(Reuters) – Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke will launch his 2020 presidential bid on Thursday, ending months of speculation about whether he would join the sprawling field of Democrats vying for the chance to run against President Donald Trump.
O’Rourke, who gained a national following with his long-shot election battle against U.S. Senator Ted Cruz last year, will make his announcement via video on social media at 7:30 a.m. EDT (1130 GMT), a source close to the campaign said.
He is expected to immediately set out on a campaign swing through Iowa, which holds the first Democratic nominating contest in February 2020.
Beyond a previously announced event in Waterloo, Iowa on Saturday, O’Rourke is expected to visit other towns in eastern Iowa, traditionally a Democratic stronghold, Politico said.
The trip will serve as the first test of whether O’Rourke can carry to the national political stage the pop-star appeal he showed in Texas last year, drawing enthusiastic crowds and $80 million in campaign donations.
O’ Rourke heads to Iowa amid some signs his popularity there has waned in the past several weeks, as he has publicly deliberated about a run while more than a dozen Democrats leapt into the race.
An influential Iowa poll released last week showed O’Rourke as the first choice of just 5 percent of Democratic voters, behind four contenders, including former Vice President Joe Biden, who has not yet declared a bid, and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders.
When the Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom poll was first run in December, O’Rourke placed third, the top choice of 11 percent. In an encouraging sign, however, a third of respondents said they did not know enough about him to have an opinion.
O’Rourke, 47, served three terms in Congress representing a region of West Texas along the U.S. border with Mexico.
His initial challenge in the Democratic presidential race will be to distinguish himself from candidates sharing his positions on key progressive issues, such as universal health care and refusing donations from corporate political action committees.