What’s the deal with Beto O’Rourke and standing on tables?
Look out, countertops and tables of New Hampshire — Beto O’Rourke is in town.
Over the past few days on the campaign trail, the Democratic presidential candidate has made a habit of turning any elevated surface into a makeshift stage from which to address potential voters and supporters. With O’Rourke’s campaign set to roll into New Hampshire Tuesday night, the coffee shop counters of the Granite State could be next.
O’Rourke’s recent penchant for high-surface standing started March 14, the day he announced plans to run for president. That’s when a chair at The Lost Canvas in downtown Keokuk, Iowa, was repurposed into a mini-stage as he set off on a three-day tour of the state.
That same day, O’Rourke turned a countertop at the Beancounter Coffeehouse & Drinkery in Burlington, Iowa, into something like a surfboard, extending his arms as if riding a gnarly wave at a meet-and-greet.
He didn’t stop there.
He jumped onto the bed of a truck while outside of Cargo Coffee in Madison, Wis.; a bench at The Pig & Porter restaurant in Cedar Rapids, Iowa; and a countertop at The Sing-A-Long Bar and Grill in Mount Vernon, Iowa.
O’Rourke’s high-flying speeches are so frequent, it seems, that they’ve led to some light ribbing online.
A Twitter account called “Pennsylvanians For Beto” said it was doing its part to secure all tabletops in the vicinity, to prepare for a visit from O’Rourke.
“We are ready for him,” the account quipped this week.
Another person tweeted, “If there’s one thing Beto stands for it’s standing on tables/counters!”
“Standing on Counters and other assorted furniture til ’20,” the profile for the parody account reads.
While it’s not entirely clear why O’Rourke is climbing on counters and other objects to address crowds at campaign events, Boston University political science professor Virginia Sapiro ventured a guess: It’s likely just a way for the candidate — and former indie rocker — to stand out and be easily seen and heard.
“His band days tells us he’s not shy about performance,” Sapiro said in an e-mail. “And standing on tables tells us he doesn’t have much, if any, fear of heights.”
Still, it’s slightly unusual, she added.
“[I’ve] never heard of anyone doing this before,” Sapiro said, probably because it wouldn’t have been regarded as very presidential.
“And you can be absolutely sure that a female candidate who tried this — if she dared — would get ripped to shreds by the press,” she noted.
Lauren Mattioli, an assistant professor of political science at Boston University, said O’Rourke might be using objects around him as podiums to establish a “man of the people” image.
“One could argue that podiums have a ‘career politician’ or ‘elitist’ connotation,” she said in an e-mail to the Globe. “By contrast, O’Rourke is matching his actions to his rhetoric. You could think of the practice of jumping up on tables as a practice within a pattern of ostensible spontaneity that suits O’Rourke’s overall message — ‘he is different.’ ”
Whatever the reason, O’Rourke, who raised $6.1 million online within 24 hours of announcing his intentions to run for president, will have plenty of chances to test out the surfaces of New Hampshire’s bars and eateries as he makes up to 10 planned stops around the state over the next two days.