Rival candidates campaigning for the Democratic nomination for president were in North Texas on Friday.
Former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke visited Fort Worth while South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg was at a Dallas County Democratic Party Event.
O’Rourke in Fort Worth
While North Texas is familiar territory for O'Rourke, he's not the only Texan in the race and there are questions how much the hometown status can really help.
This time, O’Rourke returned to Texas as a presidential candidate who plans to build on his 2018 Senate loss.
“Though we did not win our race, we helped Colin Allred win his race and flip the House of Representatives where they are now in the majority,” he said.
O'Rourke addressed a packed crowd at the Flying Saucer in Downtown Fort Worth. While many are supporters, others must still decide whether he's their choice in a crowded Democratic field.
“I'm here to hear what he has to say, pretty much,” said Jen McCown. “I've supported him when he was in the Congressional run, and I'm interested to see. I have been paying as much attention because it's very, very early in the cycle.”
Texas could be a key state in the 2020 Democratic Primary schedule. It's flush with delegates, and it falls as part of the Super Tuesday Primaries.
But some polls indicate O'Rourke is far from a lock to be successful in Texas. An Emerson poll this week suggests he is in a dead heat with former vice president Joe Biden in the Lone Star State.
“I think I've got an advantage being a lifelong Texan and having represented a Congressional district in this state having campaigned and nearly won in this state and having won more votes than any Democrat before me,” O’Rourke said.
While O’Rourke is hopeful enthusiasm will carry over from his last race, a national race is a different ballgame.
“We really count in national politics in a way that we haven't really in my lifetime,” he said.
O'Rourke hit a long list of topics from climate change to health care to immigration. He is then heading to Paul Quinn College on Saturday, where he'll deliver the commencement address.
Buttigieg in Dallas
Pete Buttigieg isn't as well known in North Texas as O'Rourke. But he says O'rourke's showing in the Senate race with Ted Cruz and the fact that he's from a red state point to reasons for hope in Texas.
The 37-year-old South Bend mayor spoke to a friendly crowd at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas. Buttigieg was the guest speaker at a packed event put on by the Dallas County Democratic Party.
“I come from a red state, too. That is full of people who are progressives, who are Democrats, who has a message that needs to be heard,” he said.
Buttigieg, who is openly gay, spent the day speaking to interfaith leaders at the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas, which is a predominately LGBTQ church. He says he’s proud of his sexuality but doesn't want it to define his candidacy.
“As someone whose marriage depends on the grace of a single vote in the US Supreme Court, I feel that acutely,” he said. “But we’re also building a campaign that speaks to everybody.”
Buttigieg's campaign is on the rise and connecting largely with white, Millennial voters.
According to the latest Quinnipiac poll released on Tuesday, Buttigieg is polling at 10 percent, just behind well-known senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Former vice president Joe Biden remains the frontrunner.
And while the race for the White House in 2020 has really just begun, Buttigieg is already looking beyond the primaries and is setting his sights on a match-up with President Donald Trump.
“I couldn’t be more different from the current president, and I look forward to having a chance — head to head — to demonstrate what those differences will mean to American lives,” he said.
Buttigieg didn't address key issues like immigration. He says his focus right now is on introducing himself to potential voters.