Beto O'Rourke returned to the campaign trail Thursday with a speech in his hometown of El Paso. The former Texas congressman, who had effectively suspended his campaign after the earlier this month, laid out a new approach to his candidacy. He said that instead of prioritizing early-voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire, he would instead concentrate on communities where President Trump has been "terrorizing, and terrifying and demeaning our fellow Americans."
"As we head back on the campaign trail today, I know there is a way to do this better. And that came to me last week someone asked if I was going to be heading back," O'Rourke, who has repeatedly accused the president of racism in recent weeks, said. "And I said, 'No, I can't go back for that, but I also can't go back to that.'"
During the speech, O'Rourke also announced plans to immediately visit Mississippi in the wake of the ICE raids that detained 680 people last week. O'Rourke also said he would travel to Arkansas, where he will keynote the Arkansas Democratic Party's Third Annual Clinton Dinner.
"Anyone that this president puts down, we're going to do our best to lift up," O'Rourke said.
While O'Rourke assured reporters after the speech that he would still continue to visit early voting states, he said voters must be reassured that "when we say that everyone counts, we really mean that everyone counts."
"The stories that we learn in Mississippi might be applicable, not just to the people who live there, but to the people of his country including in Iowa and New Hampshire," O'Rourke said.
"We have to make sure that everyone's story is brought in. And if we restrict ourselves to only being in the early nominating states we will have failed that incredibly important task," he added.
O'Rourke, who has seen a precipitous drop in the polls since he announced his candidacy in March, also insisted that he would not abandon his presidential campaign and run for a U.S. Senate seat instead. Earlier this week, The Houston Chronicle editorial board echoed the concerns of some national Democrats when it implored O'Rourke to switch gears and challenge Republican Sen. John Cornyn.
"There have even been some who have suggested that I stay in Texas and run for Senate. But that would not be good enough for this community. That would not be good enough for El Paso. That would not be good enough for this country. We must take the fight directly to the source of this problem. That person who has caused this pain and placed this country in this moment of peril and that is Donald Trump," O'Rourke said.
O'Rourke also addressed gun control, saying that he had demurred on supporting a mandatory buyback of assault-style rifles because it was not a "politically easy" position to take.
"Now beyond a shadow of a doubt regardless of what it does to our prospects going forward, you've got to speak the truth and be clear about what the solutions are," he said. "I know that we, as Americans, can find a way to do this, that's fair to all concerned, but at the end of the day saves more lives than we're saving now."