WASHINGTON — Beto O’Rourke has hired one of the masterminds behind Barack Obama’s unlikely 2008 primary victory, part of the Democratic candidate’s efforts to balance his freewheeling style with the organizational demands of a presidential campaign.
Delegate guru Jeff Berman began working for O’Rourke in April. In his role as senior adviser for delegate strategy, Berman will oversee the campaign’s efforts to navigate the complicated process of amassing enough delegates to secure the Democratic nomination. His work in a similar role is credited with helping catapult Obama past favorite Hillary Clinton during the 2008 race.
The move signals that O’Rourke is taking steps to professionalize his White House campaign, which he launched in March . He resisted similar efforts during the 2018 Texas Senate race that turned him into a national political star, eschewing pollsters, consultants and prepared speeches. He ultimately lost that contest to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz by 2 percentage points.
In outward appearance, O’Rourke’s presidential campaign has a similar feel to his Senate bid. He often drives himself to campaign events, with a small team of campaign aides crammed into the backseats of a minivan. Direct-to-camera posts of the candidate on social media rack up thousands of views.
But behind the scenes, O’Rourke has been recruiting top flight talent to his El Paso, Texas-based campaign. Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, another former Obama adviser, is serving as campaign manager. Rob Flaherty recently signed on as digital director after stints at the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA and Clinton’s 2016 campaign.
Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke speaks at a Service Employees International Union forum on labor issues, Saturday, April 27, 2019, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Though Berman is not a household name outside of Washington, he is widely considered an unsung hero of Obama’s 2008 victory for his mastery of the delegate allocation process. Democratic primary contests are not winner-take-all, meaning candidates can rack up delegates even without winning the most votes. Berman’s strategy put Obama’s delegate lead out of reach for Clinton, even as the two traded statewide victories through the end of the primary season.
O’Rourke said Berman’s expertise will “help us put people back at the center of our democracy as we ensure every voice is heard during the most consequential election of our lifetimes.”
By: Julie Pace, AP Washington Bureau Chief