Here are some of the places Beto O’Rourke visited during his campaign swing through California this week: Skid Row in Los Angeles. San Quentin State Prison. And on Thursday, O’Rourke was the first presidential candidate ever to tour a marijuana dispensary when he stopped by Blunts and Moore in Oakland.
No, not exactly voter-rich environments.
But O’Rourke’s presidential campaign doesn’t seem like a presidential campaign anymore. It’s more like a crusade. The former Texas congressman is diving deeper into issues like institutional racism than most other Democratic presidential candidates.
Perhaps that’s what happens when you tumble down to 3% in the polls and the punditocracy stops listening to you.
Yet instead of trying to retrench, O’Rourke sounded free.
He was freed from having to react to the latest presidential tweet or show up and kiss the ring at every candidate forum. Free to show up at a weed store in East Oakland and meet with a dozen dispensary owners, activists and others to talk about how the drug war has destroyed neighborhoods like this one and how to repair the damage.
“I’m running for president for the United States and of everyone in the United States,” O’Rourke said when I asked him about his choice of campaign stops. “If I really want to understand the story of this country, if I really want to understand the solutions to the challenges that we face, I’ve really got to listen to everyone. And go to people where they are — not expect them to come to me.”
That means O’Rourke isn’t “f—ing moving to Iowa,” as California Sen. Kamala Harris says she is doing to bolster her sagging poll numbers. Instead, he’s headed to Colorado on Friday to participate in the “global climate strike.” Next week, he’s going to Illinois,