Beto O’Rourke didn’t completely shoot down the idea of running for president on Monday during a town hall meeting in El Paso.
While far from a declaration he’ll do it, O’Rourke’s first public refusal to completely reject the idea represents a major victory for supporters who were calling on O’Rourke to build a campaign for the White House even before he lost his bid for the U.S. Senate. Just four weeks ago, O’Rourke told reporters in Houston that he would not be a candidate for president no matter if he won or lost the U.S. Senate race.
But in the town hall meeting in El Paso Monday that was streamed on Facebook, the 46-year-old congressman had a new answer when asked by an audience member if he is running for president in 2020. For nearly a minute and a half, O’Rourke talked without saying no.
O’Rourke said he and his wife Amy are focused on “being together as a family” and “making sure I deliver everything that I can to the people I represent until the third of January. Then Amy and I will think about what we can do next to contribute to the best of our ability to this community.”
WATCH: Beto O’Rourke casts ballot in Texas Senate race
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz beat O’Rourke on Nov. 6 by an estimated 219,000 votes, according to unofficial election results. But even with that loss, O’Rourke’s presidential stock has been rising. Both CNN and the Washington Post have the El Paso native among the top 10 potential Democratic contenders heading toward 2020.
O’Rourke’s narrow defeat in such a Republican-dominated state, plus his ability to raise record amounts of money as a U.S. Senate candidate, have put him on a short list of prospects that includes former Vice President Joe Biden, former presidential contender Bernie Sanders and U.S. Sens Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris.
WATCH: O’Rourke’s supporters frustrated after Ted Cruz defeat
O’Rourke used a big part of his Monday town hall to decry the border crisis in California, where tear gas was used on asylum seekers at the border. O’Rourke said the images of families carrying infants as they tried to escape tear gas was hard to comprehend.
“There are moments for which we are ashamed afterwards when we didn’t do the right thing,” O’Rourke said.
O’Rourke then referenced a German ocean liner that was turned away from U.S. shores in 1939 with over 900 Jewish refugees on board.
He also addressed the aylum seekers in a mass email to supporters early Monday.
“Let’s do this the right way and follow our own laws,” O’Rourke wrote. “Allow asylum seekers to petition for asylum at our ports of entry. They must do so peacefully and follow our laws; but we must also ensure the capacity to effectively and timely process those claims.”