Former President Barack Obama is singing the praises of Rep. Beto O’Rourke and identifying some similarities between himself and the Texas Democrat after a close Senate race.
Obama discussed O’Rourke in a new interview with his former chief strategist, David Axelrod, for CNN’s “Axe Files” podcast.
The former president acknowledged that he was pleased with the results of the 2018 midterm elections, but Axelrod pressed him on one specific issue — “Beto-mania,” and what role he sees the defeated Democrat taking in the future.
“Impressive young man who ran a terrific race in Texas,” Obama said. “And what I liked most about his race was that it didn’t feel constantly poll-tested.”
Listen to the full interview below (the conversation on O’Rourke begins around 1:03:30):
Obama singled out O’Rourke’s authenticity and convictions, traits he says he looks for in a 2020 presidential candidate:
“It felt as if he based his statements and his positions on what he believed. And that — you’d like to think is normally how things work. Sadly, it’s not. You know, I think you and I would both agree that in 2008, and hopefully pretty consistently all the way through, that the reason I was able to make a connection with a sizable portion of the country was people had a sense that I said what I meant. And that’s a quality that, as I look at what I’m sure will be a strong field of candidates in 2020, many of whom are friends of mine and people I deeply respect — what I often times am looking for first and foremost is, do you seem to mean it? Are you in this thing because you have a strong set of convictions that you are willing to risk things for?”
But Obama wasn’t exactly endorsing O’Rourke for the presidency. The former president explained that he felt other potential candidates had those same qualities as well and that O’Rourke isn’t “unique in that.”
Obama explained that standing by one’s beliefs in a heated race regardless of the potential impact of doing so isn’t easy.
“And being able to sustain that and maintain that in the heat of battle when the spotlight’s on and there are significant risks, and you taking that position may lead you to lose that race that you’ve invested so much in,” he said. “That’s the test I want to see somebody pass.”