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story.lead_photo.caption In this Feb. 5, 2019, photo, former Democratic Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke gestures as he describes how nervous he was meeting with former President Barack Obama during an interview with Oprah Winfrey live on a Times Square stage at "SuperSoul Conversations," in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

AUSTIN, Texas — Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke announced Thursday that he'll seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, pledging to win over voters from both major parties as he tries to translate his political celebrity into a formidable White House bid.

Until he challenged Republican Sen. Ted Cruz last year, O'Rourke was little known outside his hometown of El Paso. But the Spanish-speaking 46-year-old former punk rocker used grassroots organizing and social media savvy to mobilize young voters and minorities in the Senate race. He got within 3 percentage points of upsetting Cruz in the nation's largest red state — and shattered fundraising records in the process — immediately fueling chatter that he could have higher ambitions.

O'Rourke now must prove whether the energy he brought to the Texas campaign will resonate on a much larger stage.

"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 with his wife on a couch. "We saw the power of this in Texas."

O'Rourke had never before visited Iowa, which kicks off presidential voting, but said during his first stop at a coffeeshop there Thursday, "I could care less about your party persuasion, your religion, anything other than the fact that, right now, we are all Americans."

His comments were carried live on several cable networks, the kind of exposure other candidates in the already crowded 2020 Democratic field don't often get.

O'Rourke has promised to travel the country listening to voters, then will return to El Paso, on the border with Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on March 30 for an official campaign kickoff. He invites would-be supporters "to the greatest grassroots campaign this country has ever seen."

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  • Packman
    March 14, 2019 at 9:57 a.m.

    Francis, Francis, Francis......The poster boy for everything wrong with America today (white, rich, privileged, heterosexual, male....). WTF is he thinking?

  • RBear
    March 14, 2019 at 10:17 a.m.

    Pack I think you mean Donald, Donald, Donald. WTF was he thinking?

  • Packman
    March 14, 2019 at 10:30 a.m.

    Hey RBear - Donald Trump was thinking he would kick Hillary's a$$, and he was right.
    .
    The fake Mexican represents everything the "resistance" and his fellow democrats see as wrong with America - white, male, privileged, rich, heterosexual. Conversely, us Normals see nothing inherently wrong in being white, male, heterosexual, or wealthy. For that matter we see nothing inherently wrong with anyone on the opposite end of those spectrums. Us Normals like everyone and view identity politics as a cancer on the republic.
    .
    But yes, Donald Trump was "thinking" he would beat Hillary, and he was 100% correct.

  • RBear
    March 14, 2019 at 10:35 a.m.

    Pack you are FAR from normal.

  • Waitjustaminute
    March 14, 2019 at 10:54 a.m.

    So, he's 46, a "former punk rocker" - and what else has he done in his life to qualify him to be President? Oh yeah, there's that whole "Kennedy-esque" thing.
    The last time people fell in love with a prom date candidate, we got stuck with Obama.

  • JIMGAIL61788GMAILCOM
    March 14, 2019 at 11:15 a.m.

    O'Rourke A fine IRISH name.Trump won the Electoral College NOT the popular vote(3.25 million votes less than Hillary).Yes! Trump,and his Trump-Pets are the number 1 threat to the Democracy of this country period.

  • GeneralMac
    March 14, 2019 at 11:25 a.m.

    Beto should have held off announcing until April 1st.

  • RBear
    March 14, 2019 at 11:37 a.m.

    ROTFL @ WJAM. Apparently, you just attack without research. I'll let you do the research you forgot to do when posting that comment. But hey, Trump either lied about a lot of what he claimed to have done or sued to keep it private in many cases. But I keep forgetting, you're not a right wing shill.

  • Waitjustaminute
    March 14, 2019 at 11:46 a.m.

    RBear, I didn't say a word about Trump. My post was about prom date candidates.

  • Waitjustaminute
    March 14, 2019 at 11:48 a.m.

    Trump is definitely not a prom date candidate, by the way.

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