Beto O'Rourke (AP/Kathy Willens)

Beto O'Rourke says his family has made a decision on 2020: "We are excited to share it"

The former Democratic congressman from Texas appears to be closer to jumping in to the crowded 2020 field


Shira Tarlo
February 28, 2019 4:19PM (UTC)

Beto O'Rourke, the former Democratic congressman from Texas who emerged as something of a national phenomenon in his losing bid against Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during the 2018 midterm election cycle, appears to be closer to jumping in to the crowded 2020 Democratic presidential primary.

"Amy and I have made a decision about how we can best serve our country," O'Rourke said in a statement provided to the Dallas Morning News, referring to himself and his wife. "We are excited to share it with everyone soon."

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O'Rourke, according to the Dallas Morning News, will not challenge Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, for his Senate seat in 2020. (Salon has not independently confirmed that information. )He remains one of the most high-profile Democrats yet to officially forge a White House bid.

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.

O'Rourke has been keeping a low public profile since the midterm elections, 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, however, O'Rourke would likely face competition for the Democratic nomination from what is expected to be a very crowded Democratic field that already includes Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota; Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaiiformer secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg — and these names are far from the complete list of likely candidates.

Earlier this month, O'Rourke told Oprah Winfrey that he had "been thinking about running for president" and that a decision about throwing his hat in the ring would come by the end of February.

Although O'Rourke fell just 200,000 votes short in his bid to unseat Cruz in 2018, he has drawn comparisons to former President Barack Obama for his speaking style and bipartisan message of hope and unity. The former Texas congressman raised a staggering $80 million in his campaign and closer-than-expected performance to Cruz in November. His post-election missives have fueled interest from Democratic donors and the highest levels of the Democratic Party — including from Obama himself — that the right candidate could turn the reddest states blue in the next election cycle.

Should the former congressman decide to enter the 2020 race, he would likely leapfrog most of his fellow contenders, largely because of his wide name recognition among Democrats and his extensive fundraising network. To lure O'Rourke to campaign for the White House, a group of Democratic political operatives have launched "Draft Beto," an ambitious grassroots movement that has a goal of raising $1 million for a future Oval Office bid and building a donor email list that could eventually be transferred to the former congressman — if he runs for president.

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Shira Tarlo

Contact Shira Tarlo at shira.tarlo@salon.com. Follow @shiratarlo.

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