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

Pelosi: O'Rourke is 'welcome addition' to presidential race
© Stefani Reynolds
 
"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."
 
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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 mocks wind power: 'When the wind doesn't blow, just turn off the television' Pentagon investigator probing whether acting chief boosted former employer Boeing Trump blasts McCain, bemoans not getting 'thank you' for funeral 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 CruzO'Rourke raised .1 million from over 128,000 donors on campaign's first day O'Rourke on Israeli-Palestinian conflict: 'We don't have the best negotiating partners on either side' O'Rourke: 'I think we can win Texas' in 2020 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."