Democrats hold out hope that Beto O'Rourke will run for president in 2020: report

O'Rourke may have lost to Ted Cruz in the Senate race, but he is still being discussed as a presidential prospect

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published November 19, 2018 3:42PM (EST)

Beto O'Rourke (AP/LM Otero)
Beto O'Rourke (AP/LM Otero)

He may not have beaten Sen. Ted Cruz in the Texas Senate race earlier this month, but Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke is still being discussed as a presidential prospect for 2020.

That's the take from a recent Politico article, anyway, which looked at the narrowness of O'Rourke's loss at the hands of Cruz as a sign that he could still be viewed as a strong presidential possibility two years hence.

"O’Rourke raised more than $70 million in total in his bid to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, mostly from small donors in a race that captured national attention," writes David Siders of Politico. "Though he fell short — losing 51 percent to 48 percent — his closer-than-expected performance in the largest red state on the map was credited with lifting at least two Democrats to victory over House Republican incumbents."

The article also quotes Mikal Watts, a Democratic money bundler as well as a lawyer based in San Antonio, as saying that he had been asked by several donors and political operatives in Iowa if O'Rourke plans on running for president.

"They’re not wanting to sign on to other presidential campaigns until they know whether Beto is going. And if Beto is running, what good progressive Democrat wouldn’t want to work for Beto O’Rourke?" Watts asked.

He added that "I can tell you that there has not been this kind of level of electric excitement about a candidate since" Barack Obama's first presidential campaign in 2008.

Investment banker Robert Wolf, who helped raise money for Obama in 2008 and 2012, also told Politico that O'Rourke has a strong chance.

"He’s game changing. If he decides to run, he will be in the top five. You can’t deny the electricity and excitement around the guy," Wolf told Politico.

He added, "I get the hype. I think there’s an incredible amount of excitement around Beto. A lot of people have comparisons around him and a Robert Kennedy or a Barack Obama. And the [Democratic] Party likes young, ambitious and aspirational."

Although Salon also speculated in September that O'Rourke could be a presidential candidate in 2020, it added that he needed to avoid the reputation of being a "loser" in order for that to be realistic — and this may not be the case as a result of his loss at Cruz's hands.

"This idea is predicated on one major 'If,' and I cannot stress that enough: Rep. Beto O'Rourke needs to pull off the upset of 2018 and defeat Sen. Ted Cruz in the Texas Senate election this November," this author wrote with Benjamin Wheelock. "If he does, then it stands to reason that the already-progressive O'Rourke will benefit from having an equally progressive (but geographically diverse) counterpart accompany him on the ticket."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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2018 Midterm Elections 2020 Presidential Election Beto O’rourke Ted Cruz Texas Senate Election