Election 2020

Major Obama Donor Backs Beto for 2020

Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas gestures as he speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

If Beto O’Rourke decides to run for president in 2020, at least one major Democratic bundler for John Kerry in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008 will already be on his side.

“It’s time to pass the torch to a new generation,” Chicago financier Louis Susman, who served as finance chairman for John Kerry in 2004 and who backed Barack Obama early in 2008, told CNN. “I have nothing against the Bidens and the Kerrys of the world and all of these senators that are looking at it, but I think the Beto example is what inspired people and what we are going to need.”

Susman said he has met with O’Rourke many times and has encouraged him to throw his hat in the ring.

Former vice president Joe Biden seems intent on a 2020 run, but many Democrats want a fresh face. O’Rourke has proven his ability to break fundraising records, and he brought the 2018 Texas U.S. Senate race within three points of Ted Cruz. Beto has inspired a cult-like following that could skyrocket his campaign to victory — in the primary, at least.

CNN’s Fredreka Schouten noted that dozens of top Obama bundlers funded O’Rourke’s 2018 campaign. Yet those same donors are hesitating to make a decision about 2020. Many of them have longstanding ties to Joe Biden.

Democratic bundlers are calling for a competitive primary to send a battle-tested candidate to face Trump in November 2020.

“What I’m looking for this time is someone who can win Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida,” the key swing states Trump won in 2016, Gary Hirshberg, the co-founder of organic yogurt producer Stonyfield Farm, told CNN.

Indeed, slimy celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti — who briefly considered a 2020 Democratic campaign after becoming notorious for representing porn star Stormy Daniels against Trump — suggested that the leading contenders for 2020 “have no real chance at winning” against the president for just this reason: few have been truly battle-tested.

“I remain concerned that the Democratic Party wil move toward nominating an individual who might make an exceptional President but has no chance of actually beating Donald Trump,” Avenatti declared in a statement last week. “The party must immediately recognize that many of the likely candidates are not battletested and have no real chance at winning.”

Beto O’Rourke gave Democrats hope they might flip Texas from red to blue, but despite his record-breaking fundraising, this golden boy fell short of defeating Ted Cruz. He tapped into the sentiment of the Democratic base — a strong sign that he could indeed win the 2020 Democratic primary — but as his profile among national Democrats increased, his favorability among Texas donors decreased.

Similarly, O’Rourke may prove an effective 2020 heartthrob, but he seems unlikely to actually unseat President Donald Trump. Ironically, Biden would likely prove a better threat to Trump — but he may struggle in the primary.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.