It Sure Looks Like Beto O’Rourke Is Running For President

Beto O'Rourke hasn't officially said that he's running for President, but he's certainly sending all the signals you'd expect from a Presidential candidate.

Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke, last known for running an unsuccessful campaign to unseat Texas Senator Ted Cruz last year, has yet to officially announce whether he will run for President in 2020, but it’s certainly looking like he will be entering the race:

Beto O’Rourke is beginning to staff up in Iowa and has been in talks about visiting the first-in-the-nation caucus state as early as this week.

Democrats organizing a rally for Eric Giddens, a Democratic state Senate candidate, in Iowa on Saturday have told prospective attendees that they expect O’Rourke to appear at the event, a source familiar with the plans told POLITICO

Norm Sterzenbach, a former executive director of the Iowa Democratic Party, is assisting O’Rourke in the state and was reviewing resumes from potential staffers as recently as last week, according to two sources familiar with O’Rourke’s Iowa operation. Paul Tewes, who ran Obama’s 2008 operation in the state, is also helping O’Rourke. So is Margaret Jarosz, who was working for Sen. Sherrod Brown in Iowa before he elected not to run for president, the sources said.

David Plouffe, Obama’s 2008 campaign manager, has also made calls on O’Rourke’s behalf, according to three Democrats. But Plouffe has also spoken with other 2020 contenders or their campaigns, the sources said.

O’Rourke, like several Democrats who already have announced their presidential campaigns, has been in discussions about assisting Giddens in his March 19 special election, potentially with a door-knocking effort, according to three Iowa Democrats.

O’Rourke’s outreach comes as the former Texas congressman begins to more intensely court activists outside of his home state. He is preparing for a near-certain presidential run after months of deliberation.


O’Rourke said nearly two weeks ago that he has decided whether to run for president. In Austin, Texas, over the weekend for the South by Southwest festival, he told reporters, “I want to make sure I do it the right way and I tell everyone at the same time, so I’ll be doing that.”

He said, “I’ve got to be on the timeline that works for my family and for the country.”

A Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom poll released Saturday saw O’Rourke’s poll numbers slipping in Iowa. He had dropped to 5 percent in the poll, down from 11 percent in December. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders are running far ahead of the rest of the field in the state.

CNBC has more:

Beto O’Rourke is headed to Iowa this weekend, fueling speculation that the former Texas congressman and fundraising wunderkind will soon officially enter the packed Democratic primary race.

The potential presidential candidate is expected to be in the state on Saturday to knock on doors for Eric Giddens, a Democratic candidate facing off against Republican Walt Rogers in a March 19 special election for state senate, according to Jonah Hermann, a spokesperson for the Iowa Democratic Party.

“At this point, all signs point to a run,” Hermann said. “He won’t come to Iowa in March for the weather.”

O’Rourke will not be the only high profile Democrat in the state this weekend. Also campaigning for Giddens will be Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., both of whom have formally declared as presidential candidates, Hermann said.

CNN was first to report on O’Rourke’s plans to visit the state. Representatives for O’Rourke and Giddens did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The Iowa caucuses are the first contest in the Democratic primary, which makes the state crucial to the fortunes of presidential hopefuls.

Though O’Rourke, 46, has not officially entered the race, he is a consistent favorite in the polls.

More Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents support O’Rourke than support either Booker or Klobuchar, according to a Monmouth University poll released on Monday, which found O’Rourke in fifth place.

I’ve been quite frankly skeptical about the idea of O’Rourke’s chances in an already crowded Democratic field that includes a number of candidates who will be vying for the same progressive voters that he is no doubt looking to appeal to in a hypothetical run. While he drew national attention, and a substantial amount of out-of-state money, during his campaign against Cruz, and notwithstanding the fact that he is fairly charismatic, the reality is that his resume seems rather thin compared to other candidates already in the race, and several others who are likely to unveil their own campaigns in the coming weeks.

Prior to his run for Senate, O’Rourke had been a Member of Congress since first being elected in 2012, and he served three terms representing the states 16th Congressional District before declining to run for re-election so he could take on Cruz, who many believed was vulnerable to a challenge, A challenge he ultimately lost, albeit by a smaller margin than many had anticipated. While in Congress, he served on the Armed Services and Veterans’ Affairs Committees. Before serving in Congress, O’Rourke has served on the El Paso City Council, where he served 2005 until resigning to run for Congress. At least on paper, this does not appear to me to be the kind of resume one would like to see from a candidate for President. Granted, this is an era where we have a President who had absolutely no political experience before running for President so I suppose anything is possible. Given how that’s worked out so far, though, it seems as though we ought to be looking for a candidate with more experience, especially since we’re going to need someone capable of repairing the damage that Donald Trump will have done by the time this whole ordeal is all over.

Despite all that, though, O’Rourke’s stock is still running high from the 2018 election. There’s an old saying about striking while the iron is hot, and it’s clear that O’Rourke is still quite popular in the Democratic Party right now. If he doesn’t run now, he may end up seeing this unique opportunity pass him by. What’s the worst that can happen, really? If he doesn’t win the nomination, then he’s likely to be the top of the list of potential running mates and, barring that, he’d likely be a someone a future Democratic President might look to as a Cabinet member. So, whether he announces this weekend in Iowa or elsewhere, it looks like Beto is getting in the race.

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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. An Interested Party says:

    Perhaps he can be the Great White Male Hope for some people, and at a much more reasonable age than others…and how would the GOP use his lack of political experience against him, considering the shit they’ll be shoveling at the top of the ticket…

  2. Mike says:

    Yet another one completely unqualified. City council of EP and a Rep. great. Trying to look like a Kennedy won’t be enough. Future Biden Cabinet member

  3. Gustopher says:

    I could happily vote for him in the general election.

    @An Interested Party:

    Perhaps he can be the Great White Male Hope for some people,

    If he can dazzle people during the primary like he did during his senate run… great.

    I think the election is going to be closer than we are going to be comfortable with. I also think a woman or person of color costs us some fence sitters. It’s probably a smaller cost than the benefit of an exciting candidate, so I’m not going to predict doom and gloom if Harris or someone gets the nomination, but it’s there.

    If he ends up being awesome in a strong crowded field, wonderful. If he fades into the background and slowly vanishes, well, that’s not harmful, so ok.

  4. Kylopod says:

    My hope that he gets in the race is based on my inkling that Dems are likely to blow it if they don’t nominate someone with a good dose of charisma. Maybe it’s irrational, but the last two Democrats to reach the White House had that quality in droves, and it made it up for a lot of other weaknesses (inexperience in Obama’s case, serious character flaws in Clinton’s) and helped immunize them to the inevitable smear campaigns that every Democrat has to face. I don’t know if Beto’s ready for prime time. Offhand I can’t name anything in particular he stands for, the way I could with candidates like Warren, Biden, or Harris. I’m uncertain of his level of substance. But I’m certainly going to give him a chance to prove he’s got the goods. It’s worth a shot.

  5. John430 says:

    It has been suggested that he run as VP with Warren. Fittingly, a fake Indian and a fake Hispanic.

  6. An Interested Party says:

    It has been suggested that he run as VP with Warren. Fittingly, a fake Indian and a fake Hispanic.

    Well that would be perfect considering they’d be running against someone who is fake in so many ways…

  7. Franklin says:

    @John430: If that’s the best you’ve got, I can only wish you luck.

  8. Kathy says:


    Sounds tough, going as they’d be against a fake Christian and a fake human.

  9. Tony W says:

    My problem with Mr. O’Rourke is that he is too kind, too positive and too generous. He refuses to get down in the sewer with his opponents and that tactic will simply not work against an immature swamp-rat like Donald Trump.

    Ms. Clinton’s failure was that she thought competence and ethics were relevant in the general election, and I see Mr. O’Rourke following the same pattern. I think Michael Avenatti is correct when he advocates for a brutal, tough opponent to Trump rather than a candidate who appeals to our better nature.

    Among declared candidates, Kamala Harris and Joe Biden both strike me as people who can fight fire with fire.

  10. Kylopod says:

    @Tony W:

    He refuses to get down in the sewer with his opponents and that tactic will simply not work against an immature swamp-rat like Donald Trump.

    I see comments like this a lot, and they seem to be based on the assumption that Trump’s “immature sewer-rat” tactics, while deplorable, were effective in helping him defeat Hillary. I believe this is a misconception. I think these antics did him more harm than good in the general election. They helped make him the most unpopular nominee in history–which would have made him unelectable except for the fact that the opponent he was facing was very nearly as unpopular as he was.

    Likewise, whatever Hillary’s mistakes during the campaign, failing to sufficiently go negative against Trump wasn’t one of them. On the contrary, she made Trump’s awfulness the focal point of her campaign, depicting him–accurately–as a crooked, compromised racist who lacked the temperament or abilities to be president. The result? It simply ended up reinforcing the notion that she was an unlikable “b!tch.” It’s true she didn’t stoop to his level of juvenile name-calling–and a good thing too. It would have just sounded stupid and given the impression she was trying too hard.

    We do need a candidate willing and able to attack Trump for his very real shortcomings, as well as one who can effectively deflect whatever smears are headed his or her way. What we do not need is a Democratic version of Trump, screaming on Twitter about “Douchebag Donald” or whatever. That would be taking exactly the wrong lessons from 2016.

  11. Teve says:

    @Kylopod: yep. What Trump says and does may make him popular with deplorables but it repels most people. Dems mustn’t emulate it.

  12. Tyrell says:

    Beto needs to just come out. He needs to confirm what many people suspect. Most people will be supportive and delighted.
    He needs to go ahead and announce that he is a Cowboy fan.

  13. Tony W says:


    Trump’s “immature sewer-rat” tactics, while deplorable, were effective in helping him defeat Hillary. I believe this is a misconception.

    There is a whole lot of United States out there beyond OTB commenters.

    My neighbors think it’s cool to “own the libs” and they don’t see how it’s them getting ‘owned’. I think we liberals give our fellow Americans way too much credit.

  14. Kylopod says:

    @Tony W:

    There is a whole lot of United States out there beyond OTB commenters.

    My neighbors think it’s cool to “own the libs” and they don’t see how it’s them getting ‘owned’. I think we liberals give our fellow Americans way too much credit.

    I didn’t base my analysis on what OTB commenters think. I based it on his favorability ratings. According to CNN’s exit polls, on Election Day he had a rating among voters of 38% favorable, 60% unfavorable. Even within the crucial states that gave him his EC victory, his numbers were in the toilet (42/56 in PA, 39/59 in MI, and 35/64 in WI).

    Those are not winning numbers. Sure, a core of Americans love Trump and love the way he “owns the libs,” but they do not form anything close to a majority of the public, or even an electoral majority. He could not possibly have won without a substantial number of Americans who voted for him while holding their nose, because they believed that as bad as he was, Hillary was worse. This is very clear from the exit polls, not just nationally, but within the most important states.