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AOC, Beto: The 7 letters disrupting politics

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The biggest political story since the election of Donald Trump is the sudden, stark, sustained rise of the political artists also known as AOC and Beto.

The big picture: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and former Rep. Beto O'Rourke are political and cultural phenomena — one known by her initials, one by his first name, like Drake or JFK or RG3. Both arose from nowhere seven months ago, during the midterms, and today are everywhere.

  • Both are hotter than establishment Democrats on social platforms and among staffer wannabes, the press, donors and activists.

Exclusive: A new Axios/SurveyMonkey poll finds that 74% of Democrats (and people who lean Dem) would consider voting for Ocasio-Cortez if she were old enough to run for president. (She's 29; you have to be at least 35.)

  • That includes the 17% who would "definitely" vote for her.
  • Jon Cohen, SurveyMonkey's chief research officer, tells me: "These data show the phenomenon is real — she tops Sen. Schumer in favorability among Democrats and overall nearly rivals Speaker Pelosi."

Both AOC and Beto continue to break through news cycles clogged by Mueller and the shutdown:

  • Ocasio-Cortez, described by Bloomberg Businessweek as the "Darling of the Left, Nightmare of the Right," is driving an actual policy debate on taxes, Medicare and free tuition. Last week, she taught a social media class to older House Dems.
  • O'Rourke, 46, gets coverage for hitting the road on a solo road trip to fuel 2020 buzz and shake off what he called a "funk" after losing to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). But one Democratic operative tells the New York Times that some chafe at his "Beto-first politics."

Neera Tanden, president of the progressive Center for American Progress, tells me: "Both of them understand that people are tired of traditional politics and looking for authenticity."

  • "They both say what they believe — unvarnished — and connect directly with the public."

Be smart: That sounds a lot like President Trump — a sign of our times.

Data: Democrats and those who lean Democratic from a SurveyMonkey poll of 2,277 U.S. adults conducted Jan. 16–18 with a margin of error of ±3.5%. Poll methodology; Chart: Axios Visuals

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This story first appeared in Axios AM

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