- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 15, 2019

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke on Thursday announced a shift in his presidential campaign strategy, vowing to take his fight to areas where President Trump has been “terrorizing” and “demeaning” people — places that don’t necessarily include the standard early presidential states such as Iowa and New Hampshire.

The Texas Democrat rejected talk that he could drop his presidential bid and instead run for the U.S. Senate, after he had taken a hiatus from the campaign trail to stay in El Paso, Texas, after the recent shooting in his hometown left more than 20 people dead.

“As we head back on the campaign trail today, I know there is a way to do this better,” the former congressman said in a speech in his hometown of El Paso.

“To those places where Donald Trump has been terrorizing, and terrifying, and demeaning our fellow Americans — that’s where you will find me in this campaign,” he said, saying he now plans to head to Mississippi, where hundreds of illegal immigrants were arrested in recent raids on businesses.

On the recent Mississippi raids, he referred to “600 people who came to this country for the privilege of working the toughest, s—ttiest jobs that no one else here would allow their children to work … far too often, their immigration status used as leverage against them.”

Mr. O’Rourke said he started to rethink things after someone asked him recently if he was going to the Iowa State Fair, where many of his 2020 rivals have traveled.

“I said, no — I can’t go back for that, but I also cannot go back to that,” he said. “The kind of challenges that we face in this country at this moment of crisis require an urgency unless we want to reap the consequences of failing to meet them.”

Mr. O’Rourke also said he plans to travel to communities that have been “forgotten” or “counted out.”

“Anyone that this president puts down, we are going to do our best to lift up,” he said.

Mr. O’Rourke said a big part of him wanted to stay, and he acknowledged that some people have urged him to run for Senate.

“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,” he said. “We must take the fight directly to the source of this problem — that person who has caused this pain and placed this country in this moment of peril.”

Mr. O’Rourke said the U.S., as currently constituted, could effectively perish if people don’t fight back.

“When we allow this country to be defined along lines of race and ethnicity and religion, [when] we allow a commander-in-chief to not only welcome that but the violence that follows, to defy our laws, our institutions, and any ethical or moral boundaries, the end of that road is the end of this idea of America,” he said.

Mr. O’Rourke also issued a call for gun controls such as expanded background checks, “red flag” laws that allow guns to be seized from potentially dangerous people and a buyback program for military-style, semiautomatic firearms.

“This attack on El Paso is an attack on America,” Mr. O’Rourke said. “We owe this community time to heal. We owe one another our very best as those families make it through the toughest days they’ve ever known, the toughest days we’ve ever known.”

“From what I’ve seen since August 3rd, this community — El Paso and Ciudad Juárez — is more than up to the task,” he said.

The speech marked another reset of sorts for Mr. O’Rourke’s presidential campaign, after he acknowledged in May he could do a better job of getting his message out to a national audience.

Mr. O’Rourke had taken a break from the presidential campaign trail to stay in his native El Paso and deal with the fallout from the recent shooting at a Walmart that claimed the lives of more than 20 people.

He appears to have hit the necessary polling and fundraising requirements to qualify for the next presidential debate in September.

But after making an early splash and raising more than $6 million in 24 hours after entering the race in March, Mr. O’Rourke has been laboring to stay within striking distance of the top handful of contenders in much of the public polling on the 2020 Democratic field.

A frustrated Mr. O’Rourke delivered an expletive-laden response when asked recently if there’s anything Mr. Trump could do to make things better in the wake of the recent shootings.

“What do you think? You know the s— he’s been saying. He’s been calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals. I don’t know…members of the press, what the f—?” he said after a vigil in El Paso.

Over the weekend, the Houston Chronicle published an editorial urging Mr. O’Rourke, who lost to Sen. Ted Cruz in the state’s U.S. Senate race last year, to drop out of the race for president and run for Senate. GOP Sen. John Cornyn is up for re-election in 2020.

“The chances of winning the race you’re in now are vanishingly small. And Texas needs you,” the paper said.

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