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Former congressman Beto O’Rourke pushed back Monday against criticism that he feels entitled to the Democratic presidential nomination, telling the PBS NewsHour that he believed he was “born to serve,” not “born” to be president.
“I feel like I was born to serve people. I don’t feel like I was born to be president of the United States. I don’t think anybody’s born to be president of the United States. I’m not entitled to anything,” O’Rourke told the NewsHour Monday night after a town hall in Des Moines.
The Texas Democrat had been heavily criticized after a saying in a Vanity Fair profile released days before announcing his campaign in March that he was “born to be in it.”
O’Rourke has yet to break into the top tier of candidates in a crowded, historically diverse Democratic primary field. The latest Real Clear Politics polling average has him in a distant sixth place, behind former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and other 2020 rivals.
But O’Rourke dismissed concerns about his poll numbers with nine months before the Iowa caucuses.
“There’s a lot of time left, a lot of voters yet to meet, a lot of questions left to answer,” said O’Rourke, who was making his third trip to Iowa since launching his White House bid. “I’m in for the distance.”
O’Rourke touted a recent CNN poll that shows him beating President Donald Trump in a head-to-head matchup by 10 points, a wider margin than any other Democratic candidate.
READ MORE: What does Beto O’Rourke believe? Where the candidate stands on 8 issues
Last week, O’Rourke unveiled his first signature policy proposal: a $5 trillion dollar climate change plan. It remains the only comprehensive plan on his campaign website, but he told the NewsHour he has similarly detailed policy prescriptions for other hot-button issues including immigration, criminal justice, and education.
O’Rourke said his immigration proposal would give citizenship to so-called “Dreamers” — undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children — and would also reunite separated families and invest in border security at ports of entry.
He also said he would continue to work on criminal justice reforms including ending the “prohibition” of marijuana and the reliance on for-profit prisons.
On education, O’Rourke said he would expand universal pre-kindergarten education programs and support the unionization of teachers.
Matt Loffman is the PBS NewsHour's Deputy Senior Politics Producer
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