O'Rourke to Mull 2020 Bid on Solo Road Trip to Meet Voters Outside Texas

Beto O'Rourke / Getty Images
January 7, 2019

Former Democratic Rep. Beto O'Rourke (Texas), who is mulling a 2020 presidential bid, is preparing to embark on a solo road trip to meet voters outside of Texas.

O'Rourke, who launched a failed campaign to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas) last year, is asking his aides to make an itinerary for him to travel across the country, where he would "pop into places" such as community college campuses, a person familiar with the plans told the Wall Street Journal.

O'Rourke's trip would start from his El Paso home and focus on areas away from Iowa and other early-voting states. It is unclear whether the Texas Democrat will document the trip on social media, but he is expected to travel without his aides and the press. He is not expected to make a final decision on his 2020 plans until at least February, according to the Journal.

Mr. O'Rourke is one of three leading Democratic figures looming over the party's nascent presidential contest. Decisions to be made in coming weeks by former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, along with Mr. O'Rourke's move, will help shape the contours of the 2020 Democratic campaign.

Potential candidates' decisions could also be influenced by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren's first foray in Iowa, where she was well received by hundreds of Democrats pining for a candidate to take on Republican President Trump.

Her reception is "going to amp up the pressure on people," said Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic strategist and veteran of presidential campaigns. "If you're thinking about doing this, you have to be a little bit worried that you're going to get lapped in some respect."

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro plans to formally launch his campaign Saturday, and California Sen. Kamala Harris is due to begin a book tour Tuesday. Several of Ms. Harris' Senate colleagues, including Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, are weighing potential campaigns.

Several other prospective Democratic candidates are making their decisions based in part on whether Biden and Sanders enter the presidential race. If Biden decides not to pursue a 2020 bid, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe or former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu may have some political space to jump into the race.

If Sanders, who represents the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, passes on running again, that could open up the race to Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who both supported him in the 2016 Democratic primary against two-time failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

O'Rourke, 46, who raised more than $80 million during his Senate campaign, has a movement behind him trying to draft him to run for president. Operatives in South Carolina and Nevada are joining to persuade him to run for office, Politico reported on Monday.

The "Draft Beto" effort, the most prominent of several similar draft campaigns, is aiming to raise $1 million for O'Rourke. Organizers have set up an ActBlue escrow account to transfer money to O'Rourke's presidential campaign if he announces one. The group would also provide O'Rourke with its email list and social media accounts if he runs.