Beto O’Rourke Shoots Down 2020 Speculation

Some Democrats and political pundits are putting Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke forward as a potential 2020 candidate, but he says no.

Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke, currently running for the Senate in Texas against Senator Ted Cruz, is saying that he rules out suggestions that he could be a candidate for the Democratic nomination in 2020:

Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) on Thursday ruled out a 2020 presidential run if he wins in November against incumbent Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R).

The Texas Democrat, whose national prominence rose in recent months, did not however specifically rule out the possibility of running if he is defeated in November during a CNN town hall.

“The answer is no,” he told an audience member who asked if he foresees himself running for president. “Our children are 11, they’re 10, and they’re 7 years old. We’ve told them we’re going to take these almost two years out of our life to run this race, and then we’re devoted and committed to being a family again.”

“I mean, let me put it this way,” he added when pressed by CNN’s Dana Bash. ”I promise to you, and most importantly, to the people of Texas, that I’ll serve every single day of a six-year term in the United States Senate and I won’t leave this state to go run for president.”

O’Rourke added that he would be “back in El Paso” if he doesn’t win, though not specifically saying if losing would affect his 2020 plans

On some level, the idea that O’Rourke, who has represented Texas’s 16th Congressional District since first being elected just six years ago and before that served for six years on the El Paso City Council, would be considered a viable candidate for President, seems utterly silly. Even if he did manage to win election to the Senate last month, it seems fairly clear that he lacks the experience that one ought to expect from a candidate for President. Even Barack Obama had more experience in state and Federal Government before entering the race for the White House in 2007. However, this is the era of Donald Trump when experience apparently doesn’t matter anymore so I suppose anything is possible. Additionally, the fact that he is challenging Cruz and performing better than expected in the polls has made him something of a national celebrity among Democrats hoping to grab control of Congress next month. The best evidence of this can be seen in the fact that O’Rourke has managed to raise a rather astounding $38 million in the third quarter, most of which he will not be able to spend in the closing weeks of the campaign, much of it from out-of-state sources. Combine that with the fact that he’s a young and telegenic candidate, and the rather vapid speculation about him being a potential Presidential contender in two years was, I suppose, inevitable.

Before he can be considered a viable candidate for President, of course, O’Rourke would have to win his race against Cruz in just over two weeks, and the prospect of that isn’t looking so good. For much of the year, of course, the race has received significant national attention largely due to the fact that polling has appeared to show the race being far closer than one would expect it to be for a state like Texas. The most recent polls of the race between O’Rourke and Cruz — from CNNThe New York Times, and Quinnipiac — have given Ted Cruz a lead of between seven and nine points. In the RealClearPolitics average, meanwhile, Cruz (50.8%) has a+7.0 point lead over O’Rourke (43.8%), and the chart shows that Cruz’s lead has been growing in recent weeks:

Absent some massive change in fortune, the odds of O’Rourke winning in November are fairly slim at this point and, without a win in November, the idea of O’Rourke being a national political figure are somewhere close to non-existent. That doesn’t mean that O’Rourke’s political future is dead if he loses to Cruz, of course. He could always come back and run for Congress again or prepare himself for another statewide run in 2022 when the electoral makeup of Texas might be more favorable to Democrats. At only 46 years of age, he’s certainly young enough to stage a political comeback. As things stand now, all of this speculation about him becoming a national politician is just a bit premature.

FILED UNDER: 2018 Election, 2020 Election, Congress, US Politics, , , , , , , , ,
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:

    I’ve no reason to doubt Beto, but as per my rule, until it’s the 2020 primary season and he’s not running, I won’t take his word for it.

    I wouldn’t rule him out for lack of experience. As noted, the El Cheeto rule says experience doesn’t matter anymore. I wouldn’t rule him out for lack of recognition. prior to the 1992 primaries, Bill Clinton was best known for putting people to sleep in the 1988 Democratic convention.

  2. If he doesn’t win in November, which appears likely, you can definitely cross his name off the list.

  3. Facebones says:

    I find this kind of speculation maddening. It was the same with Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez this summer. She hasn’t even won her seat yet, but she’s been crowned the Leader of the Progressives. (Yes, barring some incredible and unforeseen event, she will almost certainly win. But she hasn’t yet.)

    Same here. Beto is a charismatic speaker and has made what should be a Republican cake walk into a competitive race. But pump the breaks on any 2020 talk until he wins.

  4. Kylopod says:

    It’s not just a question of whether someone is experienced enough to be an effective president (a discussion for another day). It’s whether they can create a campaign on the fly. When Obama officially launched his presidential bid in early 2007 (and he had been planning it for months), he had already served two years in the Senate. Relative to earlier nominees this may have seemed vanishingly brief. But at least it was something. If Beto were to win the Senate race and then launch a presidential campaign early next year, he would basically be ceding all his responsibilities as a Senator from the moment he entered office. (In 2007-8 Obama was so focused on his presidential campaign he missed a great number of votes; McCain missed even more.) I’m not just saying it would show an extraordinary lack of loyalty and good faith to his constituents; there’s also a question of whether he would even have the resources and connections at that point to compete. Obama was helped a lot by the fact that even in his meager two years as a Senator he forged connections and relationships that gave him a network of support when he finally decided to run.

  5. Gustopher says:

    If the Democrats nominate one of their geriatric options, he might look like a great VP candidate, even with a loss to Cruz.

    Credible in a deep red state can go a long way in the purple states.

  6. Kathy says:


    There’s that. Many politicians who say they’re not running for president, ought to be asked whether they plan to run for vice president 😉

  7. John430 says:

    @Doug Mataconis: We had the start of early voting in Texas today. My precinct, which is heavily Republican, had 30-45 minute wait-lines. Most unusual.
    Moral of the story…Buh, bye Beto.

  8. Neil Hudelson says:


    Houston had people lined up since 8:30 pm Sunday night.

    Moral of the story: Bye Bye Cruz.

    (Unless for some strange reason you think looking at one polling station to determine the winner of an upcoming election with potentially 16 million voters is a bad way of doing politics. But clearly that’s not the case here.)

  9. Kathy says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    “But no one I know voted for him!” Widely misattributed quote.

  10. Matt says:

    Last week some Beto person dropped off two “flyers” at my house. One of the flyers was the standard vote for beto on the front and actual policy information on the back. The second flyer that arrived was all about voting since I’m registered to vote. In nice large text all important information such as early voting start and end dates. What IDs are valid for voting and such.

    Monday afternoon I received a text from the beto campaign reminding me that early voting starts today and that based on public records I am eligible to vote early. In the text was a link to which is forwarded to

    So they really want me to vote.

    I have no idea how they found my phone number and name though so that’s kind of creepy. I don’t think I’m registered as a Democratic party member.

    I’m seeing a lot more Ted Cruz signs now but that isn’t saying much as there used to be all of three I could find in the entire city. Beto signs are everywhere including a lot of businesses.

    I have no idea who will win (I think Ted is slightly ahead) but you can’t say Beto didn’t try.

  11. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Matt: I got a text on my phone the other day saying “Tara, Early voting in Florida starts on Monday…”

    Only two problems, my name isn’t Tara, and I don’t live in Florida. Sadly, this was the SECOND text to Tara that I’d received, and I’d gotten a message back that they’d change their list when I notified them of the wrong contact the first time.

    We’ve entered an age of text-driven political spam.

  12. SKI says:


    I’ve no reason to doubt Beto, but as per my rule, until it’s the 2020 primary season and he’s not running, I won’t take his word for it.

    The 2020 season has already started in terms of building a campaign infrastructure. He isn’t running.

  13. John430 says:

    @Neil Hudelson: Nope, just making an observation. No one that I know, be they Democrat or Republican, expects to see O’Rourke win. San Antonio is mostly blue except for those of us on the north side. Add in the Rest of Bexar county, tho and all is red, in a red state. Houston will go for Cruz. Dallas maybe not. All in all, it is still “buh, bye Beto.”