“I was in the bathroom, minding my own business and I was washing my hands.”
In what one politician characterized as a “swift kick” to the ego of Beto O’Rourke’s popularity, a University of Iowa student who encountered the former Texas House rep. in the men’s restroom made it crystal clear that not everyone is afflicted with “Betomania.”
The Iowa City Press Citizen reported that minutes before O’Rourke was slated to speak Sunday before a crowd of 300, University of Iowa student Matthew Roland ran into him in the bathroom.
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“I was in the bathroom, minding my own business and I was washing my hands,” Roland told the Press Citizen. “And this guy asked me how it was going, and I said good, ‘How’s it going,’ going for some small talk.”
What Roland said next made it clear he had no idea who the Democratic party darling was. “Are you here to see Beto?” he asked.
While using the restroom in the IMU I asked the stranger next to me if he was here to see Beto’s rally — only to find out I was washing hands and talking to the next future president himself. Thank you for the shoutout on stage @BetoORourke #GoHawks pic.twitter.com/mjFysyq18d
— Matt Rowland (@dat_mat12) April 7, 2019
O’Rourke reportedly took the minor indignity in stride, grinning and saying, “That’s me” in reply to Holland’s question.
But for 2020 U.S. House candidate Johnny Akzam, the seemingly innocuous encounter had a deeper significance. “When trying to ‘fit in’ with the crowd goes terribly wrong,” Akzam tweeted. “The popularity of Beto O’Rourke took a swift kick in the ego today. Do you think that kid is part of
#NotMeUs and was just screwing with him?”
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O’Rourke burst into mainstream political consciousness after a respectable defeat to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-T.X., in 2018. Liberals’ initial excitement about the former punk rocker crystalized around his “authentically cool” and youthful image. Comparisons to President Barack Obama, widely viewed by liberals as an extremely cool president, soon followed.
Last year, liberals pushed back fiercely against conservative attempts to mock O’Rourke for a photograph from his punk days, in which he’s seen wearing a dress. “The Texas GOP Can’t Stop Pointing Out How Hot Beto O’Rourke Is,” read a headline from hard-left outlet Splinter News.
Vox’s Tara Golshun wrote that the Texas GOP’s surfacing of the old photo appeared “to have backfired for Republicans.” Golshun claimed that “Twitter users focused on O’Rourke’s perceived attractiveness and fun background as a musician and skateboarder.”
“The tweets are meant to make O’Rourke look juvenile. But instead, for those who have been following O’Rourke’s brand, the attack strategy seems to be just feeding into the Democrat’s image; a young, bold, former punk rocker on a Hail Mary mission to turn Texas blue,” Golshun wrote.
“Betomania” was in full effect. “It’s like when the Beatles came to America,” said HBO talk show host Bill Maher when O’Rourke appeared on “Real Time with Bill Maher” in March of 2018.
But the high appears to be wearing off.
A Politico profile published Monday posited that the bright-eyed shine that accompanied the 2020 candidate when he first announced his run appears to be waning. His position in the polls has stabilized. According to a Washington Examiner report, there were fewer than 120 attendees at the former Texas congressman’s Sunday town hall event in Iowa.
Meanwhile, younger and sexier Democratic candidates have emerged.
Could the funny anecdote from just before Sunday’s town hall foreshadow a very different question that will start to be posed by the young kids O’Rourke was supposed to attract – Will there come a time when America’s college students are no longer asking, “Are you here to see, Beto?”
But rather, “Beto, who?”
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- Beto O’Rourke.: Screen grab