Possible O'Rourke White House bid spurs action to mobilize students

(Reuters) - A Democratic group seeking to persuade former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke to run for president will launch mobilization efforts on college campuses nationwide to coincide with what they believe will be his entry into the race by month's end.

The Draft Beto campaign, founded in December by former staffers to O'Rourke and to former President Barack Obama, is organizing "Students for Beto" chapters on roughly 100 campuses in about 30 primary and general election states, said Nate Lerner, a Democratic strategist and co-founder of DraftBeto.org.

"Our goal is to replicate the model and success of Beto's student outreach efforts during the midterms," Lerner told Reuters on Wednesday. "Winning the Millennial vote will be key for Beto in both the Democratic primary and to defeat Trump."

O'Rourke, 46, has said he will decide by the end of February if he will enter the already crowded Democratic field seeking to challenge Republican President Donald Trump in next year's election.

Chris Evans, a spokesman for O’Rourke, said in an email: “We are not coordinating with the Draft Beto movement. Beto’s Senate campaign put a historic emphasis on investing in and following the lead of college students and young people.”

Lerner, also a former Obama staffer, said he had not spoken to O'Rourke or those in his inner circle in recent days but that he expected the former congressman to run.

O'Rourke received huge support from young Texans after campaigning at many colleges during his bid to unseat Republican Ted Cruz from the U.S. Senate but narrowly lost in November.

O'Rourke garnered 61 percent of voters aged 18-34, a 23 percentage point advantage over Cruz, according to the Reuters/Ipsos Election Day poll conducted online with voters on election day.

In addition to weighing a White House bid, O'Rourke said at a lunch honoring him in his native El Paso on Tuesday that he had not ruled out being a 2020 vice presidential candidate or challenging Texas's other Republican U.S. senator, John Cornyn, when Cornyn seeks re-election next year.

Speculation around O'Rourke's plans has mounted this month after several high-profile public appearances. He sat for an interview with Oprah Winfrey in New York and held a rival rally to decry Trump's immigration policy as the president promoted his planned border wall in El Paso. He also visited the general election battleground state of Wisconsin last week.

(Reporting by Tim Reid in Los Angeles; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, James Dalgleish and Leslie Adler)

02/20/2019 19:48

News, Photo and Web Search