Beto O'Rourke announces 2020 run for presidency

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Texas Democrat, who has drawn comparisons to Obama, tells supporters his campaign ???seeks to unite a very divided country???

Who is 2020 presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke? ??? video profile

Beto O???Rourke, the former congressman who narrowly lost to Ted Cruz in the 2018 Texas Senate race, has announced he will seek the Democratic nomination for president.

Ending months of speculation over his plans, O???Rourke threw his hat into a crowded primary field vying for the party???s blessing to challenge Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

O???Rourke, 46, rose to national prominence during the 2018 midterms, when his bid to unseat Cruz garnered unprecedented grassroots support and a historic fundraising haul.

Although he fell short, O???Rourke outperformed expectations for any Democrat in the deeply conservative state of Texas, falling less than three percentage points behind Cruz, the Republican incumbent.

Despite his defeat, O???Rourke swiftly emerged as a top Democratic presidential contender, drawing comparisons to Barack Obama for his charisma and hopeful message.

???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 posted on Thursday morning. ???We saw the power of this in Texas.???

O???Rourke stated his intention in the video to ???travel this country and listen to those I seek to serve???. He said he will then return to El Paso on 30 March for a campaign kickoff and invited would-be supporters ???to the greatest grassroots campaign this country has ever seen???.

Quick guide

Which Democrats are running for 2020?

Michael Bennet, Colorado senator

Bennet raised his national profile earlier this year when the senator, typically known for his congeniality, delivered a fiery speech on the Senate floor, accusing Republican senator Ted Cruz of shedding 'crocodile tears' over the government shutdown.

Joe Biden, former vice president

Biden unsuccessfully ran for the nomination in 1988 and 2008, and his campaign is likely to be dogged by controversy after allegations from several women they were left feeling uncomfortable by their physical interactions with him. If successful, Biden would become the oldest person to be elected president in US history.

Bill de Blasio, New York mayor

Now in his second term as mayor of New York City, De Blasio is a hometown foe of Donald Trump's running on the message that there's plenty of money in the country but it's in the wrong hands. With a progressive track record but a chorus of critics in New York, can this Democrat overcome his late start and win the chance to take on Trump?

Cory Booker, New Jersey senator

Booker first made a name as the hands-on mayor of Newark. Known for his focus on criminal justice reform and impassioned speeches on immigration, he has though been criticized for ties to Wall Street.

Pete Buttigieg, South Bend mayor

Buttigieg wants to be the first openly gay millennial president. A Harvard graduate and Rhodes scholar, he became the youngest mayor of a mid-size US city at the age of 29. As a Navy Reserve lieutenant he deployed to Afghanistan.

Juli??n Castro, former housing and urban development secretary

Castro casts himself as an antidote to Trump and the adminstration's hardline immigration policies. The grandson of a Mexican immigrant and raised by single mother, the 44-year-old Democrat is one of the most prominent Latinos in Democratic politics.

John Delaney, former Maryland congressman

He has delivered his message of pragmatism to voters in all 99 of Iowa???s counties since he officially kicked off the race in July 2017. The multimillionaire banking entrepreneur wants to build a big-tent party that appeals to independents and moderate Republicans.

Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaii congresswoman

An Iraq war veteran who has vowed to run a campaign focused on issues of 'war and peace'. Gabbard made history as the first Samoan American and the first Hindu elected to Congress. But progressives are wary of her past conservative views on on social issues.

Kirsten Gillibrand, New York senator

Years before the #MeToo movement, the New York senator was leading efforts in Congress to combat sexual assault in the military and on college campuses. The former corporate lawyer has embraced a slate of economic ideas supported by the party???s progressive wing.

Mike Gravel, former senator of Alaska

At 88, Gravel will be the oldest candidate to be run for the nomination. However, according to his campaign, the staunch non-interventionist is not running to win, but to challenge Democratic orthodoxy on foreign policy. Will this little-known quixotic figure succeed?

Kamala Harris, California senator

Harris is one of Trump???s fiercest critics, and has built a national reputation grilling administration officials during their confirmation hearings. A former state attorney general and the daughter of immigrants from India and Jamaica, Harris believes she has the unique profile to take on Trump.

John Hickenlooper, former Governor of Colorado

Before he served two terms as governor of Colorado, the 67-year-old Democrat worked as a geologist for a petroleum company. After a lay off, he switched careers and opened a successful brewpub in Denver that helped to revitalize the city???s downtown.

Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington

Inslee is running as the ???only candidate who will make defeating climate change our nation???s number one priority???. As the country experiences more powerful hurricanes, scorching wildfires and submerged coastlines, polls show public concern is growing.

Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota senator

On Election Night 2018, Klobuchar coasted to a third term as senator in a state Trump almost won. Next morning she was on every short list of potential presidential candidates. Supporters say her success with rural voters makes her a formidable candidate in the Rust Belt, while her calm demeanour provides a clear contrast with Trump.

Wayne Messam, mayor of Miramar, Florida

Facing long odds, Messam, the son of Jamaican immigrants to the US and a former receiver for the Florida State Seminoles football team, is tossing his hat in the ring anyway. The 44-year-old businessman became Miramar???s first black mayor when he was elected in 2015. 

Seth Moulton, Massachusetts congressman

The Harvard educated Marine veteran arrived in Congress with a bang, after unseating a nine-term Democratic incumbent in a Massachusetts primary in 2014. Moulton has continued to make waves by calling for 'generational change' in Democratic leadership and supported an effort to block Nancy Pelosi from becoming House Speaker in 2018.

Beto O'Rourke, former Texas congressman

A one-time guitarist for an El Paso punk band called Foss, O???Rourke had kept a relatively low profile as a three-term congressman with little name recognition. He rose to national prominence during the 2018 midterms, when his bid to unseat Senator Ted Cruz garnered unprecedented grassroots support and a historic fundraising haul.

Tim Ryan, Ohio congressman

Elected to Congress in 2003 at just 29, Ryan represents the blue-collar voters Democrats hope to win back in 2020. He won national attention when he challenged Nancy Pelosi for Democratic leadership in 2016. He has continued to push for a generational change in leadership. 

Bernie Sanders, Vermont senator

Sanders turned a long-shot, anti-establishment bid for the presidency into a ???political revolution??? that energized the party???s progressive base. His political career began nearly 40 years ago, but it wasn???t until his 2016 run that Sanders became a national figure as a new generation of Democrats ??? and 2020 contenders ??? embraced his populist economic policies.

Eric Swalwell, California congressman

Raised in Iowa and California, the 38-year-old Democrat would be among the youngest candidates in the race. Swalwell serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence investigating Russian collusion, a position that has earned him frequent appearances on cable news shows.

Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts senator

Her sharp criticism of Wall Street and big corporations has made Warren a favorite among progressive activists, and she will campaign on a message of a rigged economic system and income inequality.

Marianne Williamson, author

This is not the spiritual guru and a new age author???s first foray into politics: in 2014, she mounted an unsuccessful congressional bid in California. Her entry adds some star-power to the race that may attract more celebrities.

Andrew Yang, businessman

A former tech executive and entrepreneur running the longest of long shot campaigns centered on the perils of automation. His central plank is a plan to give every American adult a salary of $1,000 per month, paid for by a tax on companies that benefit the most from automation.

Lauren Gambino, Sam Morris and Martin Belam

O???Rourke has joined what is shaping up to be a diverse Democratic field that includes senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, and Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard. O???Rourke will also be up against fellow Texas native Julian Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio and housing secretary under Obama who launched his own presidential campaign in January.

A onetime guitarist for an El Paso punk band called Foss, prior to his Senate bid, O???Rourke had kept a relatively low profile as a three-term congressman with little name recognition.

But as his upstart campaign to defeat Cruz gained steam, O???Rourke transformed into an overnight celebrity who earned the approval of public figures ranging from Beyonc?? to LeBron James. He went on to amass a record-breaking $38m in the third quarter of his race against Cruz, in what will likely mark a major fundraising advantage over the other Democratic contenders.

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Donald Trump, in tweets, has called O???Rourke a ???flake??? and a ???total lightweight??? who ???will never be allowed to turn Texas into Venezuela!???.

The president has also mocked O???Rourke???s nickname, calling him ???a stone-cold phony named Robert Francis O???Rourke, sometimes referred to as Beto,??? during a stump speech for Cruz during the midterms.

???He pretends to be a moderate,??? Trump continued, ???but he???s actually a radical open-borders left-winger???. On the left, some have in fact labeled O???Rourke a moderate who has yet to prove his progressive bona fides .

In separate remarks to reporters that same day, Trump also called O???Rourke ???highly overrated???.

???When I heard about him, I figured he must be something a little special. He???s not,??? Trump said.

O???Rourke has the backing of a network of advocates who have independently been campaigning for him to run. The Draft Beto organisation has already mobilised thousands of grassroots volunteers, many on college campuses, and held 30 house parties in nine states.

Its co-founder Nate Lerner told the Guardian: ???Now the real work begins. We???re shifting the grassroots, financial, and political resources we???ve built over to Beto???s campaign and focusing entirely on electing Beto in 2020.???

For all the buzz about his charisma, grassroots appeal and dedication to campaigning for every last vote, O???Rourke does not have a substantial track record in Washington for legislation or making his voice heard on domestic and foreign policy.

And his voting record in the Capitol showed, according to analysis published last year, that even as O???Rourke represented one of the most solidly Democratic congressional districts in the United States, he has on several occasions broken with the majority of House Democrats and voted in line with the Trump administration.

Meanwhile, Republican opposition campaigning ahead of O???Rourke???s swing through Iowa this week is focused on portraying him as a product of white wealth and privilege, and is ???no Obama???, who overcame significant struggles to reach the top.