DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke has joined the ranks of the Democrats running for president in 2020.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
He made the announcement this morning in a video with his wife sitting beside him and followed up with his first campaign stop in Iowa.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
BETO O'ROURKE: I am all ears right now. There's no sense in campaigning if you already know every single answer, if you're not willing to listen to those whom you wish to serve. And that's what brought me here along with hopefully a cup of coffee.
GREENE: I am joined by NPR lead political editor Domenico Montanaro to talk to us about this.
DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Good morning, David.
GREENE: OK, so an announcement video - long, full of a lot of policy pronouncements. What did you make of it?
MONTANARO: Well, it's definitely optimistic, you know? I mean, when you look at this Democratic field and you think of it as a lot of people who are fighters, who want to go against President Trump, who believe the country needs to go in a different direction, O'Rourke is doing that too but in kind of this optimistic way. You saw him sitting there on the couch with his wife, holding hands, while he looks like he wants to kind of get outside and hold a major rally. (Laughter) He's promising to do that March 30 in El Paso. But he spent the night, by the way, in Iowa. So no surprise there that he's then decided to...
GREENE: Something happening in that state coming up in a number of months.
MONTANARO: (Laughter) Right.
GREENE: That's where you go when you're getting ready to run for president, I guess. So he's a Texas native. He's from a border district. Immigration - I mean, something he talks about a lot. And let's listen to some of what he said in the announcement video.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
O'ROURKE: All of us, wherever you live, can acknowledge that if immigration is a problem, it's the best possible problem for this country to have. And we should ensure that there are lawful paths to work, to be with family and to flee persecution.
GREENE: Is this a winning issue for him?
MONTANARO: It's fascinating because, you know, Republicans have really been using immigration as a wedge issue with Democrats and being able to fire up their base. It's certainly going to be something of a controversial line that will catch a lot of Republicans' ears. But I guess what - his point is that the country is so attractive to other people that they want to come to the U.S. Sure, something needs to be figured out what to do with it. But he's trying to paint an optimistic picture of what the country is. And remember. This is somebody who, during the - during that Texas Senate campaign, even people like Barack Obama praised him for leaning in on thorny issues. And it certainly appears he's ready and willing to do that again on immigration.
GREENE: Well, so that Senate bid - I mean, he came close to beating incumbent Republican Ted Cruz. A lot of people said, I mean, close was almost a victory. But he lost. I mean, he's a former congressman, failed Senate candidate now. Is that a good resume to have if you want to be a successful presidential candidate?
MONTANARO: Well, it is odd because, you know, the old saying is, like - what? - you come close is - close is only good in grenades and horseshoes.
MONTANARO: And, you know, the fact is he's going to have to overcome what he's most famous for, which is a loss to Ted Cruz. Yes, it was a close campaign. He raised presidential amounts of money. Let's see if he can match the enthusiasm levels that he had during that campaign - the big crowds. Let's see if he can match the kind of money that he raised. Remember. Bernie Sanders has already raised something like $10 million or more within those first 48 hours. So let's see if Beto O'Rourke can come close to some of that.
GREENE: So it's a crowded field, to say the least. How many Democrats do we have, at this point, announcing?
MONTANARO: More than a dozen - you've got 15 people now in the race. And the big name that we're all still waiting on is Joe Biden, the former vice president. It really is a wide, ideologically diverse field that is forming.
GREENE: OK. NPR lead political editor Domenico Montanaro - Domenico, thanks.
MONTANARO: You're so welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.