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O’Rourke clarifies position: Push Biden, but support him

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O’Rourke clarifies position: Push Biden, but support him

Feb 27, 2024 | 8:36 am ET
By Andrew Roth
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O’Rourke clarifies position: Push Biden, but support him
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Beto O'Rourke campaigns in Ferndale, March 18, 2019 | Susan J. Demas

Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) said voters concerned about President Joe Biden’s handling of issues such as the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza or the humanitarian crisis at the southern border can push the president on those issues while still supporting him in a likely rematch with former President Donald Trump.

O’Rourke faced criticism from some Democrats after expressing support for a campaign asking voters unhappy with Biden’s handling of the conflict in Gaza to vote “uncommitted” in Michigan’s Democratic presidential primary during an interview with the Michigan Advance published Saturday.

But in an email sent Sunday through his voting rights organization, Powered By People, O’Rourke added more context to his position, placing additional emphasis on the fact that he ultimately supports Biden’s reelection.

“Donald Trump is the single greatest threat to our democracy. Our best chance to defeat him is to support Joe Biden in this election,” O’Rourke said. “Amy and I voted for him in the Texas primary [last] Tuesday and are looking forward to voting for him again in November.”

Beto O’Rourke supports uncommitted campaign in Michigan’s Tuesday presidential primary

“This president has done an extraordinary job of improving our economy, confronting the climate crisis, reducing childhood poverty and fending off the very worst of Donald Trump and the Republican Party’s mounting attacks on our most fundamental freedoms,” O’Rourke continued.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in an interview with NBC News that she expects uncommitted to receive a “sizeable” number of votes, viewing it as possible that organizers’ goal of receiving 10,000 votes is reached.

“I think that it is every person’s right to make their statement about what’s important to them. We know that the Arab community, the Palestinian community, the Muslim community, those are not all one in the same. There’s a lot of pain. There’s a lot of pain in our Jewish community, too,” Whitmer said.

“At the end of the day, I am advocating that people cast an affirmative vote for Joe Biden because anything other than that makes it more likely we see a second Trump term, and that’s bad for all the communities,” Whitmer said.

O’Rourke previously told the Michigan Advance that “I do think it makes sense for those who want to see this administration do more, or do a better job, to exert that political pressure and get the president’s attention and the attention of those on his campaign so that the United States does better,” adding that he agrees with “the aims and the goals.”

“I know that Joe Biden is a good man. I know that he wants to do the right thing. Sometimes political pressure helps a president get there, and that may be what’s needed now,” O’Rourke said in the interview.

 While O’Rourke elaborated on his stance, he stopped short of walking back his comments.

“Of course, there are areas where many of us would like to see this country do more. Whether it’s the humanitarian crisis at the border or the staggering loss of life in Gaza, I am confident that as we push the administration to make progress on these big, complicated challenges, he will listen and respond to our concerns,” O’Rourke said. “Unlike Donald Trump, he believes deeply in our democracy and the people that he serves.”

The war began after the militant group Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing more than 1,200 Israelis and taking 253 hostages, including Americans. Since then, the death toll has topped 29,000, with more than 67,000 injured, per Gaza’s Hamas-controlled health ministry.

Biden said Monday that he believes a ceasefire in Gaza could be coming soon.

“My national security advisor tells me that we’re close. We’re close, we’re not done yet,” Biden said. “My hope is by next Monday we’ll have a ceasefire.”

Both Biden and Trump are planning competing trips to Texas on Thursday to visit the southern border.

O’Rourke, who ran for president in 2020 before dropping out to endorse Biden, pointed to issues such as reproductive rights and democracy as additional examples of issues where “the only way we come through for this country is by helping President Biden defeat Trump.”

O’Rourke clarifies position: Push Biden, but support him

“I will do everything in my power to help the president do that, and I hope you will, too,” O’Rourke ended the email.

The Texas Democrat was also the party’s nominee for U.S. Senate in 2018, challenging U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and for governor in 2022, challenging Gov. Greg Abbott, though he was defeated in both races.

O’Rourke previously said in an interview with the Michigan Advance that he is hopeful Democrats will invest more heavily in Texas going forward.

To make the case, O’Rourke pointed to the results in Texas of the last three presidential elections: Former President Barack Obama lost the state by 16 points in 2012; former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lost it by 9 points in 2016; and Biden lost it by 5.5 points in 2020.

“In each of those instances, the national party, the national nominee, spent close to nothing in Texas. That’s just the direction that we are moving,” O’Rourke said. “With 40 Electoral College votes, the day a Democrat wins Texas is the day the door to the White House is closed to the Republican nominee. It doesn’t diminish or take away from how important more traditional battleground states like Michigan are, because we have to win them, but we do need to expand the map and force the Trump campaign to fight on all fronts. And the biggest of those fronts is going to be in Texas.”