Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke hosted a meet and greet in State College, Pa. this morning.
O'Rourke, who announced his candidacy on March 14, wore a Penn State hat as he addressed a crowd of more than a thousand students and community members at Penn State's main campus. His hour-long speech highlighted issues of immigration, income inequality, health care, the opioid crisis, and the criminal justice system. O'Rourke also called for the United States to become the global leader on climate change, drawing cheers from the audience.
O'Rourke's speech is believed to be the first public event held in Pennsylvania by any of the Democratic candidates seeking nomination for the 2020 presidential election. Pennsylvania’s primary elections are scheduled later for April 2020, which is later than many other state's primaries. Pennsylvania voted for Trump in 2016 by a margin of 1.2 percent. This was the first time the state had voted for a Republican presidential nominee since 1988, which makes it an important swing state in the 2020 election.
During his visit, O'Rourke responded to audience questions about his voting record in the House of Representatives, as well as claims that his speeches and campaign websites lacked specific policy positions.
“When are we going to get an actual policy from you instead of platitudes and nice stories?” one woman asked.
O’Rourke responded by listing some of his policy positions, such as eliminating marijuana arrests and passing the “Medicare for America” plan, which seeks to expand Medicare while maintaining employer-based private insurance.
O'Rourke, a former U.S. Representative, rose to national prominence during his unsuccessful bid to unseat Texas Senator Ted Cruz in the 2018 midterm elections. Despite his loss, he reached within three percentage points of beating the long-standing Republican senator in a state which has not elected a Democrat to the Senate in 30 years. When O'Rourke declared his presidential candidacy, his campaign raised $6.1 million within the first 24 hours, surpassing all other Democratic candidates who have released such data so far.
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