His background as a former member of punk rock bands also endeared himself to younger fans.
O'Rourke jumped into the presidential race on Thursday after months of hinting and soul-searching. Which current candidate has the most to fear from his run? And, as a white man, he's entering a field that has been celebrated for its diverse roster of women and people and color.
"We saw the power of this in Texas, where people allowed no difference, however great or however small, to stand between them and divide us", the former congressman said, referring to his failed bid to unseat GOP Sen. What the central policy tenets of his campaign are remain to be seen. In the 115th Congress, O'Rourke voted with President Trump 30 percent of the time, a much higher rate than many of his primary rivals.
O'Rourke's 2018 Senate campaign didn't fit the usual mold. Beyonce, a Houston native, endorsed O'Rourke. According to the latest edition of Vanity Fair, Mr O'Rourke said: "You can probably tell that I want to run. I do".
Hours after formally announcing his bid for the presidency in 2020, Democrat Beto O'Rourke showed up at a coffee house in Keokuk, Iowa, to give an impromptu question-and-answer session.
Seated next to his wife, O'Rourke said, "Amy and I are happy to share with you that I'm running to serve you as the next president of the United States of America". Ted Cruz in Texas - though not good enough to actually win his Senate seat.
The Texan's advisers have reached out to early-state Democratic officials seeking advice for potential hires and strategy.
But O'Rourke's momentum seemed to be revived in a big way last month amid the debate over building a wall along the Mexican border - right along his hometown of El Paso.
Mr. O'Rourke launched his campaign in an online video and made the first of a series of campaign stops Thursday in Iowa, where the Democratic nomination contest will kick off next year. His trademark black-and-white "Beto for Senate" signs became hipster must-haves previous year in some parts of Seattle, Los Angeles and Brooklyn. He raised about $80 million for his bid, most of it from small-dollar donations, and amassed a nationwide grassroots following while eschewing traditional campaign methods.