MASON CITY, Iowa- Wednesday afternoon found an enthusiastic crowd gathered at Fathill Brewery in Mason City. They came from across the region in hopes of meeting Beto O'Rourke, one of 21 Democratic candidates for President.
Those who filled the popular brewery were treated to an unusually candid give and take with the candidate. O'Rourke is the rare politico who moves seamlessly away from "talking points" and clearly listens to questioners. Throughout the more than hour-long event, O'Rourke spent no small amount of time simply standing and nodding his head as Iowans posed questions. After the event, the former Texas congressman told KIMT News 3 his candidacy is based on the notion of bringing America together.
"We have a country that is as divided as I can remember it in my lifetime," the seemingly youthful 46-year-old said as he sat calmly in the brewery portion of the venue. "And yet we have the greatest challenges before us. Millions who can't see a doctor or afford their medication. Teachers who are forced to work two or three jobs because we're not paying them enough in the most important job that they have."
O'Rourke is adamant that to meet those challenges and many others that he outlined, America can't afford to remain divided along party lines. "The best way to do that is to bring us all together," the Texan said firmly. "The people of this country are going to have a very clear choice; someone who is in power today who seeks to make us afraid and keep us apart and make us angry at one another, or someone who calls us to a common ambition and aspiration, for us to be the best country that we can possibly be, not as Democrats, not as Republicans not as Independents, but as Americans first."
Those themes were evident in the conversations O'Rourke had with those in attendance and his enthusiasm resonated with them.
Anna Jones, a Democrat and union activist said she was impressed by the candidate. "I liked him," she said without hesitation. "He's able to answer these questions, very upfront and very direct. I didn't feel like he was giving me a lot of lip service."
O'Rourke had a big impact on the political leanings of Democrat Dustin Menke. "I'm a die hard Bernie Sanders supporter, but now it's really going to be a toss up."
Menke's position speaks to the ability of O'Rourke to overcome the biggest challenge of his candidacy. He must figure out a way to separate himself from at least twenty fellow Democratic candidates.