AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Democrat Beto O’Rourke said Monday he isn’t ruling out a potential 2020 presidential run, walking back earlier pronouncements that he wouldn’t seek the White House regardless of the outcome of his Senate campaign in Texas.
O’Rourke, a three-term congressman who lost to Republican Sen. Ted Cruz this month, was asked during a town hall in his native El Paso about whether he was considering a presidential bid. He described vacationing last week with his family — something he said he couldn’t do for 18-plus months while challenging Cruz.
O’Rourke said he’s focused on “being together as a family” and representing his district until leaving the House on Jan. 3. But after that, he and his wife will “think about what we can do next to contribute to the best of our ability to this community.”
The congressman then grinned at his wife, Amy, who was in attendance, and playfully asked, “How was that? Was that OK?”
O’Rourke shattered fundraising records and became a star in national political circles amid his race with Cruz, which he lost by less than 3 percentage points. That was close enough in deep-red Texas to spark speculation O’Rourke could try and keep the momentum going with a presidential campaign.
Monday’s answer was far less equivocal than during the Senate campaign, when O’Rourke said he didn’t plan to run for the White House no matter what happened on Election Day. Asked then what he would do in defeat, O’Rourke vowed to return with his family and stay in El Paso. But he now sounds like someone who could be prepared to change his mind.
“I want you to be president,” declared one questioner at the El Paso town hall, to which O’Rourke only smiled and changed the subject. He also refused to say whether he might accept being on a Democratic ticket as the nominee for vice president.
Addressing reporters later, O’Rourke acknowledged that his latest answer was a departure from his earlier insistence that he wasn’t interested in a presidential run. However, he provided no further details on what his next moves might be.