Beto 2020? O'Rourke now says he may run for president

Defeated Texas Senate candidate, who excited fans nationwide, may run for Democratic nomination in 2020

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published November 27, 2018 10:21AM (EST)

Beto O'Rourke (AP/Eric Gay)
Beto O'Rourke (AP/Eric Gay)

Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, is now floating the possibility of running for president in 2020.

"Running for Senate," he explained to reporters after a town hall forum in El Paso, "I was 100 percent focused on our campaign, winning that race and then serving the next six years in the United States Senate. Now that that is no longer possible, you know, we’re thinking through a number of things," O'Rourke recently revealed, Politico reported.

When asked if his position was changing from what he'd said during the Senate campaign -- when he had vowed not to run for president -- O'Rourke admitted, "Yeah, yeah it is."

O'Rourke also talked about a number of national issues, including military spending and taxes, and particularly focused his criticisms on the Trump administration's use of tear gas on Latin American migrants who had attempted to get through the American border.

"This one is on all of us, the way that we choose to respond. To give in to the paranoia and the hype and the fear and that bullshit that characterizes so much of the national conversation about something that we understand better than anyone else right now. Or for us to stand up and to lead on this issue," O'Rourke told the audience.

The Texas congressman also discussed the factors that might persuade him not to run, especially the way a potential presidential campaign would impact his family.

"Amy and I have talked a little bit about next steps, and the conversation has started with family, and really has not gotten past that — what’s going to be best for our family. Our kids are 12, 10 and 8 now, and whatever we do, we want to be together. So being in El Paso makes just a ton of sense to us, just from that basis," O'Rourke said.

He added, however, that he is "really interested in the direction that this country takes, want to be as effective as I can making sure that it goes in a positive direction and contributing in whatever way that I can. What form that takes — whether it involves running for office again, whether there’s something that I can do as just a citizen — I don’t know, we haven’t really been able to get our heads around that."

O'Rourke attracted national attention for his high profile campaign against Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican. O'Rourke raised $38 million — the most of any Senate candidate in history — and although he lost the election, his campaign evidently shifted the political dynamic in Texas, where two longtime Republican congressmen were defeated and Democrats picked up more than a dozen seats in the state legislature. All that has led many Democratic donors to view O'Rourke as a strong presidential prospect for 2020.

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.

MORE FROM Matthew Rozsa