After a campaign in which he came tantalizingly close to winning a U.S. Senate seat in Texas, former Congressman Beto O’Rourke of Texas has announced that he’s running for president, joining an ever-growing field of Democratic candidates looking to deny President Donald Trump a second term.
On the evening that a Vanity Fair cover story on the former Senate candidate dropped, O’Rourke unofficially announced his run in a characteristically subdued fashion, with a text to a local El Paso TV station:
— Emily Ramshaw (@eramshaw) March 13, 2019
O’Rourke made it official with a video released on Thursday morning:
“This is a defining moment of truth for this country, and for every single one of us,” O’Rourke said in his campaign video, while seated next to his wife, Amy. “The challenges that we face right now, the interconnected crises we face in our economy, our democracy, and our climate have never been greater, and they will either consume us, or they will afford us the greatest opportunity to unleash the genius of the United States of America.”
In the video, O’Rourke touches on what will likely be key campaign themes: democracy, healthcare, jobs, racial justice, rural issues, and especially immigration—which he called the “best possible problem this country could have.”
O’Rourke said he’ll be embarking on a listening tour over the coming weeks, before officially kicking off his campaign on March 30 in El Paso.
“The only way for us to live up to the promise of America is to give it our all, and to give it for all of us,” O’Rourke said at the end of the video. “We are truly now, more than ever, the last great hope of Earth…let’s show ourselves and those who will succeed us in this great country what we can do.”
O’Rourke’s announcement comes after a months-long soul-searching mission, during which the three-term Congressman wantonly blogged and livestreamed a dentist appointment. There was speculation that O’Rourke, who ran for Senate last year, would try again for the Senate and challenge Sen. John Cornyn in 2020, leading the senior senator to launch his “STOP BETO FUND” in February. O’Rourke, however, had even bigger plans in mind.
Soon after his loss, O‘Rouke began polling near the top of the Democratic field as early as December, before anyone had announced their bids. In January, he told reporters that a 2020 announcement could be months away, but positioned himself as a serious Trump challenger in El Paso weeks later when he lead a counter demonstration against the president’s anti-immigration-focused campaign rally in the city.
O’Rourke has staked out opposition to Trump and the Republican Party on issues like immigration and racial justice, although he’s at times also lent ambiguous support to progressive priorities like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. While his voting record and campaign donor records indicate he might be more moderate than his previous run led many to believe, O’Rourke has made it a point to reject ideological labels.
O’Rourke’s Senate loss was the closest a Texas Democrat has come to beating a Republican incumbent senator since 1978. In a national run, however—in a field where top contenders are pushing detailed proposals and unabashed support for Medicare for All and the Green New Deal—O’Rourke won’t have it so easy from his fellow Democrats. And at a time where the Democratic Party base is growing ever more diverse and ideologically progressive, the big question for O’Rourke will be whether his message of unity can help him put together a winning coalition in a crowded Democratic field.