Beto O’Rourke supporters debuted signs at Saturday’s Polk County Steak Fry which mirrored those from Bobby Kennedy’s storied 1968 run.
‘Beto is good’ and ‘Leader for the 20s,’ were phrases held up on homemade wooden posts, imitating Kennedy’s ‘Bobby is good’ and ‘Leader for the 60s’ signs — a stark contrast to the modern, mass-produced displays of his Democratic counterparts.
But the parallels between the candidates both named Robert Francis don’t end with campaign marketing — O’Rourke supporters have before referenced similarities between the two politicians.
“I’m a huge fan of Bobby Kennedy, and I see a lot of Bobby Kennedy in Beto,” Alison Ver Schuer, an attorney from Urbandale Iowa said.
The two both have Irish Catholic backgrounds, the same dusty grey hair and a thoughtful demeanor. Some supporters say O’Rourke’s mannerisms and his ability to connect with people reflects that of Kennedy.
O’Rourke has even referenced the late politician on his campaign route.
“We must heed the words of Robert Kennedy, who in 1967, the time of division and polarization, reminded us that no matter our differences, we share one precious possession, and that is the name ‘American,'” the former Texas congressman and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate said earlier this year in South Carolina.
Ryan Holliday, a Galveston, Texas resident, hosts a podcast in support of O’Rourke’s campaign called ‘Looking Ahead to Beto Days.’ Holliday was at the Steak Fry when he interviewed Bill, a Des Moines resident who worked on Bobby Kennedy’s campaign in 1968, for the podcast.
Bill said he hasn’t been involved in politics Kennedy’s assassination, though O’Rourke has pulled him back in.
I met a gentleman who worked on Bobby Kennedy's campaign. He hasn't been involved in politics since but Beto brought him back in.
— Darwinnn69 (@Darwinnn69) September 21, 2019
“Beto to me is the reincarnation of Bobby Kennedy. Their ideas, their manners, it’s like being able to do it again,” Bill said. “After what happened there, I lost interest in politics.”
Bill said O’Rourke connects with all types of people, just like Kennedy did.
“I was there the night Bobby addressed the black crowd. I’ll tell you what — a white guy standing there right beside a trailer — you feared you were going to get your rear end kicked,” he said. “Bobby Kennedy had that crowd right in the palm of his hand.”
Ver Schuer went to law school in Boston, MA, and worked alongside the late Sen. Ted Kennedy when she worked for Sen. Tom Harkin. She said Beto’s overall sense of humility and need to directly connect with people reminds her of Bobby.
“Like Bobby, Beto always travels in a way that allows him to directly connect voters. Whether it be a BOLT bus, flying by Coach or riding around in a Dodge Caravan minivan, Beto is always accessible and can stop and directly talk to voters versus riding in a big campaign bus with press or flying everywhere in a private jet,” Van Schuer said.
O’Rourke’s Steak Fry speech is penned the ‘No Fear Speech,’ where he said: “PACs, NRA, or even fellow Democrats tell us what is and what is not possible.”
Ver Schuer said the speech reminded her of Kennedy’s ‘Mindless Menace of Violence’ speech.
“Whoa is it similar,” she said. “RFK delivered that speech the day after MLK was killed in Cleveland and called out the unnecessary violence and hate that had taken over the country. When I listened to Beto’s Steak Fry speech…. it was the same cry, just over 50 years later.”
Kennedy’s presidential run ultimately ended in his assassination– he was shot and killed in 1968 as the lead candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination that year.
O’Rourke has been outspoken about gun control, especially in the wake of a string of United States mass shootings which included his hometown of El Paso, where 22 people were gunned down at a Walmart in August.
“Hell yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47!” Beto shouted on stage, in reference to his support for a mandatory gun-buyback program and his breakout moment from the September debate stage.
“Beto said it best at Steak Fry: this campaign is about having no fear in confronting our biggest challenges, and fighting for those who have been left out of our democracy,” said Norm Sterzenbach, O’Rourke’s Iowa state director. “From ending the gun violence epidemic to stopping climate change, Beto’s leading the field in a way not seen in decades. RFK is a hero to all of us, and in his campaign, he gave voice to so many who didn’t have one. We’re working to follow his example.”
by Isabella Murray
Featured photo by Julie Fleming