Democrat Beto O’Rourke clambered back into the limelight on Tuesday in an interview with Oprah Winfrey. In it, though he didn't commit to a presidential bid, he said he'd decide by the end of the month.
“I have been thinking about running for president,” he said to wild applause from the audience.
The former three-term Texas congressman indicated he’s leaning toward a bid even though family considerations could persuade him otherwise. "For the last seven years, my family hasn't seen me," he said.
He told Winfrey that America’ biggest current issues are gun control, immigration and climate change.
He said to curb gun violence, America needs universal background checks. He noted that states that have them have seen a 50 percent decline in gun violence. He also said America doesn’t need to be selling weapons of war, such as AR-15 style rifles.
O’Rourke said as president he would legalize Dreamers — undocumented immigrants brought into America as children — grant legal status to their parents and increase immigration quotas.
He also called President Trump’s proposed southern-border wall a “racist response to a problem we don’t have. It seeks emotionally to connect with us, with voters — to stoke anxiety and paranoia, to win power over ‘the other’ on the basis of lies that vilify people.”
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 more recently with the generally well-received 2020 campaign launches of Sens. Kamala Harris of California, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Cory Booker of New Jersey.
The potential 2020 contender also impressed Dems by raising $80 million in the Texas Senate race — much of it online.
He also admitted to Winfrey, "I'm increasingly excited about doing something."
The 46-year-old Democrat talked about his desire to help unify the country: "I'm so excited at the prospect of being able to play that role."
O'Rourke said he needed to spend time traveling alone to help overcome "a profound disappointment in myself that I let so many people down."
He said he emerged with the reinforced belief that "people are so good."
O’Rourke’s low profile in recent weeks has taken curious turns. He treated Instagram followers to a glimpse inside his mouth during a tooth 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.
Still, Winfrey, herself encouraged by many to run for office, urged O’Rourke to seek the presidency during the interview Tuesday.
O’Rourke’s association with Winfrey could be helpful if he decides to pursue a campaign. Winfrey’s 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.
Fox News’ Andrew Keiper and The Associated Press contributed to this report.