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Beto O’Rourke returns to Borderland, hopes to regain traction for campaign

It was a bad start to the week for Beto O’Rourke, but he returned home to the Borderland on Wednesday evening hoping to get his campaign back on track.

O’Rourke announced on Monday that he had raised just $3.6 million between April 1 and June 30, a massive decline from the $9.4 million the former El Paso congressman raised in just 18 days as a 2020 candidate in the first quarter of this year. And the bad news didn’t end there. He also spent more money than he took in over the past three months: O’Rourke had a burn rate of 146%, according to national media calculations.

That slide is consistent with O’Rourke’s broader struggles in national polling over the past few months; the latest Quinnipiac University national polling average puts O’Rourke at 1%, good for a sixth place tie among the Democratic field.

The combination of his disappointing fundraising numbers combined with his ever-shrinking poll numbers has created cause for concern for a campaign that began with such promise. O’Rourke became a national sensation during his challenge to Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018 and, when he entered the 2020 race, was widely regarded as one of the most likely nominees for the Democratic party.

ABC-7 caught up with O’Rourke Wednesday evening at the opening of a new campaign volunteer office in El Paso and asked him what he thinks he needs to do to get his campaign back on track.

“Well first, I’d just say that we’re very lucky and I’m very grateful that we had so many people contribute,” O’Rourke replied. “My challenge is just to make the most of all that support that has come in so far — and really demonstrate not just what we want to do as president, but the way we’re going to do this.”

O’Rourke’s campaign also announced on Wednesday that it’s hired Aisha McClendon as national director of African American outreach amid increased efforts to reach out to the pivotal minority voting bloc.

The fellow Texas native is a seasoned Democratic political strategist who worked in the Clinton White House and has more than two decades of experience.

“I totally believe that Beto is the best candidate and the best person to be the next president of the United States,” McClendon said. “As a Texan, I’ve watched him with my own eyes, and I totally believe in him. The things that he’s aligned with are things that I believe in.”

Black women are increasingly at the center of O’Rourke’s presidential bid — now with five of them in prominent positions in his campaign, working at the helm of influence, leading his political strategy.

Amid his stubborn lag in national polls, and a noticeable loss of momentum proven in his underwhelming fundraising in the second fiscal quarter of the campaign season, O’Rourke’s outreach to African American women could be crucial to regaining traction in the 2020 race.

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