O’Rourke ran for the U.S. Senate in Texas in 2018, he was an energetic, charismatic campaigner who visited all 254 counties in the state. He gave inspirational speeches to Democrats, heavy on appeals for unity and optimism but generally devoid of substance. He relied on breathlessly positive press coverage while adroitly using social media to establish a personal channel to supporters. He raised $80 million, a nationwide record for a Senate race.
O’Rourke followed a similar pattern in his presidential campaign’s opening days. He all but announced he was running in a puff piece published March 13 in the aptly named Vanity Fair magazine. This was followed by a quirky video of the candidate and his wife sitting on their living-room couch.
O’Rourke then hit the trail, displaying enormous energy. He opened with a three-day, 15-city swing through Iowa, hitting rural counties that voted for Barack Obama before flipping to Donald Trump in 2016. This was followed by two days in larger Democratic strongholds in eastern Iowa. A battalion of reporters from national newspapers and cable networks followed him. This week, he zoomed through all 10 New Hampshire counties in only two days. Everywhere he goes, he is met by throngs of curious, enthusiastic Democrats. The lanky, 6-foot-4 Texan has had to stand on restaurant counters and chairs to address the crowds.