O’Rourke not rushing 2020 decision despite buzz
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.