Beto O'Rourke, welcome to the National Football League. As a potential top-tier presidential candidate, O'Rourke has arrived at a much tougher level of competition, and he had better raise his game quickly. To continue the metaphor, he is like a No. 1 draft pick, and everyone is looking to see whether he's worth it.
The nation's best and toughest reporters have his number and want nothing more than to take his measure and knock him down. Now that he is under a whole new burden of proof, he is going to have a more thoughtful positions on national issues than the one O'Rourke gave The Washington Post's Jenna Johnson, published in an article on Tuesday.
When asked about immigration, he said, "That's a problem when you're like, 'It will be a wall,' or 'It will be this,' or 'We can only do it with this. . . . The genius is we can nonviolently resolve our differences, though I won't get to my version of perfect or I, working with you, will get to something better than what we have today. . . . It's rare that someone's ever been able to impose their will unilaterally in this country. We don't want that."
What the heck is that babble? Surely, a congressman, especially one from a Texas border region, has more to say on immigration than that drivel and to call for more debate. We have been having a debate for more than 20 years. What people are looking for now, especially from someone bearing such high expectations of leadership, are thoughtful, fearless ideas to resolve the debate.
The love bubble surrounding O'Rourke is leaking. To his would-be Democratic rivals, he's no longer the scrappy, truth-telling, unifying underdog. He is now an upstart who threatens what they have spent years coveting. He is coming after what they think they deserve and he hasn't earned. And right now, there are smart operatives with deep media contacts from several campaigns who are talking smack to anyone who will listen.
Sure, O'Rourke was exciting three months ago. He gave Democrats hope that they could beat the oleaginous Ted Cruz and plant the blue flag in Texas. But preseason is over. Beto, time to get your head into a whole new game.