O’Rourke not rush­ing 2020 de­ci­sion de­spite buzz

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - POLITICS - BY WILL WEISSERT

AUSTIN, Texas — If the deep field of po­ten­tial Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial con­tenders is on pins and nee­dles as Beto O’Rourke de­cides his next move, it could be a long wait.

The for­mer Texas con­gress­man’s team says he has no time­line or roadmap for de­cid­ing if he’d like to par­lay a sur­pris­ingly close loss to Repub­li­can Sen. Ted Cruz into a White House try. Peo­ple close to O’Rourke in­sist he hasn’t ex­panded staff or lined up con­sul­tants even as the in­ter­est in him in­ten­si­fies. They say he’s spo­ken to top Demo­cratic donors, but de­scribe such dis­cus­sions as fact-find­ing mis­sions, re­search­ing the lo­gis­tics of a pos­si­ble run rather than se­cur­ing as­sur­ances that com­ing cam­paign cash would go to him and not oth­ers.

“There’s a lot of peo­ple wait­ing to see what he does,” said Texas Demo­cratic strate­gist Colin Strother. “And a lot of them are go­ing to con­tinue to wait.”

O’Rourke’s ap­proach is dif­fer­ent from many of the other Democrats eye­ing White House bids. Ju­lian Cas­tro, a fel­low Texan and for­mer Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion hous­ing chief who launched a pres­i­den­tial bid Satur­day. Oth­ers, in­clud­ing Sens. El­iz­a­beth War­ren of Mas­sachusetts, Ka­mala Har­ris of Cal­i­for­nia and Cory Booker of New Jersey, have taken ag­gres­sive steps to lay the ground­work for po­ten­tial cam­paigns that could be an­nounced in the com­ing weeks.

But O’Rourke’s back­ers say tak­ing his time only makes him a more en­tic­ing pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, ar­gu­ing that it’s part of an un­ortho­dox ap­peal that helped him come within three per­cent­age points of up­set­ting Cruz in Texas, where no Demo­crat has won statewide of­fice in a gen­er­a­tion. They say that O’Rourke’s charisma, as well as the $80-plus mil­lion from donors na­tion­wide he racked up while run­ning for Se­nate — he has about $500,000 left — en­sures he could jump into the 2020 race late and still come out ahead.

Nate Lerner, a Demo­cratic ac­tivist who is part of a “Draft Beto 2020” on­line group seek­ing to raise $1 mil­lion for an O’Rourke pres­i­den­tial run, said the con­gress­man’s Se­nate cam­paign was large enough that it could shift rel­a­tively seam­lessly to a na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tion — and that many Demo- crats will be ready if and when that hap­pens.

“There are a lot of peo­ple who are wait­ing to pick a horse,” Lerner said.

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