Beto O’Rourke Buckles Down in Texas

Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke speaks during a stop at the Central Park Coffee Company in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, on March 15, 2019. A former Iowa Democratic Party official is facing criticism for jumping from the party to work for O’Rourke — and bringing with him inside information his opponents say could give him an advantage. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

SAN ANTONIO (CN) — After two weeks pursuing voters in early battleground states, Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke will return to Texas on Saturday to kick off his campaign with a three-city blitz of his home state.

Billed as the official launch of his presidential campaign, O’Rourke will rally supporters in his hometown of El Paso before stopping in Houston and Austin later that day. Volunteers are set to host more than 1,000 organizing parties throughout the day and will livestream the trio of events, O’Rourke’s campaign said.

O’Rourke, 46, has been darting through early presidential battleground states since launching his bid for the White House on March 14, including stops in South Carolina and Nevada this week.

The former three-term congressman, whose close loss to Senator Ted Cruz in a Republican stronghold propelled him to Democratic prominence, raised $6.1 million in the 24 hours after announcing his presidential run, his campaign said.

The online fundraising haul surpassed the $5.9 million his closest Democratic rival in the money game, Vermont Independent Senator Bernie Sanders, raised in the first day after he announced his presidential campaign in February.

“Just two weeks in, people in communities across every state and territory in this country are already organizing on the ground to make this the largest grassroots campaign our nation has ever seen,” O’Rourke said in a statement this week. “No one will be taken for granted and no one will be written off as we put our full trust not in the PACs, corporations and special interests but in the people of this country.”

Delegate-rich Texas is a pivotal state in the nomination battle and O’Rourke, like fellow Texan Julián Castro, are both hoping for an electoral show of force in the March 3, 2020 Texas primary. O’Rourke, who came within 3 points of becoming the first Texas Democrat to hold a statewide office in two decades, said he thinks he could put Texas in play in the general election.

“I think we can win Texas,” O’Rourke told reporters in New Hampshire last week. “I think we’ve proven we know how to campaign,” he said, alluding to his highly publicized visits to all 254 Texas counties during his Senate campaign.

Castro, a former Obama Cabinet official and San Antonio mayor, launched his campaign for president Jan. 12, but has struggled to gain momentum in early polls and fundraising. His campaign is urging supporters to donate at least $1 apiece for Castro to overcome a new Democratic National Committee rule that requires candidates to have at least 65,000 individual donors to qualify for the first presidential debate in June.

Castro released an endorsement list of 30 Texas officials who have pledged their support to his campaign. The move came on the same morning O’Rourke announced in a video that he would run for president, which spurred criticism by some Democrats, for the passive role his wife took in the video announcement.

Early polls place O’Rourke among the top tier of Democrats vying for their party’s nomination, alongside Senators Kamala Harris and Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden, who has all but declared a run, but has not publicly announced his candidacy.

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