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Tuesday 22 January 2019

'Draft Beto' plan aims to convince O'Rourke to run for White House

New hope: Democrat Beto O’Rourke with his wife Amy after conceding to Ted Cruz in November. Photo: Adria Malcolm/Reuters
New hope: Democrat Beto O’Rourke with his wife Amy after conceding to Ted Cruz in November. Photo: Adria Malcolm/Reuters

Michael Scherer

A 'Beto O'Rourke for president' campaign in 2020 plan has been launched - without his backing.

The strategy it is hoped will convince the as yet undecided former congressman to run for the White House.

The Democrat presidential possibility who has done the least to prepare for a run is now poised to benefit from an early-state campaign organisation - albeit one that operates independently, works for free and puts its fundraising dollars in escrow for now.

The effort to encourage Texas Democrat O'Rourke into the race, DraftBeto.org, has distinguished itself from similarly named efforts by attracting sought-after talent to its ranks, including two leaders of former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley's 2016 presidential campaign.

Mr O'Malley, who wrote last week in the 'Des Moines Register' that he sees Mr O'Rourke as "the new leader who can bring us together", has been encouraging the effort behind the scenes, after meeting privately in December with Mr O'Rourke in Washington, DC.

That enthusiasm helped push former O'Malley advisers in South Carolina, consultant Tyler Jones and former legislator Boyd Brown, to volunteer for the group.

They were joined by Michael Soneff, a former communications adviser to the Nevada Democratic Party, who has taken on the task of organising Nevada and California.

The group has been interviewing potential Iowa operatives as well, with the hopes of announcing a new adviser in that state later this week.

"I had a long conversation with Governor O'Malley," said Mr Brown, who co-chaired Mr O'Malley's 2016 campaign in South Carolina. "Martin's words to me were, 'I am seeing green lights and some yellow lights, but no red lights'."

Mr Brown said a friend had connected him with Mr O'Rourke and they had "traded texts" that did not include any admission from Mr O'Rourke of his presidential ambitions.

Mr O'Malley did not respond to requests for comment.

A spokesperson for Mr O'Rourke said the congressman was not in contact with the Draft Beto effort.

"I have got experience building campaign structure in South Carolina, and if I need to hand it off, I will hand it off," Mr Brown said. "We are taking a shot in the dark here."

Mr O'Rourke became a Democratic star last year after raising nearly $79m (€68m) in his losing race against Republican senator Ted Cruz.

Since then, Mr O'Rourke has fanned speculation that he is leaning towards a presidential campaign by backing away from the denials he made during the Senate race and meeting with former president Barack Obama.

Draft efforts have been a mainstay of presidential politics since the advent of online fundraising.

The current Draft Beto effort differs from the others in that all the fundraising so far has been for an ActBlue account that will be held in escrow and then delivered to Mr O'Rourke's campaign should he decide to run. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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