Obama praises Beto O'Rourke: 'Impressive young man'

Former President Obama on Tuesday praised Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) as an “impressive young man.”

Speaking at a recording session of his former strategist David Axelrod’s “The Axe Files” podcast, Obama said the El Paso congressman “ran a terrific race” in his Senate bid against Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCruz calls for 'every penny' of El Chapo's criminal enterprise to be used for Trump's wall after sentencing Conservatives defend Chris Pratt for wearing 'Don't Tread On Me' T-shirt Google official denies allegations of ties to China MORE (R-Texas).

“It felt as if he based his statements and his positions on what he believed,” Obama said. “And that, you'd like to think, is normally how things work. Sadly it's not.”

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O’Rourke’s effort to unseat Cruz catapulted him into the national spotlight, sparking widespread calls for him to take on President Trump in 2020

The three-term congressman achieved stunning fundraising hauls and lost to Cruz by just 3 points — a shockingly close race in the state that has not sent a Democrat to the Senate in decades.

A top Democratic fundraising bundler described O’Rourke as “Obama, but white” in an interview with Politico on Monday, a comparison that the former president did not deny.

“The reason I was able to make a connection with a sizeable portion of the country was because people had a sense that I said what I meant," Obama said, telling Axelrod that O’Rourke is one of several candidates who he thinks fits that description.

“We've got a number of people who are thinking about the race who I think fall in that same category,” Obama said.

O'Rourke has not announced any intentions to jump into the 2020 White House race. If he were to enter, he would be a part of what is likely to be a very crowded Democratic Primary field, with maybe more than a dozen candidates ready to throw their name in the mix.