Campaign for White House launched four months after O’Rourke came up short in U.S. Senate race
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
EL PASO (CFP) — Saying that the United States faces a “defining moment,” former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke has announced he will seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, launching a national campaign just four months after losing a U.S. Senate race in Texas.
“The challenges that we face right now — the interconnected crises in our economy, our democracy and our climate — have never been greater,” O’Rourke said in an announcement video posted on social media. “They will either consume us, or they will afford us the greatest opportunity to unleash the genius of the United States.”
O’Rourke, who raised more than $80 million dollars in his unsuccessful bid to unseat Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz in 2018, promised to run “the greatest grassroots campaign this country has ever seen.”
“This is going to be a positive campaign that seeks to bring out the very best from every single one of us, that seeks to unite a very divided country,” he said.
In his announcement video, O’Rourke did not mention President Donald Trump by name, but he did draw a sharp contrast between himself and the president on Trump’s signature issue, immigration.
“If immigration is a problem, it is the best possible problem to have, and we should ensure that there are lawful paths to work, to be with family and to flee persecution,” he said.
Asked about O’Rourke’s announcement, Trump made light of the Texan’s propensity to use his hands as he speaks.
“I think he’s got a lot of hand hand movement. I’ve never seen so much hand movement,” Trump told reporters at the White House, “I said, ‘Is he crazy, or is that just the way he acts?'”
After posting his kickoff video, O’Rourke traveled to Iowa, which will hold the first caucuses in the 2020 election calendar. A formal campaign kickoff is scheduled for March 30 in his hometown of El Paso.
O’Rourke, 46 — whose given name is Robert but who goes by a childhood Spanish nickname, Beto — served three terms in the U.S. House representing metro El Paso before launching his campaign to unseat Cruz in 2017.
Given little chance when the race began, O’Rourke’s campaign caught the imagination of liberal activists around the country, allowing him to outraise Cruz and put what had been considered a safe seat in jeopardy.
Trump, who had a famously frosty relationship with Cruz when they competed for the White House in 2016, came to Texas to campaign for the senator as the race narrowed.
In the end, Cruz won by 215,000 votes, but O’Rourke’s showing was the best by a Democrat in a Texas Senate race in 30 years.
O’Rourke’s decision to pursue the presidency is good news for Texas’s other U.S. senator, Republican John Cornyn, who had already begin preparing for a challenge from O’Rourke in 2020.
O’Rourke is the third Southern candidate to enter crowded 2020 Democratic field, following another Texan, former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, and Richard Ojeda, a former state senator and unsuccessful congressional candidate from West Virginia.