Beto O’Rourke says he has ‘made a decision about how we can best serve our country’

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 05: Beto O'Rourke speaks onstage at Oprah's SuperSoul Conversations at PlayStation Theater on February 05, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who for months has weighed a bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, says he has made a decision about his political future.

A source familiar with O’Rourke’s plans told CNN he has ruled out running for the US Senate in Texas in 2020, leaving open the possibility that he will launch a presidential bid.

“Amy and I have made a decision about how we can best serve our country. We are excited to share it with everyone soon,” he said in a statement sent by an aide to CNN. His statement was first reported by The Dallas Morning News.

The 46-year-old former Texas congressman has considered running for president and launching a second Senate campaign in recent weeks — though friends and former aides have long cautioned that a Senate run was unlikely.

As he arrived at a Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America event in El Paso, O’Rourke told CNN that an announcement on his plans is coming “soon” but wouldn’t go into any more detail.

“I’m going to make an announcement soon. I’m going to be making the same announcement to everyone at the same time,” he said. “That’s all I can say at this time.”

He wouldn’t narrow down what “soon” means.

“I want to make the announcement to everyone at the same time. I want to do it the right way,” he said.

O’Rourke’s comment comes just ahead of a self-imposed deadline at the end of February to decide what he would do next.

O’Rourke emerged as a rising Democratic star during his bid to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in the 2018 midterm elections. His $80 million haul smashed fundraising records for Senate campaigns, even as O’Rourke refused to accept donations from all political action committees. And Texas Democrats credited his loss by less than 3 percentage points for helping carry down-ballot candidates to victory across the state.

If he runs for president, O’Rourke — who built his profile by visiting heavily Republican areas and offering himself as an optimist with little interest in partisanship — would enter a field of frequent critics of President Donald Trump. His candidacy would also test whether the party’s progressive base and its legions of young voters are more interested in inspirational figures or candidates whose ideology matches theirs.

O’Rourke’s national profile grew in August 2018, when NowThis published a video of O’Rourke answering a question about NFL players kneeling during the National Anthem with an off-the-cuff riff about the Civil Rights movement as he defended players for making their case “non-violently, peacefully, while the eyes of this country are watching.”

The Senate campaign’s major draw was O’Rourke’s status as a uniquely accessible candidate. As he visited all 254 counties in Texas, with an aide following with a cell phone camera, livestreaming nearly every event — and many of the drives in between — on Facebook.

During the race, O’Rourke had insisted he would not run for president. But in December, after his narrow loss, O’Rourke changed his tune, telling reporters after a town hall he was considering a run.

Since leaving office, O’Rourke’s political activity has largely been focused on opposing Trump’s push for a border wall. He has argued the fence built in 2008 to separate El Paso from Ciudad Juárez was ineffective and said he would like to see it torn down.

After leaving office in January, O’Rourke took off on a road trip through Oklahoma, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico. He admitted in a blog post on Medium he had “been stuck lately” and was “in and out of a funk.”

O’Rourke drew national attention when he countered Trump’s visit to El Paso by leading thousands of people on a march past the President’s rally to one of his own, a little more than a football field away, where he denounced Trump’s push for a wall.

“With the eyes of the country upon us, all of us together are going to make our stand, here in one of the safest cities in the United States of America — safe not because of walls, but in spite of walls,” he said in his speech. “We treat each other with dignity and respect. That is the way we make our community and our country safe.”

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey in New York City, O’Rourke set an end-of-February deadline to decide on his own future.

Later, in El Paso, he told reporters he was considering both a presidential bid and a Senate campaign against Republican John Cornyn in 2020. The possibility of a Senate run has now been ruled out, a source familiar with his plans said Wednesday.

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