Beto O’Rourke Stays Mum on 2020 While Decrying Trump-Stoked ‘Fear’

(Bloomberg) -- Beto O’Rourke, the Texas Democrat thought to be considering a 2020 White House run, told a group of politically active Latinos that President Donald Trump’s attempt to use executive power to build a southern border wall marks a new challenge that must be answered.

“This president has declared a national emergency and he’s using it as the excuse to build a wall, to spend your money on a barrier between the United States and Mexico at a time that more Mexican nationals are going south from this country than are coming north,” O’Rourke told the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute conference in Chicago.

The Texan focused his speech on the border-related drama of the week -- including his own counter-rally to Trump’s. Notably absent from his comments to a crowd that included United Farm Workers co-founder Dolores Huerta was any direct update on his presidential aspirations.

Instead, the former U.S. House member praised the Feb. 11 protest of Trump in his hometown of El Paso, which the president visited to make his case for building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

More than 10,000 showed up “not against a man or even his policies, but in an effort to show who we are at our best -- this beautiful, safe city, one of the safest in the United States of America, not because of walls but in spite of walls,” O’Rourke said.

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The protesters “changed the national conversation in some small way,” he added.

O’Rourke said the U.S. must be “a great ambitious country defined not by our smallness or the fear or paranoia that this president seeks to stoke.”

The 46-year-old, who gained a national following during his unsuccessful bid to unseat Republican Senator Ted Cruz in 2018, recently told Oprah Winfrey that he’ll decide whether or not to run for the 2020 Democratic nomination by the end of February.

O’Rourke emerged from November’s elections as one of the hottest prospects in the Democratic field. His relative youth, charisma, savvy use of social media and ability to raise record amounts of money online bolstered his stature, despite his loss to Cruz by 2.5 percentage points -- a narrow defeat in a Deep Red state that Cruz carried in 2012 by 16 points.

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