O’Rourke returns to the spotlight with President Trump in El Paso

Texas Politics

El Paso (KXAN) — Former El Paso Congressman ‘Beto’ O’Rourke returns to the national spotlight after something of a vision-quest through the American West.

O’Rourke’s expected to lead thousands in a ‘March for Truth’ just before President Donald Trump takes the stage at a rally in support of his proposed border wall Monday night in El Paso.

President Trump announced the El Paso rally after factchecks and criticism of his State of the Union speech when he said El Paso crime was so low because of the city’s border wall. In fact, crime went up after the border barrier.

Over the weekend, O’Rourke went live on Instagram – a common tactic employed in his run for U.S. Senate – with his daughter Molly making signs for the Monday march. In that video he told supporters they can’t “just complain about it” and must stand up and “be counted.”

Texas democrats hope those words and planned march means O’Rourke will return to the political battlefield either for U.S. Senate against incumbent Republican John Cornyn in 2020 or for President against incumbent Donald Trump.

Earlier this month, O’Rourke traveled to New York for a sit-down interview with Oprah Winfrey. The interview has not yet been televised but O’Rourke said he would make a decision by the end of February.

O’Rourke says his biggest hurdle in deciding whether to run in 2020 is the pressure it will put on his wife Amy and three school aged children.

After his narrow loss to Cruz, O’Rourke went on a solo drive through New Mexico and Colorado, blogging about his thoughts, speaking with small groups of Americans, and deciding what to do next with his life.

If O’Rourke enters the 2020 Presidential race, he will instantly be treated as a top-tier candidate. He already has a nationwide fundraising infrastructure second only to Vermont Democratic-Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders.

O’Rourke raised well over $70 million through small donations in his race for Senate, a historic feat that could easily turn into a volunteer base.

“His entire time in Congress and while he was running for Senate, he really tried to educate the rest of the country and also the rest of this state about what the reality on the border is,” said Iliana Holguin, Chair of the El Paso County Democratic Party.

Holguin helped organize Monday’s march and says few people know his thinking but most local democrats will support him if he runs or not.

“I think it’s very important for Beto to stay engaged, even if he decides that it’s not time for him to run for President because he brings a really unique perspective,” said Holguin.

The idea of O’Rourke running for President has many detractors as well.

Some Texas democrats see it undercutting the candidacy of Former HUD Secretary and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, who already announced his desire for the White House and has been campaigning for several weeks.

Multiple democratic operatives would rather see a O’Rourke-Cornyn match for U.S. Senate.

Then there’s the criticism of his progressive credentials in an already crowded, diverse and multi-cultural field of democratic challengers. Critics question whether a white man with a skinny resume should be treated as the front runner of the party of ‘diversity.’

Monday’s spectacle in El Paso will present a coalescence of circumstances offering O’Rourke a large platform to announce his next steps: a face-off filled with Hollywood drama, the attention of the national press and an aura of authenticity.

Throwing his hat in the ring for 2020 – of course – will be up to him.  

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