Pelosi: O'Rourke is 'welcome addition' to presidential race

Pelosi: O'Rourke is 'welcome addition' to presidential race
© Stefani Reynolds
Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiPelosi receives John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award Dems walk Trump trade tightrope Tlaib calls on Amash to join impeachment resolution MORE (D-Calif.) on Thursday welcomed former Rep. Beto O'RourkeBeto O'RourkeTrump hits Fox News for 'wasting airtime' with coverage of Buttigieg Overnight Health Care — Presented by Campaign for Accountability — Momentum builds for federal laws enshrining abortion rights | Missouri lawmakers approve bill banning abortions at 8 weeks | Warren unveils plan to protect abortion rights Overnight Energy: Dems dismiss Interior chief's work calendars as 'fake' | Buttigieg climate plan includes carbon tax | Poll finds growing number say climate is crucial 2020 issue MORE to the 2020 presidential race, praising the Texas Democrat for both his energy and his work on the environment and national defense.
"Beto brought a great deal of vitality to the Congress," Pelosi said during a press briefing in the Capitol. "When he came, he came as a real champion for the environment, he got a great deal of support from the environmental community in his district. He won in a primary on that subject. Also, he was ... a strong member of the Armed Services Committee, which is very important for his district. 
"So in preserving our planet and protecting our people, there are at least two areas in addition to his vitality."
O'Rourke, who served in the House for six years beginning in 2013, jumped into the Democratic primary on Thursday morning, joining an ever-growing field of party hopefuls vying to unseat President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump: 'I will not let Iran have nuclear weapons' Rocket attack hits Baghdad's Green Zone amid escalating tensions: reports Buttigieg on Trump tweets: 'I don't care' MORE next year. 
The 46-year-old O'Rourke gave up his House seat last year in an unsuccessful challenge to Texas Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward Cruz Eye-popping number of Dems: I can beat Trump 'SleepyCreepy Joe' and 'Crazy Bernie': Trump seeks to define 2020 Dems with insults The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Restrictive state abortion laws ignite fiery 2020 debate MORE (R) — a closer-then-expected contest that thrust O'Rourke onto the national stage and made him an overnight superstar with the Democrats' liberal base.
Yet O'Rourke's relatively short tenure on Capitol Hill has also raised questions about whether he has the political gravitas to make a credible run at the White House.
And Republicans are already trying to exploit his youthful persona with campaign emails portraying him as too inexperienced for the job. 
Pelosi on Thursday rejected those criticisms, emphasizing that Trump had no political background before winning the White House in 2016.
Asked if O'Rourke's House tenure qualifies him for the presidency, Pelosi didn't hesitate.
"You ask me that when we have a president of the United States who never, you know," she said, trailing off. "Please." 
"Yes. The answer is yes."