Beto O'Rourke, a skateboarding former punk rocker feted as one of the Democratic Party's rising stars, announced Thursday he is running for president -- joining a crowded field of candidates vying to challenge Donald Trump in 2020.
O'Rourke has been discussed as a potential frontrunner since dazzling the grassroots during an unexpectedly tight race last year to unseat Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, his charismatic stump performances and message of inclusion turning heads in Washington.
On Thursday morning, he was already taking questions from voters in Keokuk, Iowa -- following in the footsteps of other Democrats keen to raise their profiles in the state that will vote before any other in the 2020 primary process.
He has vowed to run a positive campaign that would seek to "bring out the very best from every single one of us" and unite a country riven by political, social and cultural fissures.
"Man, I'm just born to be in it, and want to do everything I humanly can for this country at this moment," he said.
O'Rourke has entered a pool of 14 other Democrats seeking to oust Trump.
The last main piece of the 2020 election puzzle on the Democrats' side is former vice president Joe Biden, who has said he will reveal his political plans soon.
To one Iowan's question on running alongside so many other Democrats, O'Rourke said it was "critically important that we not denigrate, demean any other candidate."
"Any single Democrat running today... would be far better than the current occupant of the White House," he said to applause.
O'Rourke, a bassist in the moderately successful El Paso band Foss who became known for going skateboarding to blow off steam on the Texas campaign trail, has been tipped to quickly achieve rockstar status.
But that will come with intensifying scrutiny from the media, Democratic power brokers and donors, as well as voters.
But in his Senate run, he ran an unconventional campaign, espousing progressive positions on immigration and health care, while traveling to every county in strongly Republican Texas in a bid to heal political divisions.
In Thursday's announcement he broadened his political vision with promises to prioritize criminal justice reform and tackle climate change.
On immigration -- one of the most divisive issues of Trump's presidency -- O'Rourke called for legal paths for immigrants "to work, to be with family and to flee persecution."
His native El Paso, which borders Mexico's Ciudad Juarez, was recently visited by the president for a rally filled with dire warnings about Mexican criminals and calls for bigger and longer border walls.
"All of us, wherever you live, can acknowledge that if immigration is a problem it's the best possible problem for this country to have," O'Rourke insisted.
O'Rourke's 2018 campaign was time-consuming and he signaled that he felt disconnected from family as a result.
"My family hasn't seen me," he told Oprah Winfrey in February. "I haven't been there for them."
His disappointment about his narrow defeat was clear when he embarked on a low-key road trip and blogged about the experience, writing on January 16 that he has been "in and out of a funk." But it also showed a candidate appearing to enjoy himself.
He could be seen skateboarding between events. He jammed onstage with country music legend Willie Nelson, and pledged to "listen to everyone, regardless of the differences."
In a new documentary on his improbable Senate campaign, "Running with Beto," the rising star offered sage advice for candidates like himself: "Run like there's nothing to lose.
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