Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke’s 2020 presidential campaign announcement didn’t exactly fire up his fellow Democrats with excitement.
For some, the former Texas congressman’s leap into an already crowded Democratic field of contenders was not only unnecessary, it created more of a challenge. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi even sidestepped a question about O’Rourke’s “signature accomplishment” while he was serving as a Representative in the House.
“Beto O’Rourke announced that he is running for president. What in your view was Beto O’Rourke’s signature accomplishment as a member of the House?” a reporter asked the California Democrat during a press conference.
But instead of naming any legislation or policy that he had introduced, Pelosi gave a condensed congressional biography of the 2018 Senate candidate who lost to GOP Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018.
“Beto brought a great deal of vitality to Congress,” Pelosi began as she unpacked her comical remarks.
“One of the issues in his, as I’ve been asked this question, but I just know of his record here, when he came, he came as a real champion for the environment, he got a great deal of support from the environmental community in his district,” she rambled. “He won in the primary on that subject.”
“And also he’s a member of the Armed Services Committee, a strong member of the Armed Services Committee which is very important for his district. So in preserving our planet and protecting our people there are at least two areas in addition to his vitality in so many other ways,” she continued. “I think all of our candidates are great. I just say to all of them who ask just be yourself, what you believe in, show them what’s in your heart.”
Over at CNN, O’Rourke’s announcement went over like a lead balloon with “New Day” host John Berman remarking how one Democrat’s reaction “made my eyes pop.”
“I have no reaction. I just — one more, one more, one more gets in the race,” Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota.
CNN’s senior political reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson, noted that Brown’s reaction was probably going to be echoed by others on the Hill.
“Yes. I mean, it was essentially like a yawn. I mean, it was just sort of like, meh,” she said.
“You know, Beto O’Rourke kind of left a light footprint when he was in Congress. He didn’t really do much,” she added, citing the congressman’s Vanity Fair interview in which he lamented the fact that Democrats were in the minority and unable to get much done.
“He was just, you know, sort of a backbencher congressman so he doesn’t have much of a legislative record there,” she said, adding that people will be asking “what is Beto O’Rourke’s argument for why he should be president?”
“One of the things he says is that he can bring people together, he’s a good listener,” Henderson explained, noting the “masses of people he’s able to gather.”
CNN political analyst Jonathan Martin weighed in with his reaction to Brown’s” lukewarm yawn.”
“Politics is a human business and that was a human reaction and one of a member of Congress for over a quarter of a century,” Martin said, noting that the three-term senator who has last week decided not to run after spending the last few months considering it.
“Someone who wanted to run and considered himself — went to all the early states. And then to come on your guy’s great show at 7:30 this morning and be asked about a three-term House member who lost his statewide election, and his candidacy for president, I don’t think he was thrilled about it,” Martin said.
“And it does speak to, I think, this broader unease with Beto among kind of old Democratic pros who see a lot of — a lot of, you know, charisma there certainly, but question what’s underneath the hood,” he added.