What is Beto cooking up, besides dinner?

What is Beto cooking up, besides dinner?

A screengrab from Beto O’Rourke’s cooking video on Facebook.

Beto O’Rourke just wanted to check in and say hello. That’s what the Texas congressman announced as he clicked on his Facebook live stream from his kitchen in El Paso last week, placing his iPhone on a counter as he began making dinner for his wife, Amy, and their three kids. But those who tuned in were quick to wonder if there was something more to it.

in an analysis that included screenshots.’ data-reactid=”38″>On the morning after Election Day, O’Rourke showcased the blueberry scones he’d baked — joking that he had turned to cooking to deal with his loss. “Baking therapy,” he dryly explained. And in the weeks since, O’Rourke has continuously posted short snapshots of his post-campaign life on Facebook and Instagram — making slime with his daughter; going to his son Henry’s soccer game; hiking in the mountains with his wife; marinating skirt steak; and, perhaps the buzziest of all, driving around El Paso dipping Fritos into a bowl of guacamole precariously positioned on his truck’s center console. “Look at this giant bowl of guacamole Beto O’Rourke ate while driving,” wrote New York Magazine in an analysis that included screenshots.

O’Rourke’s live videos draw comments by the thousands as they are happening, and he is often quick to engage, shouting out “happy birthdays” on request and expressing gratitude to those who backed him in a Senate run that he has repeatedly described as the “best experience of my life outside of family.” But O’Rourke regularly breezes past the comments that have anything to do with 2020, including supporters pressing him to say whether he will be a candidate.

at an event in Chicago last week, after his meeting with the congressman, the former president called O’Rourke “an impressive young man who ran a terrific race” and credited the candidate’s success to his authenticity. “What I liked most about his race was that it didn’t feel constantly poll-tested,” Obama said. “It felt as if he based his statements and his positions on what he believed.”’ data-reactid=”55″>Even Obama has floated the comparisons. Speaking to his former chief strategist David Axelrod at an event in Chicago last week, after his meeting with the congressman, the former president called O’Rourke “an impressive young man who ran a terrific race” and credited the candidate’s success to his authenticity. “What I liked most about his race was that it didn’t feel constantly poll-tested,” Obama said. “It felt as if he based his statements and his positions on what he believed.”

And that, Obama said, had been the key to his own rise to the White House. “The reason I was able to make a connection with a sizable portion of the country was because people had a sense that I said what I meant,” Obama said. “And that’s a quality that, as I look at what I’m sure will be a strong field of candidates in 2020, many of whom are friends of mine and whom I deeply respect — what I oftentimes am looking for first and foremost is, do you seem to mean it? Are you in this thing because you have a strong set of convictions that you are willing to risk things for?”

Despite the buzz, those close to O’Rourke say little has changed in the weeks since Election Day, other than his public acknowledgment that he is weighing his options. Another possibility would be a challenge to GOP Sen. John Cornyn in 2020, although that race might be tougher than running against Cruz, who isn’t personally popular even among Texas Republicans.

But whatever he does next, O’Rourke will consider his family’s wishes. In the final months of his Senate campaign, which took him on the road for the better part of two years, he repeatedly expressed concern about the campaign’s impact on his wife, Amy, and his three children: Ulysses, 11, Molly, 10, and Henry, 7. Although Amy had been supportive of his Senate run, O’Rourke missed her and felt guilty that his political ambitions had all but rendered her a single parent. The idea of doing that for another two years, an O’Rourke friend said, “was not appealing to him before Election Day, and it still isn’t.”

Another question is whether O’Rourke could run for president with the same kind of scrappy, gut-driven campaign that made him so popular with Democrats in Texas and beyond.

Though he ultimately raised more than $70 million for his campaign — more than almost any candidate in the 2018 election cycle and about half of it from small donors — O’Rourke ran a relatively small operation until the last weeks of the campaign. He refused to hire a pollster or high priced political consultants, though he did rely on fundraising and digital ad help from a group that advised Bernie Sanders’s 2016 presidential bid.

Instead, O’Rourke tapped his own inner circle to run things, hiring close friends he’d known for years, such as campaign manager Jody Casey, a former business executive who had little political experience. And while the campaign had some political aides on staff — including Rob Friedlander, a Democratic operative who previously helped run Obama’s 2008 ground operation in New Hampshire, and David Wysong, a longtime adviser who previously served as his congressional chief of staff – O’Rourke largely served as his own strategist, investing most of his money in his field operation and a flurry of last-minute advertising.

Beto O’Rourke and his wife, Amy Sanders, on election night, after he was defeated by Sen. Ted Cruz. (Photo: Eric Gay/AP)

O’Rourke’s confidantes are wondering if he could mount a modern presidential campaign without damaging his brand of authenticity — or if the hands-on candidate who insisted on driving himself all over Texas so he could better connect with voters would even want to.

O’Rourke has said he’s nowhere near making a decision about his political future. Over the next few weeks, he’ll continue packing up his office in Washington and hold his final town hall in El Paso ahead of leaving office in early January. And then, O’Rourke told reporters last week, he plans to take his wife and kids on a long vacation.

A source close to O’Rourke said the candidate, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Columbia and once dreamed of working in publishing, has entertained the idea of writing a book — one that might be based in part on a diary he kept during his Senate campaign. The move would likely fuel even more rumors about his political aspirations, given that past contenders like Obama and John McCain wrote books to establish their biography and beliefs to voters before their respective White House bids.

Right now, it seems, O’Rourke is not itching to get back on the trail.

In a Facebook broadcast last week, O’Rourke appeared with his two closest aides, who spent more than 20 months on the road with him, crammed in a rented Dodge Caravan, serving as co-stars to his social media reality show: Cynthia Cano, who operated as an unofficial road manager, and Chris Evans, his longtime spokesman. The three sat on the back porch of O’Rourke’s row house in D.C. reading letters from supporters and reminiscing about the campaign trail.

“I don’t miss it yet,” O’Rourke said. “I am enjoying sleeping in my bed. I am enjoying hanging with family. I am enjoying not being in a Dodge Grand Caravan for so much of the day. But, there will be a time.”

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