month, should be taken seriously by Republicans looking ahead to 2020.
O'Rourke created a media buzz and a loyal following during his attempt to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz, a closely-watched nail-biter that ended with a 50-48 loss to the Republican on Election Day.
Republicans mocked O'Rourke during the campaign for his skateboarding antics and his Hispanic nickname despite his family's Irish heritage.
Yet there is no denying that O'Rourke lost narrowly in what is considered a solidly red state, says Tom Pauken, a former chairman of the Republican Party of Texas and a 2016 Trump delegate.
"And I could see a guy who's raised that much money," says Pauken, "being a formidable person in 2020."
Bolstered by swooning media coverage and puff reporting, O'Rourke's senate campaign raked in $70 million in a left-wing effort to flip the seat.
"That total," Fox Business reported, "shattered the U.S. Senate's existing fundraising record and easily surpassed Cruz's fundraising effort, which produced roughly $40 million."
O'Rourke has now created a buzz outside of Texas, Pauken points out.
"Democratic operatives up in Iowa and New Hampshire are asking to have him up there," Pauken observes. "And they're not asking him simply because he ran a good race in Texas. They're looking at him seriously as a prospective Democratic candidate."
Looking at other potential Democratic names, Pauken predicts that O'Rourke's "likeability factor" will stand out from rivals such as Sen. Corey Booker and Sen. Kamala Harris if he runs.
Meanwhile, Pauken says the time has come and gone for another potential candidate, Joe Biden.
"The irony," says the GOP activist, "is Biden probably could have won had he been the nominee other than Hillary [Clinton]. But's it's too late for him."
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