Beto O’Rourke, weighing whether to mount a 2020 presidential bid, met recently with Barack Obama at his post-presidency offices in Washington.
The meeting, which was held on Nov. 16 at the former president’s offices in Foggy Bottom, came as former Obama aides have encouraged the Democratic House member to run, seeing him as capable of the same kind of inspirational campaign that caught fire in the 2008 presidential election.
The meeting was the first sign of Obama getting personally involved in conversations with O’Rourke, who despite his November loss in a U.S. Senate race in Texas has triggered more recent discussion and speculation than any other candidate in the burgeoning 2020 field.
TMZ, the Hollywood-based entertainment website, is now trailing O’Rourke; he is being swamped by calls from Democratic operatives eager to work for him, and other campaigns-in-the-making are eyeing his moves closely for any signs of his intentions. O’Rourke said at an El Paso town hall last week that he was considering a run, pending discussions with his family.
Obama’s stated mission has been to build a new generation of Democratic leaders, and two weeks ago he said that O’Rourke, who is 46, reminded him of himself. The three-term congressman, he said, was one of the rare politicians who can connect with a wide swath of the electorate in an increasingly siloed country.
“The reason I was able to make a connection with a sizable portion of the country was because people had a sense that I said what I meant,” Obama said in an interview for “The Axe Files,” a podcast hosted by his former top strategist David Axelrod. “What I oftentimes am looking for first and foremost is, do you seem to mean it? Are you in this thing ‘cause you have a strong set of convictions that you are willing to risk things for?”
“What I liked most about his race was that it didn’t feel constantly poll-tested,” Obama added of O’Rourke. “It felt as if he based his statements and his positions on what he believed. And that, you’d like to think, is normally how things work. Sadly it’s not.”