LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke is heading to the early presidential voting state of Iowa this weekend, fuelling speculation that the Democrat is poised to enter the White House race.
FILE PHOTO: Beto O’Rourke speaks to Oprah Winfrey during a taping of her TV show in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, U.S., Feb. 5, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo
O’Rourke said last week he had made a decision about whether to seek the Democratic nomination for president. A trip to Iowa on Saturday, where the first votes in the nominating contest will be cast in February, suggests his entry into the race is imminent.
In an announcement posted on Twitter, Eric Giddens, an Iowa Democrat who is running in a special election for a state senate seat, said his campaign workers and O’Rourke will be urging students this Saturday at the University of Northern Iowa to vote in his election race.
The tweet by Giddens was accompanied by a video of O’Rourke speaking from his home city of El Paso, Texas, wearing a University of Northern Iowa baseball cap and urging UNI students to vote for Giddens.
“Supporting him for state Senate is the way that we get Iowa, and by extension, this country, back on the right track,” O’Rourke says. “UNI, we’re counting on you, and we’re looking forward to seeing you soon. Adios.”
Chris Evans, a spokesman for O’Rourke, confirmed in an email to Reuters that O’Rourke will be in Waterloo, Iowa, campaigning for Giddens on Saturday afternoon. He did not respond to requests about whether O’Rourke was planning to run for president.
With its position as first in the nation status when it comes to presidential nominating battles, Iowa can sometimes make or break candidacies and is an early and frequent destination for White House hopefuls.
Other Democratic presidential candidates have already visited Iowa ahead of O’Rourke’s visit.
O’Rourke, 46, rose to national prominence last year when he narrowly lost his bid to defeat Republican U.S. Senator Ted Cruz.
O’Rourke had previously said he would decide by the end of February if he would launch a White House campaign, and speculation around his plans mounted after several high-profile public appearances.
He sat for an interview with Oprah Winfrey in New York and held a rival rally last month to decry Trump’s immigration policy as the president promoted his planned border wall in El Paso. He has also visited the general election battleground state of Wisconsin.
Reporting by Tim Reid; Editing by Robert Birsel