Seated on a couch next to his wife, O’ Rourke announced, “Amy and I are happy to share with you that I am running to serve you as the next president of the United States of America.”
He said that the crises in our economy, democracy and climate “will either consume us or they will afford us the greatest opportunity to unleash the genius of the United States of America.” O’Rourke went through a list of Democratic priorities, including health care, climate change, family separation and criminal justice reform, gesturing or chopping with his hands to emphasize each point.
O’Rourke said that he plans to travel the country and “listen to those who I seek to serve, to understand from your perspective how we can best meet these challenges.”
And he finished the 3 1/2-minute video by saying, “The only way for us to live up to the promise of America is to give it our all and give it for all of us. We are truly now, more than ever, the last great hope of Earth.
“At this moment of maximum peril and maximum potential let’s show ourselves and those who will succeed us in this great country just who we are and what we can do.”
The bid comes three and a half months after a narrow loss for Senate in Texas, a campaign that catapulted the 46-year-old, three-term lawmaker from El Paso to national prominence.
O’Rourke is heading to Iowa for several campaign events, including a stop at Northern Iowa University to stump for Eric Giddens, who is running for a special election for a state senate seat. At the end of the month, on Mar. 30, O’Rourke plans to return to El Paso to kick off his campaign.
The former congressman had been testing the waters for a presidential run in unconventional ways. He took a solo road trip through the Southwest earlier this year, documenting his travels in a series of Medium posts reminiscent of Jack Kerouac. He used Instagram and Facebook to stream conversations with people in his neighborhood and life, including a now famous stop at the dentist.
And when Mr. Trump visited El Paso last month to talk about border security, O’Rourke held a dueling rally that captured the attention of the current commander in chief.
O’Rourke has an influential social media presence and demonstrated a grassroots fundraising prowess in his unsuccessful Senate bid, raising a whopping $80 million. He collected endorsements in that race from the likes of Beyonce and Lebron James, fueling interest from the national media and drawing comparisons to John F. Kennedy. He has the potential to tap into various constituencies and, as the El Paso rally demonstrated, a willingness to take on the president.
The nominating process will test whether O’Rourke can translate that kind of support and star power to a different kind of campaign, one in which he’ll be competing against other popular Democrats, not an opponent like Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.
The White House run will also prompt greater scrutiny of his policy proposals and track record in Congress. In an interview with the Washington Post in January, O’Rourke struggled to define his solutions for key immigration issues, even though he represented a district along the border. In an interview with MSNBC last month, he said he would support taking down an existing border wall in El Paso.
On Wednesday, just hours before his presidential announcement, Vanity Fair published a cover story profile of O’Rourke, complete with photos by legendary photographer Annie Leibovitz. In an interview for the piece, the former congressman talked about his presidential ambitions. “I want to be in it.” he told the magazine. “Man, I’m just born to be in it, and want to do everything I humanly can for this country at this moment.”
The “born to be in it” comment has already garnered some backlash on social media, as issues of inequality and privilege are being debated in what is already the most crowded and diverse Democratic primary field in recent history.
O’Rourke addressed criticism he would likely face as a white male in a field that already comprises women, African Americans, a latino and a gay millennial. “The government at all levels is overly represented by white men,” he told Vanity Fair. “That’s part of the problem, and I’m a white man. So if I were to run, I think it’s just so important that those who would comprise my team looked like this country.”
He continued: “But I totally understand people who will make a decision based on the fact that almost every single one of our presidents has been a white man, and they want something different for this country. And I think that’s a very legitimate basis upon which to make a decision. Especially in the fact that there are some really great candidates out there right now.”
“CBS This Morning” co-anchor Gayle King will speak with O’Rourke for his only national TV interview following his 2020 announcement, Friday on “CBS This Morning” with a preview airing on “CBS Evening News” Thursday night.