U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-El Paso, stopped in Gainesville at the historic Santa Fe Depot June 9, 2018 to complete his 254 county journey across the state in his campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz. Leslie Boorhem-Stephenson for The Texas Tribune
DES MOINES — Hours before Beto O’Rourke quit the presidential race Friday evening, his supporters were taking part in the boisterous “sign wars” here outside the Wells Fargo Arena ahead of the season’s biggest Democratic gathering.
In New Hampshire, his campaign was building out an upcoming trip, announcing he would participate in the famed “Politics and Eggs” speaking series on Nov. 8.
And in El Paso, staffers were readying a policy on disability issues to coincide with a forum on the topic Saturday in Cedar Rapids.
In many ways, it was business as usual for the campaign — until it wasn’t. His exit Friday evening was a relatively abrupt conclusion to a campaign that began with much promise and fell from grace but found new purpose after the El Paso shooting in August and appeared — at least from the outside — to be pressing forward amid mounting challenges.
Breaking the news to supporters on the Des Moines waterfront, O’Rourke hinted at just how swift the decision had been. Lamenting his wife’s absence, he called it “a decision we made so recently and so reluctantly she can’t be here in person.”
O’Rourke decided to drop out just in the last couple days, according to campaign sources, and senior staff did not begin learning about the decision until Thursday. More senior staff learned Friday, and late in the afternoon, just a few hours before his first event of the weekend in Iowa, he held an all-staff call to share his decision.
On the call, O’Rourke discussed the tough financial choices he was facing if he were to continue running, the sources said. He also told staff he would not run for U.S. Senate next year in Texas — something he has previously denied interest in but a possibility that was bound to generate more speculation with him no longer running for president.
O’Rourke’s campaign was facing a number of pressures, perhaps none more serious than money. While he raised more in the third quarter than he did in the second, both saw the campaign spending at an alarming rate, burning through significantly more money than it took in. In the third quarter, the campaign spent $1.43 for every $1 it raised, with payroll and related costs taking up the bulk of expenses.