Beto O'Rourke is from El Paso, Texas and therefore he is in a unique position to directly confront President Donald Trump on the issue of border security with Mexico.
As the former three term congressman began his campaign for president in March, with stops in Iowa, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, he proclaimed as an eyewitness, that there is no immigration crisis at the southern border and that the president is wasting the country's time, energy, money - and squandering national unity - for his own narrow political purposes.
The Democratic crowds he addressed were prepared to believe him and eager to hear his message centered on the need to strive together to make our country better for everyone.
O'Rourke captured the imagination of the national press, and some Democrats, by coming close to defeating Senator Ted Cruz(R) last year in a race Cruz should have won with ease.
In a campaign era dominated by social media outreach, O'Rourke preaches a political strategy that is easier to understand. He advocates winning by touching every voter possible, even those inclined to vote Republican. By reaching out he means meeting them in person and talking to them. He says it is how he almost beat Cruz and he says it is how he will win the presidency.
If he does win the Democratic nomination, it is a strategy that could work, since the president's campaign plan requires less than 50% of the popular vote, in the right combination of states, for a win in the Electoral College.
Like many new candidates, O'Rourke is facing criticism for failing to provide policy detail, but that criticism misses the most fundamental point.
When a sitting president is running for re-election, the president is the issue. The election is a referendum on his first term. Since that is the case, there is merit for O'Rourke - and others - to contrast themselves with the president based on style, vision, and decency rather than policy. If 2020 is a "change election" the biggest change would be replacing the chaos of the Trump administration with earnest competence.
O'Rourke's campaign for the White House is only a few weeks old, but if he continues on his current pace, and if his Senate campaign provides a peek into his tactics, he is a high energy candidate willing to travel anywhere, talk to anyone, give himself completely to the crowd, and drive himself to the White House.
© Dean Pagani 2019