Beto O'Rourke
Credit: Erik Drost/Flickr

It’s probably a sign that the Democratic Party’s presidential field is too large that Beto O’Rourke’s flagging campaign is hoping that a documentary that features him calling himself “a giant a**hole” in front of his staff will provide a boost in the polls. Some people saw the film in March when it premiered at the SXSW conference, but it will get a much wider audience beginning Tuesday night when it airs on HBO. They’ll be treated to several examples of O’Rourke using casual profanity, and not always in a self-deprecating manner.

In the doc, Beto comes off as charismatic yet controlling—its most revealing moments being ones where he is seen dressing down his clearly overworked staff for their perceived lack of preparedness. The person on the receiving end of most of the scoldings is Cynthia Cano, his road manager. At several tense points in the film, Cano is criticized by Beto—in front of her campaign colleagues—for not leaving enough time in his schedule for media interviews, having him be late to campaign events, and not adequately prepping him for those events. (Cano views Beto’s penchant for going long in his speeches and wanting to speak with every single constituent and/or person with a microphone as the reason for his constant tardiness and lack of prep time, which appears to be the more likely culprit.)

After Beto was narrowly defeated by Cruz, he delivered a concession speech in front of thousands of supporters in his backyard of El Paso, where he exclaimed, “I’m so fucking proud of you guys.”

It sounds like there will be plenty to like about O’Rourke in the film, and any publicity is better than none. I’m sure all of the other Democratic candidates would kill to have a movie about them airing on HBO even if there are some downside risks.

O’Rourke did land an interview on Face the Nation this past weekend, but his campaign has been idling in place for weeks. The RealClearPolitics average of polls has him at the back of the middle pack, polling in sixth place at 3.7 percent. That puts him a full 31 points behind Joe Biden. After his surprisingly strong challenge to Senator Ted Cruz in 2018, I don’t think he or his supporters thought he’d be struggling to catch some guy named Pete Buttigieg.

So, with little to lose and not much else working for him, the campaign is hoping that some bad language might get him the attention he so desperately needs.

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Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at