But Mr. O’Rourke’s lack of detail does not dissuade his most ardent supporters. As with Mr. Obama’s, the Texan’s admirers are galvanized by a message that, with leadership that can bring people of good will together across party lines, a better day for the country awaits.
“Trump appeals to the worst of America, candidates like Beto appeal to the best of America,” said Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, 48, a Democratic leader who may become the first Generation X House speaker someday and has not backed anyone in the race.
Across eastern Iowa, Mr. O’Rourke encountered many young people excited by his candidacy, arriving in T-shirts from his Senate race or, in one case, a customized “Betomania” button featuring the candidate with a guitar.
“Everything about him is an inspiration,” said Angela Scott, 27, after meeting (and high-fiving) Mr. O’Rourke at a sub shop in Burlington, Iowa. “You can’t help but like that man.”
In other moments, though, his audiences included a striking dichotomy: enchanted older voters, convinced that younger voters would flock to Mr. O’Rourke and rescue the party from Mr. Trump, and younger voters excited by someone else.
As Mr. O’Rourke spoke in Mount Pleasant, standing on a cafe counter, a cluster of teenage fans of Mr. Sanders watched in the wings, curious about Mr. O’Rourke but unmoved by any suggestion that Mr. Sanders is not a man for the times.
“That’s ageism,” said Garrick Dodson, a self-described socialist progressive who will turn 18 next month. “I don’t have a problem voting for an old person I agree with more than a young person.”