CONCORD, N.H. — A political group that’s urging Beto O’Rourke to run for the Democratic presidential nomination claims support for their push to ‘draft’ the former congressman from Texas is exploding.
Will Herberich, one of the co-chairs of Draft Beto 2020, told Fox News his political action committee now has an email distribution list of just under 30,000, and “it’s growing fast.”
Herberich was interviewed in Concord, N.H., as Draft Beto held its first organizing event in the state that for a century has held the first primary in the race for the White House.
Democratic state lawmakers, activists and operatives packed into the home of a local attorney and party activist to hear the pitch from the group.
Draft Beto 2020 was formed in late November, weeks after the three-term congressman narrowly lost his bid to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas in November’s midterm elections. O’Rourke raised an eye-popping $80 million during his 2018 campaign, thanks in part to his uplifting message and his mastery of social media. After his better-than-expected performance against Cruz, there were immediate calls by some Democrats for O’Rourke to run for president.
So far, O’Rourke has avoided making any firm commitments about his 2020 plans, instead embarking on a road trip while penning a series of pensive blog posts about his experiences.
But his fans hold out hope. The Beto group said within a few days of forming, it saw thousands of volunteers from all 50 states sign up. The PAC held events two weeks ago in Iowa, the state that kicks off the presidential primary and caucus calendar. Those gatherings drew national attention.
“In both Iowa and New Hampshire, the goal has been to meet prominent leading activists who have been active in a lot of campaigns, who know the state, who we hope will eventually be part of Beto’s organization down the line if he decides to run,” Herberich said.
He added that these house parties give his group “a chance to talk about what we’re doing at Draft Beto, the organization we’re building.”
But he said there’s been no communication between such groups and O’Rourke.
The potential Democratic presidential contender is scheduled to be interviewed by Oprah Winfrey on Feb. 5.
Early public opinion polls suggest O’Rourke would be one of the leading contenders if he launched a presidential campaign, and the posts from his recent soul-searching trip across the country went viral online.
Still, the Democratic primary field has expanded in recent weeks – with Sens. Kamala Harris of California and former San Antonio mayor and former U.S. Housing Secretary Julian Castro declaring their candidacies and Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York launching presidential exploratory committees.
Asked if the lack of any announcement by O’Rourke had dampened enthusiasm, Jay Surdukowski said, “I think if anything, this sort of unorthodox tease that he’s doing, this self-reflection, he’s taking his time. I think it actually has people intrigued. And I think if anything, people are more interested to know whether he’s going to make a bid or not.”
Surdukowski, who hosted the event at his home, had been taking to Twitter for weeks urging O’Rourke to visit New Hampshire.
He touted that the host committee of 25 Democratic activists for the house party “came together in about 24 hours” during the recent three-day holiday weekend. “I was pretty astonished that so many people were willing to talk to folks, organizing for somebody who isn’t even declared in the race.”
He added that the large number of co-hosts “says to me that people want to hear his voice.”
Looking out across his crowded living room, Surdukowski said “a number of you folks were part of the early Obama enthusiasm. I hadn’t felt that in a while and watching what Beto did in Texas was pretty extraordinary.”
The crowd ranged from young activists and lawmakers in their 20’s to political veterans in their 70’s.
Newly elected state Rep. Matt Wilhelm of Manchester said, “we want as many great candidates in the field as possible and seeing what Beto did down in Texas over this last cycle was pretty inspiring.”
“I think as a young person, his message could really resonate here,” he emphasized.