House Democrat on O'Rourke: 'I wouldn't count him out yet'

Rep. Sean MaloneySean Patrick MaloneyAudience cheers Maloney for getting Sondland to say he assumes Trump 'would benefit' from investigation into Bidens Applause breaks out after Vindman says he's not worried about testifying because 'this is America' Live coverage: House holds third day of public impeachment hearings MORE (D-N.Y.) on Friday stood by his early endorsement of Beto O’Rourke in the Democratic presidential race, saying he doesn’t think anyone should count the former Texas congressman out just yet.

Maloney, who backed O’Rourke just hours after he launched his campaign in March, said in an interview with Hill.TV that he believes O’Rourke is well-positioned to represent the party as a whole, even if polling suggests otherwise.

“There is essentially a lane here for somebody who is not the [former] vice president, who represents a new generation and who can represent the whole coalition of the Democratic Party,” Maloney said, referring to the race's current frontrunner, Joe BidenJoe BidenFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE.

“I wouldn’t count him out yet,” he added. 

Maloney maintained that O’Rourke is the right choice to take on President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE in the 2020 election and would make an "outstanding president," citing his personal experience working alongside the former Texas congressman during his six years in the House.

“I know him as a close friend, I know his family, I know what’s in his heart,” he told Hill.TV. “He’s decent, he’s honest, he’s in this for the right reasons.”

O’Rourke has been lagging in national polls over the last few months.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey released on Thursday found that just 2 percent of likely primary voters would support O’Rourke. The Texas congressman was among a handful of Democratic candidates in the crowded primary field to receive support from more than 1 percent of voters in the survey.

Biden and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE (D-Mass.), meanwhile, topped the poll by a sizable margin.

According to the poll, 26 percent of likely primary voters support Biden, compared to 19 percent who support Warren. Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisFive takeaways from the Democratic debate Gabbard, Buttigieg battle over use of military in Mexico Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE (D-Calif.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersFive takeaways from the Democratic debate As Buttigieg rises, Biden is still the target Leading Democrats largely pull punches at debate MORE (I-Vt.) tied for third place at 13 percent. 

—Tess Bonn