Oprah, teeth cleanings and nascent beards. Among a few other tidbits, that's where we are in Beto O'Rourke's presidential flirtation. The maybe candidate still isn't doing anything that actually means anything, so social media gawkers and the media are left to project their own meaning onto everything the newly out-of-a-job former U.S. representative does with all his newfound free time.
O'Rourke's trip to the dentist offered some of the strongest proof yet of his strange place in the political milieu. It started as a fairly normal thing. O'Rourke has been out and about in far West Texas, asking people about their experiences living near the border, in light of President Donald Trump's recent portrayal of the region as a post-apocalyptic wasteland. In the course of asking his dental hygienist, Diana, an El Paso native, about her experiences growing up, O'Rourke also posted a short video to his Instagram story — video of his teeth getting cleaned. And that's all anybody is going to remember.
All the Washington political rags picked it up, including Politico and The Hill, and the clip eventually made its way to Seth Meyers' late-night show. Reaction to O'Rourke's sharing such an intimate moment, especially on Twitter, was mostly negative, with CNN's Ana Navarro perhaps summing it up best:
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Weird Instagram decisions aside, O'Rourke had a pretty good week as a (non) candidate. Esquire signed off on his growing beard, and a new straw poll from the influential progressive website the Daily Kos showed just how strong a foothold O'Rourke has in the potential 2020 Democratic field.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who's already announced she's running and has held several well-attended events in early primary states, led the field with 22 percent support. O'Rourke, despite taking heat from the left in November and December, came in second among the more than 35,000 Kos readers who cast votes with 15 percent support, leading Kamala Harris, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.
If O'Rourke eventually enters the race, he'll do so with an already-built campaign infrastructure. As multiple outlets reported this week, a group called "Draft Beto" is raising money and bringing experienced political operators on board in early primary states in an effort to coax their man into the field.
Oh, and the Oprah thing? The media maven will interview O'Rourke in Times Square's PlayStation Theater on Feb. 5, to be broadcast on OWN and released as a podcast. Might be a good chance to make a big announcement, but what do we know?