CNN | 5/25/2019 | Listen

The Beto balloon bursts

Updated 8:24 PM ET, Wed May 15, 2019

Washington (CNN) - Give Donald Trump this: He's a pretty decent political handicapper.

Take his riff on Beto O'Rourke during an "official" White House event in Louisiana on Tuesday night:

"Beto. Beto's falling fast, what the hell happened? Remember about four weeks ago he said, 'I was made for it.' He was made for it! He was made to fall like a rock."

It's a pretty decent summation of the arc -- downward -- that the former Texas congressman's presidential campaign has been on since, well, he got into the race. As Harry Enten wrote recently:

"In an average of national polls taken since Biden entered the race, O'Rourke has fallen to just below 5% support. That's the lowest he has been since at least December.

"But it's not just that O'Rourke has seen his numbers decline nationally -- it's that his polls look even worse in the early caucus and primary states. I could not find a single poll in Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina conducted after Biden entered in which O'Rourke polled above 3%."

The headlines for O'Rourke -- as I documented in my Sunday newsletter -- are equally devastating. Here are a few from the last 10-ish days alone: "Beto 2.0: Campaign Plans Reboot After Lag in Polls." "Beto's Long History of Failing Upward." "Beto O'Rourke plans 'reintroduction' as 2020 buzz fizzles."

O'Rourke, in a desperate attempt to get his buzz back, livestreamed his haircut Wednesday.

The idea that a candidate who formally entered the presidential race March 14 is already pressing the reset button is BIG trouble. It's only been 62 days!  What this sort of recalibration so early in a candidacy suggests is that the candidate may not really know who he is or how he wants to run. 

Resets can work -- see John McCain during the 2008 presidential primary campaign -- but they are usually a return to the more authentic version of the politician. In O'Rourke's case, he seemed to have spent his first 60 days in the race being the person who caught fire in the Texas Senate race: Light on policy, more of a listener than a talker and, above all, cool and charismatic.

Unfortunately for him, that profile isn't playing -- like, at all -- in the presidential race.

The Point: There's still time for Beto to turn it around. Plenty of time. But the early returns aren't just discouraging. They are downright dismal.


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