Today, former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke announced that he would not challenge Republican Senator John Cornyn in 2020, according to the Dallas Morning News. This is a pretty good indication that O’Rourke is considering running for president, as was widely speculated in the months after his surprisingly strong showing in the midterms.
Multiple sources told the Morning News that O’Rourke plans to announce his presidential campaign in the coming weeks. As for O’Rourke himself, he’s still not saying.
“Amy and I have made a decision about how we can best serve our country,” he said in a statement to the Morning News. “We are excited to share it with everyone soon.”
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, who apparently advised O’Rourke on the decision, told the Morning News that O’Rourke would be a solid candidate.
“He has a message that is the right antidote to Donald Trump,” Jenkins said. “He also has the ability to create his own buzz. That message involves bringing people together and solving problems.”
Nothing like bringing people together and solving problems!
This announcement should be a disappointment for American progressives. Though the Senate is not as grand a platform as the presidency, O’Rouke could have made a major impact as a Democratic Senator in Texas. Instead, it seems he’ll enter the ever-more-crowded 2020 presidential field, in which only one of the many Democratic contenders will go on to face Trump.
Other Texas politicians had urged O’Rourke to take the path towards Congress.
Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson said on Texas television this week that she recently texted O’Rourke and encouraged him to run locally. “I love you and I appreciate your friendship,” O’Rourke apparently responded. Yeesh.
Cornyn, on the other hand, presented an air of studied disregard for O’Rourke’s aspirations.
“We’re all waiting with bated breath for Beto to announce his decision,” Cornyn sarcastically told reporters on Wednesday. “In all seriousness it makes no difference to me what he decides... or whoever’s nominated by the Democrats for the Senate in 2020. No doubt Beto was a phenom in 2018, primarily because he was able to raise $80 million, which is an unprecedented amount of money in a Senate race in Texas.”
O’Rourke’s 2018 race did draw an unprecedented amount of donations, and he lost narrowly to Sen. Ted Cruz, a big win for a Democrat in Texas. But his media appeal obscured his middle of the road politics. As a Congressman, O’Rourke was a moderate, who voted with Trump 30 percent of the time, 12 percent more than would be expected given his district, according to FiveThirtyEight.
Not all hope is lost. Sources told the Morning News that if O’Rourke’s potential presidential run fails early, he would still consider a Senate run.
But meanwhile, strap in. Beto is almost certainly skateboarding into the 2020 race, god help us.
Ron Kirk, the mayor of Dallas, who ran unsuccessfully against Cornyn in 2002, had some sage words of advice for O’Rourke.
“It’s anybody’s game,” Kirk told the Morning News. “He’s got to put on his big-boy pants and get in there and fight.”