ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Beto O'Rourke, the youthful Texan who gained a national following with his long-shot election battle against U.S. Senator Ted Cruz last year, began a swing through Iowa on Thursday, shortly after launching a bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination The 46-year-old O'Rourke, a former three-term U.S. congressman and a punk rocker in his youth, pledged to tackle "the interconnected crises in our economy, our democracy and our climate." "This moment of peril produces, perhaps, the greatest moment of promise for this country," he said in an online video.
O'Rourke followed his announcement with a trip to Iowa, the Midwestern farm state that will hold the first Democratic nominating contest in February 2020.
Greeted by cheers at his first stop in Keokuk, Iowa, he told his audience, "It is a huge, huge honor to be here with you." O'Rourke outlined challenges facing the United States, from immigration to climate change, saying, "The foundational challenge to get all of this done, is to fix our democracy." In running for president, O'Rourke is hoping to leverage the fame he gained with his Senate race in Texas.
He was an underdog when he challenged Cruz, a Republican in the mostly conservative state, but he quickly demonstrated an ability to draw capacity crowds and raise money from voters nationwide.
His long-shot bid drew widespread media attention and excited voters in a party desperate for fresh political faces.
O'Rourke lost the race by less than 3 percentage points, the tightest U.S. Senate contest in the state in four decades.
Early opinion polls on the 2020 race have consistently ranked O'Rourke in the top tier of contenders, behind former Vice President Joe Biden, who has not yet announced whether he is running, and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.