DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – In what may be one of the most anticipated political moves this year, Beto O’Rourke announced he’s running for President in 2020.
He began his campaign with a three-day visit to Iowa telling voters there, “I’m running to serve you as President of the United States of America.”
O’Rourke joins a crowded field of Democratic candidates, months after nearly unseating Republican Senator Ted Cruz.
The buzz he generated in Texas gained him national attention, and with it, an interview with Oprah Winfrey and a cover story in Vanity Fair.
The former Congressman becomes the second Texan to make a bid for the White House.
O’Rourke’s entry comes as former Vice President Joe Biden considers jumping into the race as well.
While Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California, and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren have held large rallies, O’Rourke is holding more intimate events.
At one stop Thursday he told residents, “The only way I have any hope of effectively serving you as President, it is to first meet you, learn from you, understand the challenges that I just described from your perspective and have this conversation.”
In a video announcing his move posted on social media early Thursday morning, O’Rourke sat with his wife Amy and told supporters they will hold a rally in El Paso on March 30.
But during an interview, CBS This Morning anchor Gayle King asked O’Rourke if he still supports his prior statement that the President should be impeached.
He replied, “It’s beyond a shadow of a doubt to me if there was not collusion, there was at least the effort to collude with a foreign power. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, if there was not obstruction of justice, there certainly was the effort to obstruct justice.”
Meantime at the White House Thursday, the President took a jab at O’Rourke. “I think he’s got a lot of hand movement. I’ve never seen so much hand movement. Is he crazy or is that just the way he acts?”
A reporter on the campaign trail asked O’Rourke for his response. “I have nothing to say to that. I think people want us to rise above the pettiness, the smallness, they want us to be big, bold, ambitious for this country, and that’s what I’m focused on.”
The former Democratic Congressman from El Paso didn’t give specifics, but spoke about the issues including healthcare. “We absolutely must be guaranteed the ability to see a doctor to take that child to a therapist, to afford that prescription that could literally save our lives.”
He also said action must be taken now on climate change. “Not to be melodramatic, but literally, the future of the world depends on us right now where we are.”
O’Rourke also criticized the President’s tax cuts. “You had millions of Americans who can’t get healthcare, you have teachers working two jobs, you have folks who can’t afford to go to college and your answer to that was to cut a $2 trillion tax cut.”
Sarah Slamen is a Democratic activist in Dallas. “I’m fairly excited. It’s the first time we’ve had a Texan as a serious contender as a Democrat for a very long time.”
Like many others, she said she hasn’t yet made up her mind which of the many Democrats running for President she will support. “As a 33-year-old millennial, I’m really looking for a strong message about healthcare, about student debt reforms, and about the economy, specifically what are we going to do about this terrible tax plan that just passed.”
SMU Political Science Professor Cal Jillson said O’Rourke is a top tier candidate who must find his own voice and take policy stances that will separate him from the other big names already in the race. “He should not go far left and compete with Bernie and Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris.
He should be in that middle-progressive-moderate tier. His voting history has been to support oil and gas but also the environment. He’s got a lot of chops on immigration. He needs to be in his comfort zone and that’s moderate progressive.”
Jillson said after Sanders raised $6 million his first day, the pressure will now be on for O’Rourke to raise a lot of money quickly. “If he beats it, it will be a good talking point.”
As for timing of O’Rourke’s announcement, Jillson said he needed to get in before the former Vice President makes his decision.
“You’ve got to be in, you’ve got to build your excitement before he gets in because the comparison is youth and energy versus age and experience. His calling card is personality and energy, sort of a vibrancy. He’s thin on experience so he’s got to get next to people. He’s got to introduce himself and that seemed to go quite well.”