“We’re not going to be able to provide a ton of guidance, but we’re going to be able to get it off the ground,” Lerner said.
Michael Trujillo, a Los Angeles–based political consultant who signed on this week, first heard about Draft Beto from a friend who attended his birthday party recently. The friend was Michael Soneff, who’d just signed on as the Nevada and California director for Draft Beto—and who, a few weeks later, called Trujillo and asked him to sign up.
Now Trujillo is spending a little time each day trying to make more connections. He reached out to Mandate Media, a firm that worked with O’Rourke when he was in the House, to see whether they’d sign up to work for Draft Beto. He put in a call to the former chair of the Latino caucus in California, seeing about support.
After working on Hillary Clinton’s campaigns, Trujillo said O’Rourke’s freshness pulled him in—and that, anyway, he hasn’t been impressed enough with any of the other candidates to leave other clients behind for them. He hopes this translates to a job on a campaign, if there is one.
“This is our way of raising our hands and saying through the press, ‘If you’re ready to jump in, here we are,’” Trujillo said.
“Draft” movements don’t have a great track record. For the 2004 election, several websites and small groups urged retired Army General Wesley Clark to join the race, comparing him to Dwight Eisenhower, raising money, and building email lists for him. After about six months, Clark jumped into the race, but his campaign lasted only about six months.
In 2015, a more experienced group of operatives and activists at the group MoveOn.org launched Run Warren Run, trying to persuade Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren to enter the primaries. She never bit, and eventually they gave up, announcing that though “we’ve illustrated the huge opening that exists for her, we’re resting our case and will stop actively trying to draft her into the race.”
Meanwhile, a few young, inexperienced campaign workers put together a group called Draft Biden to try to persuade Joe Biden, then vice president, to run. They raised more than $100,000, commissioned meme-ready, Obama-style graphics of Biden driving a car, and became a point of contact for those close to Biden, who they hoped would convince him to run. As it turned out, the people who actually worked on planning a potential Biden campaign didn’t even know who the organizers were.
The people working on Draft Beto say they hope to be more like Ready for Hillary, a group founded in January 2013 that built up a massive email list and other resources. It was eventually absorbed by her campaign. But that was with much more time than O’Rourke has right now to decide whether he’s going to pull the trigger.
Adam Parkhomenko, the Ready for Hillary founder, said he’d advise the Draft Beto team to raise money for its own operations to pay for signs, stickers, and other materials that it can start handing out at events, at least until O’Rourke has a campaign operation that can produce those. “They could be filling a vacuum at all these events,” Parkhomenko said.