Beto O’Rourke Once Again Rules Out Running For Senate

Beto O'Rourke is once again rejecting the idea of running for Senate instead of President.

Just hours after former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper left the race for the Democratic Presidential nomination with the idea that he may enter the race to challenge Cory Gardner for Senator from Colorado, former Congressman Beto O’Rourke is rejecting the idea of doing the same:

Beto O’Rourke has to keep finding new ways to tell people he isn’t running for Senate.

On Thursday night it was MSNBC and The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell

“You know the question’s going to keep coming up,” O’Donnell told the former Texas congressman, “this question of what about dropping out of this presidential race and taking up the race for the Senate.”

O’Rourke has never expressed any interest in running for Senate this year, after his near-miss loss to Ted Cruz in 2018. And it was only hours earlier, in a speech in his home town of El Paso, Texas, that O’Rourke rejected the suggestion, saying, “That would not be good enough for this community. That would not be good enough for El Paso. That would not be good enough for this country.”

But politicians are not immune to changing their minds. O’Rourke himself had said last year that he would not run for president, after all. And such are the calls from some Democrats — and, over the weekend, the Houston Chronicle’s editorial board — for O’Rourke to switch contests that he keeps getting the question.

For several months after the 2018 election, Democrats inside and outside Texas were publicly and privately urging O’Rourke to consider a second bid for the Senate against John Cornyn, the 3rd term Senator up for re-election in 2020. By and large, of course, this was due to the fact that O’Rourke had given Ted Cruz a hard-fought race that ended with the former Congressman finishing within 2.5 percentage points of the Senator on Election Day, the best that any Democrat had done in a statewide race in Texas since Ann Richards won the race for Governor in 1990. Even before he entered the race for the Democratic nomination in March, though, O’Rourke made clear that he was not interested in running for Senate again and he has resisted similar calls even as his Presidential campaign has fallen flat in recent months and as his performance in both the June and July Presidential debates has been largely panned.

Given his position in the polls and the fact that he has been fading while candidates such as Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Pete Buttigieg have managed to shine, it’s hard to believe that this latest reboot is going to be any more successful than the strategy O’Rourke has been following to date. As things stand and based on the overall trend, he’s more likely to continue sinking into irrelevance along with Cory Booker than he is to turn things around. Theoretically at least, he could manage to stick around until at least the early contests in Iowa and New Hampshire but he’s unlikely to do well enough in either race to justify continuing his campaign. At that point, of course, it would be too late for him to enter the Senate race since candidates will have to have entered the race by December 9th of this year to qualify for the ballot.

In all honesty, I can understand O’Rourke’s reluctance to repeat a Senate run against Cornyn next year regardless of whether or not he’s still in the race for the Presidential nomination. He ended up losing the race against Ted Cruz in 2018 notwithstanding the fact that Cruz was far less popular than other statewide elected officials in the Lone Star State. A race against Cornyn would be a far different thing, especially in a Presidential election year. President Trump won Texas by roughly 800,000 votes in 2016 and, despite the predictions of the state turning blue someday, it seems clear that he’ll win the state again in 2020. As a result, it would be much harder for O’Rourke to pull off the kind of campaign he did in 2018 in a year when Republicans and Republican-leaning voters in Texas will be dominating at the polls. That energy will benefit Cornyn in his own re-election bid and will make it harder to win. From O’Rourke’s perspective losing two statewide races in a row would likely be the end of his political career whereas continuing to fight for the nomination could lead to consideration as a running mate or a Cabinet position should Democrats re-take the White House. From that perspective, there’s no benefit to him in running for the Senate again.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Kathy says:

    And should the Democrats not take the White House in 2020, gods forbid, he might be better positioned to run again in 2024.

    I agree with your analysis about running for the Senate. Not only was Cruz not well-liked and still won, but Beto went about two miles past the extra mile and couldn’t prevail.

  2. Kylopod says:

    Yeah, and just a few months ago Hick ruled out a Senate bid, claiming he was “not cut out to be a Senator.” If he can go back on that comment in his now-probable Senate run, the same should be comparatively easy for O’Rourke should he change his mind in the future.

    The fact is that politicians do this all the time, and they rarely get punished for it. In the 2016 cycle Rubio not only ruled out running for reelection as a Senator (since Florida prohibits running for two offices at the same time), but repeatedly insisted he would not go back on this promise if his presidential bid failed.

    And why not? When you’re running for president, just leaving open the door to running for another office is simply going weaken people’s motivation for supporting your current bid.

    That said, I think there’s a distinct possibility Beto might have his eyes on vp at this point, especially given recent polls showing Dems competitive with Trump in Texas.

  3. Kylopod says:


    Not only was Cruz not well-liked and still won, but Beto went about two miles past the extra mile and couldn’t prevail.

    Cruz’s approval rating (according to Morning Consult) was +14 just prior to the election. Trump’s current approval in Texas is +6.

    Reading Beto’s near-win in Texas as anything less than a massive overperformance for a Democrat is ridiculous.

  4. Michael Cain says:

    It’s one thing for Hickenlooper to drop out and then run for US Senate — after 2018, the Dems in Colorado hold every statewide office except Gardner’s, and a poll at the beginning of this week with Hickenlooper vs Gardner was 51-38 for the Looper.

    O’Rourke is in a very different situation. One of my friends in Texas thinks he’s angling for the VP slot for either Warren or Harris.

  5. Stormy Dragon says:

    The deadline to declare a senate campaign for 2020 in Texas is the second week of December. With almost four months until then, a declaration now doesn’t mean anything.

  6. Gustopher says:

    Given his position in the polls and the fact that he has been fading while candidates such as Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Pete Buttigieg have managed to shine, it’s hard to believe that this latest reboot is going to be any more successful than the strategy O’Rourke has been following to date.

    It’s hard to believe that it will less successful than what he’s been doing, either. I’m not sure “angry, exasperated young man” is going to play better than “too cool for school”.

    But, I’m not sure it makes sense for anyone roughly plausible to drop out of the Presidential rate yet. I’m mildly convinced that Biden will fade, and that the race will be wide open.

  7. Paine says:

    But even if the eventual candidate does want to make a play for Texas by choosing a running mate from the state, why would he/she choose Beto over Julian Castro? Both are young and from Texas, but the latter as real hispanic roots and better Spanish skills. Castro would also help across the SW and perhaps in Florida.

  8. john430 says:

    @Paine: Not so. Julian Castro no habla Espanol. Es una problema grande.

  9. Kylopod says:

    @Paine: The thought has occurred to me ever since his superior performance at the first debate compared with Beto’s dud one. But he’s also relatively untested. Beto has already run a statewide campaign and built up a tremendous operation of support, which could be of benefit to both the presidential ticket or another Senate run.