AP NEWS

O’Rourke team begins national staffing talks amid 2020 buzz

February 28, 2019
FILE - In this Feb. 15, 2019, file photo Beto O'Rourke tells reporters he plans to make a decision soon on whether to get in the race for president in Madison, Wis. O'Rourke says he has made up his mind about a 2020 presidential run and will announce his intentions "soon." (AP Photo/Scott Bauer)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Beto O’Rourke’s advisers have begun speaking to Democratic political strategists about positions in a national campaign as the former Texas congressman promises to announce a decision on a 2020 presidential run soon.

A person with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Thursday that O’Rourke’s team is having early, formal staffing discussions. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to reveal the discussions before a campaign announcement.

The development comes a day after O’Rourke announced he had made a 2020 decision and would let everyone know his plans “soon.”

Those close to O’Rourke have said for weeks that they aren’t sure how he will divulge his intentions, whether by holding a rally or formal event, using online communications, making a television appearance or doing it some other way. O’Rourke was an avid user of Facebook Live while crisscrossing Texas and nearly upsetting Republican Ted Cruz in the U.S. Senate race in November.

As recently as last week, O’Rourke suggested he was still deciding how to “best serve our country” and wouldn’t rule out a presidential run, agreeing to be a vice presidential candidate for another 2020 Democratic hopeful or challenging U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, who is up for re-election in 2020. But O’Rourke’s camp says running for Senate again wasn’t ever very likely.

O’Rourke raised $80-plus million from donors nationwide while losing to Cruz by fewer than 3 percentage points in Texas, where a Democrat hasn’t won statewide office in 25 years. He began that race largely unknown outside his native El Paso and looking like a prohibitive longshot — but became a national star in Democratic circles for an optimistic, high-energy campaign and a compelling backstory that included a stint as a punk-rock guitarist while in college.

Although the list of Democrats looking to deny President Donald Trump re-election is already long, an O’Rourke campaign could shake up the field. Some donors have said they’ve sat out the race so far while waiting to see what he’ll do.

Meanwhile, Democratic activists in Iowa, which kicks off presidential voting, and New Hampshire, home to the nation’s first primary, have invited O’Rourke to visit. Instead, O’Rourke has hit colleges in the battleground Midwestern state of Wisconsin and drove through parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado and New Mexico with no press.

While running for Senate, O’Rourke shunned consultants and pollsters and refused money from outside political groups. He said last week that he’s not sure if he’d do the same thing should he run for president, but that any national campaign he mounts will mirror his unorthodox Senate bid as much as possible.