Beto O’Rourke: Democrat rising star to run for president against Trump in 2020 election

‘I’m really proud of what El Paso did and what El Paso represents,’ he tells TV station. ‘It's a big part of why I'm running. This city is the best example of this country at its best’

Henry Austin
Thursday 14 March 2019 08:30 GMT
Beto O'Rourke announces his campaign for President of the United States

Beto O’Rourke has formally announced that he will seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, ending months of intense speculation over whether he'd try to translate his newfound political celebrity into a White House bid.

"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," O'Rourke said in a video announcement with his wife on a couch. "We saw the power of this in Texas."

Mr O'Rourke promises in the video posted Thursday: "I'm going to travel this country and listen to those I seek to serve" and then will return to El Paso on March 30 for a campaign kickoff. He invites would-be supporters "to the greatest grassroots campaign this country has ever seen."

The 46-year-old who gained a national following with his long-shot election battle against Senator Ted Cruz last year had earlier told the KTSM news channel: ”I’m really proud of what El Paso did and what El Paso represents.

“It’s a big part of why I’m running. This city is the best example of this country at its best.”

The former three-term US congressman ​was a heavy underdog when he challenged Mr Cruz, a Republican in mostly conservative Texas, but he quickly demonstrated an ability to draw capacity crowds and raise money from voters nationwide. His candidacy also generated a torrent of media coverage.

Early opinion polls on the 2020 race have consistently ranked him in the top tier of contenders, behind former vice president Joe Biden, who has not yet said whether he is running, and veteran Vermont senator Bernie Sanders.

This weekend Mr O’Rourke is to campaign in the politically crucial state of Iowa alongside Eric Giddens, who is running in a special election for a state senate seat.

His communications director tweeted: “Beto will be in Waterloo on Saturday to kick off an afternoon of canvassing, [get out the vote] and grassroots organising for state senate candidate Eric Giddens.”

Earlier, Mr Giddens had tweeted a video of the Texan wearing a University of Northern Iowa hat and encouraging students to support the fellow Democrat in the upcoming race.

“Supporting him for state senate is the way that we get Iowa, and by extension, this country, back on the right track,” Mr O’Rourke says. “We’re counting on you, and we’re looking forward to seeing you soon. Adios.”

Iowa, which holds its primary election, or caucus, in January 2020, the first in the nationwide election cycle, is a crucial test for anyone seeking the presidency, as it the first time voters cast actual ballots on candidates.

It has been the making of many campaigns.

Donald Trump ran a narrow second to Ted Cruz there in 2016 – while it has also been a graveyard for others. In the same cycle, Bernie Sanders’s campaign was boosted when he almost beat Hillary Clinton – she won 49.8 – 49.5 – while Martin O’Malley, a governor of Maryland whom many believed was an attractive candidate, dropped out to the race after winning barely 0.5 per cent of the vote.

Since his Senate bid ended, Mr O’Rourke has worked to keep himself in the public eye, regularly staying in touch with his supporters and sitting for an interview with Oprah Winfrey.

He took a well-publicised road trip across the American Southwest, stopping at colleges and diners and he visited students in the key swing state of Wisconsin.

He also held a rally in El Paso on the same night in February that Mr Trump staged one there.

Both events in the Texas city that borders Mexico drew thousands and put the two men’s divergent positions on the border wall on sharp display.

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