O'Rourke Plans Iowa Trip Amid Speculation on White House Bid

(Bloomberg) -- Former U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke is expected to be in Iowa this weekend to help campaign for a local candidate, adding to speculation that he’s moving closer to launching a bid for the Democratic 2020 presidential nomination.

O’Rourke, who gained a national following during his unsuccessful 2018 bid for a U.S. Senate seat from Texas, is expected to knock on doors Saturday for a Democratic state legislative candidate facing a March 19 special election, said Iowa Democratic Party spokesman Jonah Hermann.

“He will be here,” Hermann said.

In a video of O’Rourke posted on Twitter Monday evening, the prospective candidate talks about the importance of voting for Eric Giddens while wearing a University of Northern Iowa baseball cap. "We’re looking forward to seeing you soon," he says near the end of the video.

The Iowa caucuses next February are the first contest in the months-long campaign for the Democratic nomination, and the state has been a regular stop for most of the 14 candidates who’ve already announced campaigns. It would be O’Rourke’s first trip to the state as a prospective candidate in the 2020 race.

O’Rourke’s team over the weekend teased an upcoming "big announcement" in emails to supporters. O’Rourke himself gave no hints of his plans during an appearance at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, where he attended the screening of a documentary about his closer-than-expected loss to incumbent Republican Senator Ted Cruz.

Despite losing that race, O’Rourke emerged from November’s midterm elections as one of the hottest prospects for the 2020 Democratic field. His charisma, masterful use of social media and ability to raise record amounts of money online bolstered his stature.

Most polls of the Democratic nomination race put him in the top tier of contenders, though well behind former Vice President Joe Biden, who also hasn’t announced his plans, and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is officially running.

In an Iowa Poll released over the weekend, O’Rourke received support from 5 percent of likely participants in the state’s Democratic caucuses in February 2020. That was a drop from the 11 percent the poll showed for him in December.

CNN reported earlier Monday that O’Rourke could be headed to Iowa as early as this weekend.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.