Beto O’Rourke joins race for nomination

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke formally announced today that he’ll seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, ending months of intense speculation over whether he’d try to translate his newfound political celebrity into a White House bid.

Until he challenged Republican Sen. Ted Cruz last year, O’Rourke was little known outside his hometown of El Paso. But the Spanish-speaking 46-year-old former punk rocker became a sensation during a campaign that used grassroots organizing and social media savvy to mobilize young voters and minorities. He got within 3 percentage points of upsetting Cruz in the nation’s largest red state — and shattered national fundraising records in the process — immediately fueling chatter that he could have higher ambitions.

Now O’Rourke must prove whether the energy he brought to the Texas campaign will resonate on a much larger stage. For all the buzz associated with his candidacy, the former three-term congressman hasn’t demonstrated much skill in domestic or foreign policy. And, as a white man, he’s entering a field that has been celebrated for its diverse roster of women and people and color.

“This is going to be a positive campaign that seeks to bring out the very best from every single one of us, that seeks to unite a very divided country,” O’Rourke said in a video announcement with his wife on a couch. “We saw the power of this in Texas.”

O’Rourke promises in the video posted Thursday: “I’m going to travel this country and listen to those I seek to serve” and then will return to El Paso on March 30 for a campaign kickoff. He invites would-be supporters “to the greatest grassroots campaign this country has ever seen.”

O’Rourke joins a large and unsettled 2020 field in which his fundraising prowess, bipartisan optimism, southwestern Texas charm and anti-establishment attitude could quickly make him a political force. His lack of governing experience could hurt.

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