Beto O’Rourke, the 46-year-old former Texas congressman whose near-miss Senate run last year propelled him to Democratic stardom, announced on Thursday that he was running for president, betting that voters will prize his message of national unity and generational change in a 2020 primary teeming with committed progressives.
His decision jolts an early election season already stuffed with contenders, adding to the mix a relentless campaigner with a small-dollar fund-raising army, the performative instincts of a former punk rocker and a pro-immigrant vision to counteract President Trump’s.
Yet Mr. O’Rourke also comes to the 2020 race with few notable legislative accomplishments after three terms in the House representing El Paso. And in a primary so far defined by big-ticket policy ideas, like the economic agendas of Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, Mr. O’Rourke enters without a signature proposal that might serve as the ideological anchor of his bid.
“This moment of peril produces perhaps the greatest moment of promise for this country and for everyone inside it,’’ Mr. O’Rourke said in a video announcing his candidacy, released hours before a planned three-day tour of Iowa began on Thursday morning.
I am running to serve you as the next president. The challenges we face are the greatest in living memory. No one person can meet them on their own. Only this country can do that, and only if we build a movement that includes all of us. Say you’re in: https://t.co/EKLdkVET2u pic.twitter.com/lainXyvG2n
— Beto O’Rourke (@BetoORourke) 14 March 2019
Shortly after 8 a.m. Thursday, Mr. O’Rourke stepped into a coffee shop on Main Street in Keokuk and began introducing himself to a state he had never visited before.