DW-NOMINATE really *IS* the gold standard for measuring the voting behavior of members of congress, and by that standard:
Well, in his first term in Congress, he voted somewhat more conservatively than the typical House Democrat. It was the same in his second term in Congress and the same again in his third term.
- In the 113th Congress, he was more conservative than 76 percent of Democrats.
- In the 114th Congress, he was more conservative than 79 percent of Democrats.
- In the 115th Congress, he was more conservative than 77 percent of Democrats.
Now, to be clear, if you look at a visualization of O’Rourke in the most recent Congress, it’s not like he’s a crypto-Republican or anything. Even the most conservative Democrats are well to the left of the most liberal Republicans, and O’Rourke is quite a bit more liberal than the most conservative Democrats.
All that said, O’Rourke basically has the voting record of someone capable of threading the needle between grassroots enthusiasm and swing voter acceptability that you would need to mount a credible statewide campaign in Texas.
Most of the other names you hear in the 2020 race are, however, more consistently progressive.
This might read as a knock on Beto, but I actually see it as a form of praise. He’s doing what he needs to do to win election in a relatively conservative Democratic district. That’s smart and good and right, and more directly, a sign that he knows what he’s doing. Good politicians are strategic actors who consider context as part of every move they make, and that’s precisely what Beto seems to be doing here. But it’s still worth noting as the buzz builds around the man — like Obama before him, he has a relatively conservative voting record during his limited time in office, and that’s worth factoring into to what we know about him.