Turns out, former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke was playing a little game when he told Oprah on Feb. 5 that he'd decide whether he'd run for Senate or president "before the end of the month." Though the El Paso native has made his decision, according to multiple reports, he isn't going to tell the public what it is until at least the first full week of March.
None of that's to say he hasn't telegraphed what he's going to do. Barring a complete 180 on O'Rourke's part, he's going to run for president, just as many pundits predicted he would following his coming within 1.5 points of pulling off an upset in his 2018 Senate race against Ted Cruz.
"Amy and I have made a decision about how we can best serve our country," O'Rourke told The Dallas Morning News' Gromer Jeffers earlier this week. "We are excited to share it with everyone soon."
It's hard to imagine O'Rourke, who is not considering a run against incumbent Texas Sen. John Cornyn, according to a number of anonymous confidants who've been chatty with the press this week, would be too excited about announcing that he's going to stay home and write more Kerouac-like blog posts.
New polling suggests O'Rourke is going to face a tough but not insurmountable task when he decides to make things official.
In national surveys, including a couple from Morning Consult and the Harris Poll this week, O'Rourke is polling in the mid-single digits, remaining squarely in the second tier of candidates with the likes of Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris. For the time being, Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden have separated themselves from the field, with both polling above 20 percent.
Closer to home, a new Texas poll from Quinnipiac University shows that O'Rourke remains a threat to GOP hegemony in the state.
According to the poll of 1,222 registered voters in the state, O'Rourke trails President Donald Trump by just a point (47-46) in a hypothetical 2020 matchup, the same spread forecast for a matchup between Biden and the president. Against Cornyn, the survey says, O'Rourke sits about a point better, tying the incumbent senator at 46 percent support each.
The Quinnipiac survey also shows that 49 percent of Texans view Trump unfavorably, compared with 47 percent who have a favorable view of the president. O'Rourke is above water in the poll, with 44 percent of those surveyed viewing him positively and 40 percent viewing him negatively.
Seeing a moderate like O'Rourke or Biden secure the Democratic nomination could be a boon to Democrats across Texas, as Rice University political science professor Mark Jones told the Observer in January. A more liberal candidate like Sanders or Warren, both of whom trail Trump in the Quinnipiac poll, is unlikely to fare as well.
"If [the Democratic nominee] is O'Rourke or [Joe] Biden, there are maybe a dozen Republican state House members and a few members of Congress that need to be really worried," Jones says, "because then you're going to get all the bad of Trump and — if it's someone like Beto or Biden — you're going to get a Democrat that's a positive, not a negative."
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