POLITICS

Beto O'Rourke Tells Oprah Winfrey He'll Decide On 2020 Run This Month

Winfrey encouraged the former Texas congressman to run for president.

NEW YORK (AP) — Democrat Beto O’Rourke said Tuesday he’ll announce whether he’ll run for president “before the end of the month” and indicated he’s leaning toward a bid even though family considerations could persuade him otherwise.

The former Texas congressman made the comments in New York City during a conversation with Oprah Winfrey for her TV program “Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations from Times Square.”

Winfrey encouraged O’Rourke to seek the presidency. While citing his wife and children — “For the last seven years, my family hasn’t seen me” — he also admitted, “I’m increasingly excited about doing something.”

O’Rourke dazzled Democrats last year by nearly defeating Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in the country’s largest red state. But his presidential prospects have been overshadowed with the generally well-received 2020 campaign launches of Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Cory Booker of New Jersey.

O’Rourke’s association with Winfrey could be helpful if he decides to pursue a campaign. Her endorsement of Barack Obama was pivotal to his 2008 campaign. She also took the rare step of campaigning for Democrat Stacey Abrams ahead of her near-upset in the Georgia governor’s race.

Winfrey herself has been the center of 2020 speculation, though she has said she doesn’t plan to run.

Her show blurs the line between politics and pop culture. The lineup on Tuesday featured actors Bradley Cooper and Michael B. Jordan and philanthropist Melinda Gates, underscoring the sense of celebrity that surrounds O’Rourke.

O’Rourke’s low profile in recent weeks has taken curious turns. He treated Instagram followers to a glimpse inside his mouth during a teeth cleaning while trying to decry the Trump administration’s border wall. He also recently traveled in Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado, but his meandering online posts documenting the journey highlighted things like the open-face roast beef sandwich he had for lunch rather than offering hints about how he’d handle the rigors of a presidential campaign.

Compare that to his potential 2020 rivals swarming states that kick off presidential voting: New York Sen. Kristen Gillibrand and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper will be in South Carolina this week, Booker is visiting Iowa and Warren is set to formally announce her presidential bid Saturday, then hit New Hampshire and Iowa.

O’Rourke’s camp points to his rejection of politics-as-usual — including shunning donations from outside political groups as well as consultants and pollsters while nearly knocking off Cruz — as proof that not following the 2020 pack can pay off.

Though the taping was Tuesday, the interview won’t air on Winfrey’s network until Feb. 16. After that, O’Rourke doesn’t have another headline-grabbing event on his schedule — at least not yet.

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Weissert reported from Austin, Texas.

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