Presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke made his name as a national Democrat in Texas last year when he nearly unseated Republican Sen. Ted Cruz. In an interview on “60 Minutes” days before the election, O’Rourke insisted he would not run for president in 2020.
“I don’t wanna do it. I will not do it. Amy and I are raisin’ an 11-year-old, a 10-year-old and a 7-year-old. And we spent the better part of the last two years not with each other, missing birthdays and anniversaries and time together. And we – we – our – our family could not survive more of that. We – we need to be together,” O’Rourke told “60 Minutes” correspondent Jon Wertheim.
“CBS This Morning” co-host Gayle King asked O’Rourke about the shift, noting, “I know everybody has a right to change their mind.”
“What changed for you and the family?” King asked.
“After the campaign that we ran for Texas and after election night, the best decision was made by my wife, Amy, where she said, ‘There are lots of people who are talkin’ about us doin’ lots of different things. Let’s instead of trying to figure that out right now, just spend some time as a family’ … That’s really what we did,” O’Rourke said, adding, “We were able to see just how resilient and strong our kids were. And as Amy and I came closer to making this decision, we didn’t have a sit-down conversation with our kids. They just voluntary started offering advice. ‘Hey, Dad, if you run, this is how I think you should do it. Or, ‘Hey, Dad, you’ve gotta run because of this or that issue.’ These were the conversations on the ride home from school or—”
“On their own they would encourage you?” King asked.
“On their own,” he said.
“Unsolicited. And I honestly did not expect that. But I think they’re just as sensitive to what’s going on in the world right now. They understand that they will inherit the consequences of the choices that you and I make at this moment. And they’re counting on us to make the right ones,” King said.
King also asked about already facing criticism from President Trump.
“President Trump has already weighed in on your candidacy. He said this about you this morning. ‘. Is he crazy? Or is that just the way he acts?’ You do have a lot of hand movement,” King said. “I’m not saying that’s good or bad. But there are a lot of hand movements.”
“Yeah, I’m pretty – I’m pretty animated,” O’Rourke said with a smile. “I remember when we were campaigning in Texas. Someone pulled me aside and said, ‘Hey, I just wanna give you some free advice. You move around too much when – when you talk.’ I am who I am. And – and I really do think that we all want to get past the pettiness, the personal attacks. We’ve got some real big challenges in front of us and some extraordinary opportunities. Let’s make the most of ’em. And let’s do that together. Let’s not put anybody down. Instead, let’s lift each other up.”
O’Rourke has been described as a “star” and “loser” in the same sentence, King noted.
“‘Star’ because look what he did in Texas with that race. You came within three percentage points in a deep red state. ‘Loser’ because at the end of the day he lost the race,” King said. “What do you say to that… ‘He couldn’t win in his own state. How can he win the country?'”
“Yeah. I lost that race. But in the process of running that campaign, we were able to help change the face of democracy in Texas,” O’Rourke said, adding, “So many young people who understand that their voice and their vote will make a difference in their future. So many candidates who were running along with us who won their elections that might not otherwise have been able to do so… In some way we part of some much larger victory – for our state, for our country. And now Texas counts.”
“So where’s the loser part of that sentence?” King asked.
“Well, I lost the race. And – and I tell you that at the end of the day, squarely that is on me,” O’Rourke said. “And it’s a recognition that you can always do a better job. There’s always the ability to learn from your mistakes. But in so doing, I don’t wanna lose sight of the fact that we got to be part of a tremendous movement and community whose power still persists long after that election.”
King also asked about the crowded Democratic field of candidates, with more women and people of color running than ever before.
“Some could say it’s the way the party is leaning that maybe the voters are signaling that’s the candidate we want. Do you feel at a disadvantage as a white man – as a privileged white man, they say about you?” King asked.
“I don’t feel at a disadvantage. And at the same time, I feel extraordinarily grateful that the Democratic Party has produced so many extraordinary candidates, each of whom brings a different set of skills and life experiences and background,” O’Rourke said. “This is a great moment for America. It’s a great moment for the Democratic Party. And I count myself so lucky to be a part of it.”
“I really want to see, Beto, why you feel so strongly that you are the one,” King said. “When you really sat down in your heart of hearts and said, you know, ‘I want this job.'”
“Yeah. I’ll tell you, this is very much a personal decision, one that I made with my family, with my wife, Amy. And when we think about what’s going on in this country, and when we think about our kids and their future, we really do then look back at ourselves and our responsibility to do everything we can,” O’Rourke said.