Former Congressman Beto O’Rourke rebranded his presidential campaign on Thursday, promising to avoid frivolous activities like the Iowa State Fair and focus on serious, existential threats to the United States like Donald Trump’s administration and firearm ownership, alongside illegal immigrant communities.
“I’m confident that if at this moment we do not wake to this threat, then we, as a country, will die in our sleep,” he said in a speech in El Paso, Texas, announcing his return to the 2020 presidential race. This speech marks O’Rourke’s second campaign reboot — after a “reintroduction,” in the words of his staff, in May after the initial buzz from his campaign announcement died down.
During his speech, O’Rourke scoffed at the “corn dogs and Ferris wheels” campaign optics at the Iowa State Fair and said he would campaign with immigrant communities instead.
“I said, ‘No I can’t go back for that, but I also cannot go back to that,’” he said, referring to the state where he is polling at less than one percent.
He promised to visit and comfort immigrants to help them survive their fear of Trump’s actions and rhetoric.
“To those places, where Donald Trump has been terrorizing and terrifying and demeaning our fellow Americans, that’s where you will find me in this campaign,” he said.
O’Rourke said his next campaign stop would be in Mississippi to be with the families of deported illegal immigrants after a recent Immigrations and Customs Enforcement raid of food processing plants in the state.
“Anyone that this president puts down, we are going to do our best to lift up,” he said.
O’Rourke demanded that more Americans face and acknowledge the racism that existed in the country in order to change it.
“We have a racism in America that is as old as America itself,” he said.
O’Rourke also addressed Texas Democrats who urged him to abandon his campaign to challenge Texas Senator John Cornyn instead.
“I love El Paso. There’s even been some that have suggested I stay in Texas and run for senate, but that would not be good enough for this community, that would not be good enough for El Paso, that would not be good enough for this country,” he said.
O’Rourke said that the United States needed a leader who could help heal racial divides in the country.
“We must take the fight directly to the source of this problem, that person who has caused this pain, and placed this country in this moment of peril and that is Donald Trump,” he said. “I want to be the leader for this country that we need right now and that we do not have.”
O’Rourke also detailed his support for more gun control, including universal background checks, red flag laws, ending the sale of “assault” weapons, and a national buyback program to get them off the streets.
“We have too many guns,” he said. “Too many people who own them and use them and threaten us with them right now for the good of this country.”