Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) addressed the growing calls for him to drop out of the presidential race and instead launch a second bid for Texas’s U.S. Senate seat.
“There’s some part of me, and it’s a big part of me, that wants to stay here [in El Paso] and be with my family, and be with my community. I love El Paso,” O’Rourke said on Thursday. “There have even been some who suggested that I stay in Texas and run for Senate.”
“But that would not be good enough for this community,” he continued. “That would not be good enough for El Paso. That would not be good enough for this country.”
O’Rourke delivered a speech in El Paso, Texas, in what his campaign referred to as “his first major address.” It was intended to announce his return to the campaign trail after taking a brief pause after a deadly mass shooting occurred in his hometown.
The announcement comes as O’Rourke is facing mounting pressure to forgo his presidential ambitions in lieu of a more realistic shot at winning election in his home state of Texas.
“Beto, if you’re listening: Come home,” The Houston Chronicle editorial board wrote over the weekend. “Drop out of the race for president and come back to Texas to run for senator. The chances of you winning the race you’re in now are vanishingly small. And Texas needs you.”
O’Rourke unsuccessfully ran to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) during the 2018 midterm election cycle. He continuously trailed Cruz throughout the duration of their campaigns, but the race tightened to a margin of single digits in what was thought to be a reliably red state.
Despite consistently polling below 3%, the former Texas lawmaker rejected all calls to end his campaign and instead recast himself a warrior against President Donald Trump.
“We must take the fight directly to the source of this problem, that person, who has caused this pain and placed this country in this moment of peril,” O’Rourke said. “And that is Donald Trump.”
Shifting approaches, O’Rourke pledged to abandon the traditional campaign strategy of focusing on the early primary states, such as Iowa and New Hampshire. Instead, he would be traveling to heavily immigrant areas where he contends that Trump has been “terrorizing and terrifying.” He also will make his anti-gun platform a central issue to his campaign.
“I want to be the leader for this country that we need right now and that we do not have,” O’Rourke said. “Someone who will only not tear us apart, but do everything within their power to bring us together. Someone who doesn’t inflame, but instead heals. Someone who doesn’t work with fear but instead hope.”
“In other words, I want to be the kind of leader for this country that El Paso has raised me and taught me to be,” he added.
Democrats are urgently looking for a reliable challenge to Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) in order to flip the Senate blue. Winning Texas’ 38 electoral college votes has long been a pipe dream for the party, which has not won a statewide race in the Lone Star state since former President Jimmy Carter ran in 1976.