O’Rourke launch is a final puzzle piece in Dem primary race


WASHINGTON — The contours of the Democratic presidential primary came into clearer focus this week with Texan Beto O’Rourke’s entry into the race — one of the final puzzle pieces in a contest that will be shaped by questions about race and gender, political ideology and generational change.

The sprawling Democratic field features candidates ranging from 37 to 77 years old; liberals and moderates; senators, governors and mayors; and an unprecedented number of women and minorities. Former Vice-President Joe Biden is the only major contender still on the sidelines and has suggested he could remain there for several more weeks.

The field has been awaiting O’Rourke’s decision for months. He narrowly lost the Senate race in conservative Texas in November but became a political celebrity in the process, demonstrating an easy connection with voters and an eye-popping ability to raise money from small donors.

But the anticipation over O’Rourke, who served three terms in Congress, has rankled some in the party, who contend a woman or a minority would not be seen as a viable presidential candidate on the heels of a defeat.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an assumption of competence, an assumption of quality and a desire for him to run again, as a man,” said MJ Hegar, who lost a close congressional race in Texas in the fall. “A question for me, as a woman, is ‘Why did you lose?”

O’Rourke enters a race with no clear front-runner. Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have topped early polling, reflecting the reservoir of goodwill each has with a sizable share of the primary electorate but hardly guaranteeing either an easy path to the nomination.

With the first primary contest still 11 months away, huge uncertainties hang over the field. Among them: Which candidates can raise enough money to sustain a long and …read more

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