Riding the momentum of his near-victory over incumbent Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the 2018 midterm elections, former Texas Rep. Robert “Beto” O’Rourke tossed his hat into the pool of candidates vying for the Democratic Party’s 2020 White House nomination — but O’Rourke’s star seems to have been dimming in recent weeks, and he just took another big blow.
O’Rourke’s fledgling presidential campaign has suffered the loss of two top advisers who played integral roles in his failed Senate run last year. Top progressive activist and organizer Becky Bond, as well as her chief deputy, Zack Malitz, are no longer official members of O’Rourke’s 2020 campaign team.
A spokesman for O’Rourke’s campaign, Chris Evans, declined to provide any specifics about why Bond and Malitz left the campaign, or whether their departure was voluntary.
O’Rourke team members jump ship
While it is unclear why these top aides jumped ship, Evans praised Bond and Malitz in a statement to BuzzFeed for the work they did during O’Rourke’s Senate run and in getting the presidential campaign off the ground.
Evans went on to characterize Bond and Malitz as “close friends” of the O’Rourke campaign who have reportedly already transitioned to roles as “grassroots volunteers” who remain committed to O’Rourke’s future success.
In a brief statement to BuzzFeed about the departures, Bond said it was time for her and Malitz to “move on to other challenges,” though she didn’t specify further.
“Launching a presidential campaign without a big staff or even a campaign manager was no easy feat and it took everyone pitching in,” Bond said. “We’re proud to have been part of the team of deeply dedicated staff and volunteers who nearly pulled off a historic upset in the 2018 Texas Senate race and broke records launching Beto’s campaign for the presidency.”
Amping up the professionalism
Bond and Malitz first worked together on Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ failed 2016 campaign before joining O’Rourke to assist in his failed effort at unseating Cruz in 2018.
Their departures come amid efforts to make the campaign more “professional” ahead of the primary season by O’Rourke’s new campaign manager, veteran Democrat operative Jen O’Malley Dillon.
O’Malley Dillon, who joined O’Rourke’s camp in March, previously “served in top leadership roles for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012,” according to BuzzFeed.
Beto’s strong start fades
Following his failed but influential 2019 Senate run, O’Rourke was largely thought by Democrats to be the next Barack Obama. But though O’Rourke was showered with attention from the media when he first announced his candidacy, that adulation has since shifted to other candidates who have entered the race, like South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
According to the Real Clear Politics average of polls, O’Rourke currently sits third among Democrat 2020 hopefuls, garnering the support of 8.8% of respondents. He trails far behind former Vice President Joe Biden, who has 30% support, and Sen. Sanders, who took second place with 22.5%.
Buttigieg currently trails slightly behind O’Rourke with the support of 6% of likely Democratic primary voters.
O’Rourke’s presidential aspirations may not yet be over, so to speak, but things aren’t looking good for him at the moment — and this change in campaign personnel may be a bad sign of more disappointment for Beto fans everywhere.