Beto O'Rourke announces he's running for president

Image: Former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke speaks to a crowd of marchers
Beto O'Rourke speaks during the "March for Truth" in El Paso, Texas, on Feb. 11. Copyright Paul Ratje AFP - Getty Images
Copyright Paul Ratje AFP - Getty Images
By Alex Seitz-Wald and Garrett Haake and Vaughn Hillyard with NBC News Politics
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"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," he said.


Texas Democrat Beto O'Rourke, who drew national attention and broke fundraising records with his losing campaign against Sen. Ted Cruz last year, announced on Thursday that he is running for president, entering an already crowded primary field.

The 46-year-old former congressman from El Paso has captivated some in the party with his skateboarding, adventurous road trips shared on social media, and crossover appeal to both moderates and progressives.

In a video announcing his decision released at 6 a.m. ET, O'Rouke said: "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."

O'Rourke is making his first tour in the 2020 cycle of first-in-the-nation Iowa, where he is expected to hold multiple events over several days to chat with voters in Mississippi River towns that have been drifting away from the Democratic Party.

O'Rourke told Vanity Fair in a lengthy cover-story profile published Wednesday, "You can probably tell that I want to run. I do. I think I'd be good at it."

On Saturday, he'll rally with Eric Gidden, the Democrat running in next week's special election for an Iowa state Senate seat, who has received plenty of support from other 2020 Democratic hopefuls.

Last year, O'Rourke narrowly lost a challenge to Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, but he won a national following in the process and more votes than any Democrat in Texas history. He raked in a record-breaking $79 million, mostly from small-dollar donors, after rejecting all PAC money.

The 46-year-old former punk rocker's campaign drew comparisons to Barack Obama and Robert F. Kennedy, as celebrities and far-away Hollywood liberals fawned over everything from his skateboarding to his bold answer on NFL players kneeling to protesting police violence against African-Americans.

But as presidential speculation swelled after the November election, O'Rourke largely withdrewfrom the political scene, even as a dozen other Democrats jumped into the race to take on President Donald Trump.

Now, many in the party wonder if O'Rourke missed his moment. Others question how much of O'Rourke's national support last year was driven by liberals' animosity to Cruz, rather than genuine affection for O'Rourke.

And with the most diverse slate of presidential candidates in history, some Democrats have criticized the congressman for rising to a level they say would be unthinkable for a woman or person of color with a resume like his — only three terms in Congress and one losing Senate campaign.

A new documentary about his 2018 campaign premiered last weekend at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas and could help reignite the "Betomania" that swept bluer parts of America.

The large and growing Democratic field already includes Sens. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar Cory Booker, and Bernie Sanders, and others like Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and ex-San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, among others. And Joe Biden is expected to announce soon whether he intends to jump in the race.

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