Beto O’Rourke’s 2020 campaign quickly picks up endorsements
Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke on Thursday entered the 2020 presidential race and his fundraising prowess and name recognition immediately sent ripples through the campaigns.
Within hours of announcing his intention to run in a video release, the Texas Democrat hit the ground running with a campaign swing through Iowa and got endorsements from four members of Congress.
New York Reps. Kathleen Rice and Sean Patrick Maloney are backing O’Rourke over fellow New Yorker and presidential hopeful Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.
Sen. Kamala Harris, a fellow Democratic candidate, shot off a fundraising email to supporters.
“We are facing something unprecedented: a record number of Democrats,” the California lawmaker said. “I look forward to engaging in substantive debates with each of these candidates, including the newest to join the race today, Beto O’Rourke.”
Speaking to diners at a coffee shop in Keokuk, Iowa, O’Rourke, 46, touted a message of unity and bipartisanship.
“I could care less about your party persuasion, your religion, anything other than the fact that we are all Americans,” he said. “This is democracy.”
At the White House, President Trump weighed in on O’Rourke during an Oval Office meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar.
“I think he’s got a lot of hand movement,” the president said. “I said, ‘Is he crazy or is that just the way he acts?'”
Trump was asked which candidate — O’Rourke or former Vice President Joe Biden, who has yet to announce — he would rather face.
“Whoever it is, I’ll take him or her on,” Trump said.
O’Rourke rose to national prominence during his unsuccessful bid to oust GOP Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas — losing by just 3 percentage points and raising a record $80 million mostly from small-dollar donors.
Democratic strategist Joel Payne, who worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, said O’Rourke’s success at raising funds and high-wattage star power will keep other Democrats on their toes.
“The primary impact on the other candidates will be their need to continue to fund raise to keep pace with the free media that Beto will garner as a cable news media fascination — very similar to Obama and Trump before him,” Payne said.
“With many candidates avoiding corporate PAC money and even big-money fundraising events, Beto’s entrance into the race means the battle for small-dollar donors will get even more intense,” said Mark Paustenbach, a Democratic strategist and senior vice president at Rokk Solutions.
Anu Rangappa, a Democratic presidential campaign veteran, said she doesn’t think O’Rourke entering the race will largely affect fundraising because candidates are running against Trump.
“Democrats (and moderate Republicans and Independents) just want to beat President Trump. So small-dollar donors will give to multiple candidates – maybe not $250 to any single candidate, but $25 to 5-10 of them and give a few times as the race goes on,” she said in an email to the Post.
“And I suspect large-dollar donors will also contribute big checks to multiple candidates … an unintended consequence of the absurd Trump tax cut is that they have more to give to defeat him,” she joked.
In Iowa, O’Rourke, who finished fourth behind Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Harris among likely Hawkeye State voters as their first choice for president in a survey earlier this month, said he was there to listen.
“There’s no sense in campaigning if you already know every single answer, if you’re not willing to listen to those whom you wish to serve, and that’s what brought me here, along with hopefully, a cup of coffee,” he said.
O’Rourke said he will kick off the “greatest grassroots campaign this country has ever seen” in El Paso on March 30.
He said he would run a “positive campaign” that seeks to “unite a very divided country.”
“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. We are truly now the last great hope of Earth,” he said in a video released Thursday on Twitter.