By Madlin Mekelburg
Former presidential candidate Martin O'Malley said he won't be running for president again in 2020, but he knows who he wants to see at the top of the Democratic ticket: Beto O'Rourke.
O'Malley, the former Maryland governor whose underdog campaign in 2016 ended when he performed poorly in the Iowa caucuses, said the El Paso Democrat who challenged U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz should run against President Donald Trump in 2020. He cited O'Rourke's "fearless vision and unifying message."
"In his courageous run for U.S. Senate in Texas, O'Rourke ran a disciplined and principled campaign that also managed to be raw, authentic, and real," O'Malley wrote in a guest column for the Des Moines Register on Thursday. "He spoke to the American values of honesty, compassion for one another, and courage in the face of a rapidly changing future. These are the American values alive and well in the hearts of our young people. These are the values which tell us where America is headed."
"And with these values, O'Rourke very nearly defeated the incumbent senator and Republican runner-up for president -- in Texas," he wrote.
O'Rourke has dodged questions about his political future since the November election, when he fell three points short of unseating Cruz after nearly two years campaigning. He raised record-breaking money during his run for the seat and made an impression on Democrats across the country.
O'Rourke, whose time as a congressman will end on Thursday when his successor Veronica Escobar is sworn into office, has revealed little about his future plans.
"Though it's now five-plus weeks since the election, I'm no closer to deciding," O'Rourke told reporters in El Paso in December when asked whether he would run for president in 2020. "I thought I would have a level of clarity or an epiphany at this point. I think part of it is that we are trying to finish the job and make sure we honor our responsibilities to the people of El Paso."
In a separate conversation with reporters, O'Rourke indicated that he would make a decision one way or the other in the New Year.
Other potential candidates for president have already emerged: Former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro is expected to announce his intentions to run later this month and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said Wednesday that she is forming an exploratory committee for a presidential run.
O'Rourke fueled speculation that he is seriously considering a presidential run after it was reported that he met with former President Barack Obama to seek guidance.
For O'Malley, O'Rourke's "fearless vision and unifying message" make him the ideal candidate to face Trump in 2020.
He also applauded O'Rourke's stance on the border and said his leadership style is one that focuses on "openness, transparency, and performance."
"O'Rourke has the wisdom to listen, the courage to lead, and a rock-solid faith in the powerful goodness of our nation," O'Malley wrote.
(c)2019 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas)