by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg at first glance might seem to appeal to the same type of voter. A congressman and a mayor — younger, energetic men who aren’t longtime political insiders. But it has been interesting to watch them embody their distinctive personas.
Beto is the socially conscious, big-hearted former punk-rocker. He wants to lead with emotion. He’s willing to test the patience of the squares in order to find his breakthrough. Mayor Pete is the apex predator meritocrat, a veteran and a management consultant who took a mayoral position — which, however small, requires real executive decision-making. Wining skeptics over means being sensitive to all the stakeholders and striking savvy deals. One man aims for the heart, the other for our head.
We’ve seen these two approaches play out over the last week on the issue of gun control, after Beto announced to the world, “Hell yes, we are going to take your AR-15” on the debate stage. In the days that followed, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Buttigieg whether O’Rourke was “playing into the hands of Republicans.” Presumably a simple question asking him to distinguish his own views from O’Rourke’s was too jejune; everything is really about Republican political traps. In any case, [Buttigieg] responded that “yes,” Beto was. Buttigieg continued as if he were closing the sale at the end of a presentation between his old consulting firm and a new corporate client. This was a “golden moment,” he said, one in which the Republicans are “open to reforms.” So let’s work with the Republicans and “get these things done.” …
… O’Rourke, in an interview on MSNBC, chose to lead with emotion.