Appearing on ABC’s “The View,” O’Rourke said his decision to begin his bid for the Democratic nomination with a glossy photo shoot in Vanity Fair reinforced “the perception of privilege” that has dogged his campaign during its early weeks.
In the Vanity Fair profile, which appeared on the eve of his campaign announcement in March, O’Rourke made his ambition clear. “I want to be in it,” he told the magazine. “Man, I’m just born to be in it, and want to do everything I humanly can for this country at this moment.”
On Tuesday, O’Rourke sought to qualify that comment. “I have my work cut out for me to be a better person and ensure that I’m more mindful to the experiences that others have had,” he said. “I was attempting to say that I felt that my calling was in public service. No one is born to be president of the United States of America, least of all me.”
O’Rourke’s appearance was part of an effort by the former Texas congressman to reset his campaign, which has struggled to maintain the kind of energy that built a national following for his unsuccessful Senate run last year. Since former Vice President Joe Biden entered the race, O’Rourke’s polling has plummeted into the low single digits both in national surveys and in the early voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
Part of his shifting approach involves re-embracing the national media, an admission that this primary is taking place as much on television and social media as it is at the town halls and coffee shop visits that he livestreamed in his Senate campaign and that he assumed would translate in the presidential race. He appeared on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show Monday night and has plans to participate in a CNN televised town hall in Iowa this month.
During his appearance on “The View,” O’Rourke boasted about the pace of his campaign, touting the 150 town hall meetings he has attended in 15 states, before noting that perhaps those stops were not enough to get his message out to a national audience.
“I can’t tell you how many times I was asked to find a way to get on ‘The View’ at those town hall meetings,” he said.
O’Rourke has taken other steps to professionalize his operation. He has been boning up on policy before the first Democratic debate in June. Last month, he released his first policy plan, a $5 trillion proposal to combat climate change. On Monday, O’Rourke held his first major fundraiser of the campaign, appearing with supporters in New York City. The event was livestreamed, like all of his campaign events.
His campaign manager, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, moved to his El Paso headquarters this month and has installed Jeff Berman to run O’Rourke’s delegate strategy. Both O’Malley Dillon and Berman are veterans of former President Barack Obama’s campaigns.
Two of the top advisers who worked on the staff of O’Rourke’s relatively small Senate campaign, Becky Bond and her deputy, Zack Malitz, left his presidential operation last month.
O’Rourke played down the changes to his operation, telling reporters in New Hampshire last week that he was simply building out a bigger team, rather than completely revamping the style of his Texas campaign.
“Nothing about the fundamentals of this, or my approach, or who I am has changed,” he said.
Some voters, however, see it differently. After listening to O’Rourke address two dozen supporters in a living room in Hooksett, New Hampshire, Sam Pepin, 21, said he had noticed a shift since the Senate race.
“As he’s been speechifying all over the universe, I noticed he’s gotten more practiced,” said Pepin, a recent college graduate. “That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it just seems a little bit less, ‘This is what I’m thinking in my head’ and more, ‘This is what my advisers are telling me to say.’”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.