Beto O’Rourke all but announced his 2020 presidential candidacy in a wide-ranging interview published Wednesday in Vanity Fair magazine, confidently saying he was “just born to do this” — a move that would contradict his multiple previous assurances that he would not seek the White House, and further crowd a Democratic primary field already chock-full of progressive candidates.
The move seemed inevitable Wednesday night. KTSM reported it received a text message from O’Rourke earlier in the day saying he will seek the Democratic presidential nomination, writing: “I’m really proud of what El Paso did and what El Paso represents. It’s a big part of why I’m running. This city is the best example of this country at its best.”
O’Rourke’s spokesman would not confirm to Fox News that the former congressman is running for president.
The Vanity Fair piece, written by Joe Hagan, seemed to echo the fawning tone of much of the media coverage that followed his failed bid to unseat Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz last fall. But, conservative commentators said, the interview still indirectly highlighted the 46-year-old O’Rourke’s glaring vulnerabilities as he seeks to mount his first-ever national campaign despite lacking significant government experience.
At one point, Hagan detailed when O’Rourke and his wife, Amy, “both describe the moment they first witnessed the power of O’Rourke’s gift” — in Houston, on the third stop on O’Rourke’s unsuccessful Senate campaign.
“Every seat was taken, every wall, every space in the room was filled with probably a thousand people,” Amy O’Rourke told Vanity Fair. “You could feel the floor moving almost. It was not totally clear that Beto was what everybody was looking for, but just like that people were so ready for something. So that was totally shocking. I mean, like, took-my-breath-away shocking.”
Hagan, who previously penned a similarly photographed and written profile of another Democrat, former presidential candidate John Edwards, wrote in the new piece: “For O’Rourke, what followed was a near-mystical experience.”
“I don’t ever prepare a speech,” O’Rourke explained. “I don’t write out what I’m going to say. I remember driving to that, I was, like, ‘What do I say? Maybe I’ll just introduce myself. I’ll take questions.’ I got in there, and I don’t know if it’s a speech or not, but it felt amazing. Because every word was pulled out of me. Like, by some greater force, which was just the people there. Everything that I said, I was, like, watching myself, being like, How am I saying this stuff? Where is this coming from?”
However, this carefree, spur-of-the-moment approach has backfired in the past, the article went on to note. For example, O’Rourke acknowledged he was “kicking himself for giving a damaging, freewheeling interview to The Washington Post, which quoted his prescription for immigration as ‘I don’t know.'”
In that interview, O’Rourke also suggested parts of the Constitution may be unnecessary and outdated.
Although the Post article drew widespread jeers, Hagan seemingly found it endearing.
“Unlike Trump,” Hagan wrote, “O’Rourke can appear almost too innocent to be a politician—too decent, too wholesome, the very reason he became popular also the same reason he could be crucified on the national stage.”
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Reaction on social media, both to O’Rourke and Hagan’s aggressively positive portrayal of his prospective candidacy, was unsparing.
“It’s extremely subtle, but with a trained eye, you can detect a slight difference in the media posture toward Robert O’Rourke and the average Republican congressman running for president after losing a Senate race,” Mollie Hemingway, a senior editor at The Federalist and a regular Fox News panelist, wrote on Twitter.
Washington Free Beacon reporter Alex Griswold added, “They really aren’t bothering to hide it,” referring to media bias.
Elsewhere in the sprawling deep-dive, Hagan noted that O’Rourke’s home has boasted a slew of presidential biographies — a seemingly mundane observation that Hagan imbued with heavy implications.
“Arranged in historical order, the biographies suggest there’s been some reflection on the gravity of the presidency,” Hagan wrote, noting that O’Rourke has the support of Oprah Winfrey. “But there’s also some political poetry to it, a sense that O’Rourke might be destined for this shelf.”
But, O’Rourke himself seemingly had shut the door on any such poetry, again and again, while running against Cruz.
MSNBC reporter Garrett Haakey tweeted last November: “‘I will not be a candidate for president in 2020,’ @BetoORourke tells me. ‘That’s as definitive as it gets.'”
And, in an interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes,” O’Rourke said simply, “I don’t want to do it. I will not do it.”
O’Rourke went on to explain that raising his young children would keep him off the campaign trail.
Speaking to Hagan, O’Rourke attempted to explain the abrupt turnaround, saying that “the week before he was to appear onstage with Oprah Winfrey in New York, he had what he describes as a breakthrough conversation with his wife” and stayed up late into the night.
But, conservative commentator Stephen Miller had a less flattering interpretation, writing that O’Rourke must have “spent literally 6 months around his wife and kids and said, … This sucks.”
Although O’Rourke has not formally entered the presidential fray, there are multiple other indications he is intending to do so. The former Texas representative is slated to make his first trip to Iowa of the 2020 campaign, visiting the state that kicks off presidential voting.
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A spokesman said O’Rourke will visit the University of Northern Iowa on Saturday to campaign for Eric Giddens, the Democratic candidate running in a state Senate special election there. And, O’Rourke released a video Monday night from Texas backing Giddens and wearing a Northern Iowa cap.
Meanwhile, Twitter users who reportedly tried to unsubscribe from O’Rourke’s mailing list were being told in automated replies on Wednesday, apparently inadvertently, that there was an ongoing “campaign to elect Beto for president.”
Fox News’ Patrick Ward contributed to this report.