On Tuesday evening, 12 Democratic presidential candidates will debate in Ohio. It’s the largest field of Democrats ever in one debate. Two Texans, former Congressman Beto O’Rourke, and former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, are among them, though neither has yet made a stir in national polls. They occupy a lower tier of candidates, behind the frontrunners, former Vice President Joe Biden and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
Gromer Jeffers is a political columnist with The Dallas Morning News. He says neither Castro nor O’Rourke has gotten the traction needed to make a splash in the crowded Democratic field.
“They have done well enough to continue to be on the debate stage,” Jeffers says. “So they have a punter’s chance, here.”
Castro’s attempts to stand out in a previous debate backfired, Jeffers says. Castro was too aggressive, and got criticized for it.
“He fell into a trap, I believe,” Jeffers says, saying Castro thought attacking a debate opponent would get him attention.
Additionally, Jeffers says Castro didn’t follow his debate performance with actions that would benefit his candidacy. In contrast, Jeffers says Elizabeth Warren is an example of a candidate who’s been able to capitalize on her strong debate performances.
O’Rourke has been aggressive, too, staking out controversial positions on guns and tax exemptions for churches that oppose same-sex marriage. But Jeffers isn’t sure they’ve helped him.
“People are talking about him,” Jeffers says. “Whether people are talking about him in ways that propel his candidacy, or makes him a better candidate – particularly in Texas, where he’s trying to win the primary – that’s an open question.”
Jeffers says that sometimes, O’Rourke’s positions make him look somewhat “desperate” to get voters’ attention.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.