Schumer meets with O'Rourke to discuss potential 2020 Senate campaign against GOP's Cornyn: report

O'Rourke has fueled interests from top Democrats that the right candidates could turn the reddest states blue

By Shira Tarlo
Published February 14, 2019 11:32AM (EST)
Rep. Beto O'Rourke (Getty/Chip Somodevilla)
Rep. Beto O'Rourke (Getty/Chip Somodevilla)

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) met with former Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke last week to discuss a possible 2020 Senate campaign against Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, Politico reports, citing a source familiar with the meeting.

O'Rourke, who fell short in his campaign against Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in the Texas Senate race during the 2018 midterm election cycle, is considering throwing his hat in the ring for president and has not publicly discussed running again for Senate in 2020 — but he also has not ruled it out. 

O'Rourke raised a staggering $38 million in the third quarter of his Senate campaign — the most of any Senate candidate in history — and his closer-than-expected performance against Cruz during the midterms, as well as his post-election missives, have fueled interest from Democratic donors and the highest levels of the party that the right candidates could turn the reddest states blue. Politico reported that the Texas Democrat and former housing secretary in the Obama administration Julián Castro, who has announced his own Oval Office ambitions, are considered by many Democrats to be the party's best prospects to unseat Cornyn.

If O'Rourke jumped in the 2020 Texas Senate race instead of mounting a White House bid, he would immediately have the support of Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), Julián Castro's twin brother, per Politico.

"Joaquin believes Beto could beat John in 2020, and if Beto decides to see this thing through and do that, then Joaquin will give him his full support – just like he did against Ted Cruz," a source close to Castro told Politico. "Otherwise, Joaquin will absolutely consider jumping in and finishing the job."

Although O'Rourke said during his Senate campaign that he did not have Oval Office aspirations, he admitted at a town hall late last year that his position had changed from what he said on the campaign trail and that he and his wife had "made a decision not to rule anything out."  By signaling that he is even open to throwing his hat in the ring for 2020, however, O'Rourke has continued to generate buzz and speculation in the sprawling field of prospective Democratic candidates for 2020. In an interview last week with Oprah Winfrey, O'Rourke revealed he would make a decision about throwing his hat in the ring before the end of February — a remark he reiterated to supporters who shouted the question at him during his "March for Truth" event in El Paso, Texas on Monday.

The Castro twins both backed O'Rourke's 2018 Senate campaign — but if O'Rourke enters the 2020 presidential race, the Castro brothers could become his competitors, with Julián running for president and Joaquin chairing his brother’s presidential campaign.

O'Rourke's rally earlier this week was considered by many political observers as a significant preview of a possible presidential contest between President Donald Trump and O'Rourke.  At his "March for Truth" rally, O'Rourke provided a counter argument to the president's hardline message on immigration — just a half-mile away from where Trump was hosting his first "Make America Great Again" rally of the year. The dueling rallies, and Trump's visit to his hometown, gave O'Rourke an opportunity to demonstrate what his candidacy would bring to the table.

The speech marked O'Rourke's first foray onto the national stage since he lost to Cruz by less than three percentage points in 2018. O'Rourke, who represented El Paso in Congress for six years, remains one of the most high-profile Democrats yet to officially forge a White House bid. He has maintained a low profile since the midterms, even as other Democrats announce their candidacies. O'Rourke's near-silence, in turn, had swirled speculation that his interest in a possible presidential bid might have dimmed. If he runs, he would likely face competition for the Democratic nomination from what is expected to be a very crowded Democratic field that already includes Castro, California Sen. Kamala HarrisNew Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi GabbardMassachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar — and these names are far from the complete list.

Shira Tarlo

MORE FROM Shira TarloFOLLOW @shiratarlo

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All Salon Beto O'rourke Chuck Schumer John Cornyn Julian Castro News & Politics