Beto O’Rourke jumped back on the presidential campaign trail on Thursday in a fiery speech that crystalized why he is running for president in the first place: to defeat Donald Trump.
“What [Trump] says and what he does, does not just offend our sensibilities or our understanding of the traditions of this great country. It changes who we are as a country,” O’Rourke said, with what seemed like a renewed sense of purpose.
The candidate had paused his campaign to grieve with and support his hometown of El Paso following the domestic terrorist attack 10 days ago. The white supremacist penned a racist manifesto, inspired by the president’s own language toward Latinos.
O’Rourke’s message was anchored on Trump’s threat — an existential one — to the fundamental fabric of the United States. “I’m confident that if at this moment, we do not wake up to this threat, then we as a country will die in our sleep.”
Strong majorities of Democratic primary voters are more interested in beating Trump in 2020 than ideological purity on the issues.
Also on Thursday O’Rourke reiterated, decisively so, he will not run for U.S. Senate in Texas, which the Houston Chronicle editorial board pleaded with him to do earlier this week.
“There have even been some who suggested that I stay in Texas and run for Senate,” O’Rourke said. “But that would not be good enough for this community, that would not be good enough for El Paso, that would not be good enough for this country. We must take this fight directly to the source of this problem.”
The state of Texas is, however, part of the O’Rourke campaign’s path to victory. The candidate routinely talks about winning the state’s 38 electoral votes. Simple math dictates if the GOP loses Texas, they lose the White House.
As his speech came to a close, O’Rourke promised that things on his campaign would not be business as usual. “I know there is a way to do this better,” O’Rourke said, explaining to the audience why he skipped out on the Iowa State Fair, a high-profile campaign event attended by the other major candidates. “Corn dogs and Ferris wheels… I can’t go back for that…”
From now on, he said, he would prioritize going to the places where Trump is terrifying and terrorizing people. On Friday, he is traveling to Mississippi, which just witnessed a Trump Administration immigration raid that detained almost 680 people.
Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org