On Friday, former El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke announced he was leaving the presidential race. Meanwhile, the other Texan vying for the Democratic nomination, Julián Castro, spoke to thousands at the Iowa Democratic Party Liberty and Justice Celebration in Des Moines. It was a chance for him, along with 12 other Democratic candidates, to stand out before Iowa holds its nominating caucuses on Feb. 3.
The Texas Tribune’s Patrick Svitek has been covering the campaign in Iowa, and says O’Rourke’s decision was a surprise to many; he notified his senior staff last Thursday. He told his full staff Friday, just hours before the Des Moines event.
“This was going to be a very big weekend in Iowa for him,” Svitek says.
He says the Liberty and Justice Celebration is “probably the biggest political event on the calendar this year in Iowa.”
O’Rourke had planned to spend several more days campaigning in Iowa afterward. But he had been struggling to qualify for the next Democratic debate scheduled for later this month. Polling and fundraising challenges likely contributed to O’Rourke’s decision to leave the race, Svitek says.
Castro faces similar challenges, even after an infusion of cash that allowed him to remain in the race past his self-imposed deadline of Oct. 31. Svitek says Castro is behind where O’Rourke was before he suspended his campaign, in terms of being able to qualify for the November debate.
“It is highly, highly unlikely that he will qualify for the November debate,” he says. “And it doesn’t look like he’s on any better footing for the December debate.”
Svitek says more candidates, possibly even Castro, could drop out after Nov. 13 – the deadline to qualify for the Nov. 20 debate.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.