In a strange way, you have to admire Robert Francis O’Rourke’s pure shamelessness and his unselfconscious ability to do a 180 on a core political position to fit the needs of the campaign he’s running at the moment.
We all know — deep down inside — that being a politician means whoring out your principles (assuming you actually have some) in order to secure campaign cash and votes. You need a chameleon-like ability to shift and adjust as you go. But as the pseudo-Hispanic from west Texas has just demonstrated, he possesses an impressively unnatural talent for doing just that.
Yesterday, “Beto” was campaigning in Tyler, Texas. If you’ve lost track of which political office RFO is currently quixotically chasing, he’s running for Governor of the Lone Star State. No, really.
Anyway, the viability of O’Rourke’s entire campaign has rested recently on the hope that Texas’s electrical grid would once again crash during severe weather this winter. It’s pretty much the only prayer he has of enough Texans being upset with current Governor Greg Abbott to come out, roll the dice, and vote for an undistinguished former Congressman who’s never really done or accomplished anything at all in his life.
“Beto’s” big problem now, tough, is that cold weather swept down over the state last week and, much to his chagrin, the lights stayed on. The grid held up. And his campaign was dealt a serious setback. D’oh! Plentiful and reliable electricity delivered a body blow to his flagging campaign’s prospects.
Still, never one to be bothered with the inconvenience of reality, O’Rourke mounted a whistle-stop ‘Keeping the Lights On’ statewide tour anyway, which is why he was in Tyler. It’s also why the dozens who were there weren’t really as interested in talking about the electrical grid or the intricacies of ERCOT as they might have been.
And then it happened. Someone in the crowd asked “Beto” about his famous stance on gun control, a policy plank that’s never been a big political winner in Texas.
You may remember this Great Moment in Political Messaging from O’Rourke’s failed presidential run. This is the point at which he passionately tells voters that he really does plan to confiscate Americans’ firearms, shouting “Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47!”
That line will live with him forever. And while it may have drawn approving applause from the hand-picked audience at a Democrat candidate debate, in Texas — in towns like Tyler — the promise of firearm confiscation doesn’t play nearly as well.
It seems that as unsuccessful as “Beto” has been in running for office so far, even he now has enough political sense to realize the problems his anti-gun position presents. That’s why he has now shifted his message from grabbing gun owners’ firearms to…protecting Second Amendment rights.
Speaking to reporters, O’Rourke also took a question about his controversial stance on guns and remarks made in 2019 about taking away AR-15s and AK-47s.
“I’m not interested in taking anything from anyone. What I want to make sure that we do is defend the Second Amendment,” he said. “I want to make sure that we protect our fellow Texans far better than we’re doing right now. And that we listen to law enforcement, which Greg Abbott refused to do. He turned his back on them when he signed that permitless carry bill that endangers the lives of law enforcement in a state that’s seen more cops and sheriff’s deputies gunned down than in any other.”
So is O’Rourke’s new strategy to talk about “defending the Second Amendment” and “protecting Texans” while putting them back on the gun control plantation while, what, repealing constitutional carry? That’s what that talking point seems to say.
It looks like another sure-fire campaign winner. With a sales pitch like that, how can anyone with an IQ over room temperature not vote for Robert Francis?
O’Rourke’s latest polling numbers don’t look good. The most recent tracking numbers show him trailing the incumbent Abbott by over eight points. And with the electrical grid’s non-failure, the candidate obviously didn’t think he could repeat his long-held gun-grabbing message on the stump and expect to survive politically.
But don’t look for this about face to help him much. “Beto’s” new campaign position flip on guns will only be seen as a political flop, one that’s not likely to buy him many votes among gun-loving Texans.