Beto O'Rourke told Oprah Winfrey Tuesday that he is thinking about running for president and plans to make a decision before the end of the month.
O'Rourke, a former Democratic member of Congress from Texas, has stayed mostly out of the media spotlight after his narrow loss to Sen. Ted Cruz in November — just as speculation about a possible presidential run reached a fever pitch.
He reemerged in an unusual venue: at the PlayStation Theater in Times Square for Oprah's SuperSoul Conversations, where O'Rourke's interview with Winfrey was sandwiched between talks with actors Michael B. Jordan and Bradley Cooper.
The decision about whether to run for president, O'Rourke told Winfrey, would come down to his family: his wife, Amy, and three young children.
"By god, when are you going to know the answer?" Winfrey asked emphatically.
"The serious answer is very soon," O'Rourke told her. "Before the end of the month."
Though he spoke about politics, emphasizing immigration policy, education, and climate change, the interview with Winfrey also touched, unsurprisingly, on O'Rourke's feelings, including his fears about running for president, his nervousness when entering communities with few supporters, and his own sadness at losing his Senate election to Cruz.
"I felt a profound sense of disappointment in myself, that I had let so many people down," O'Rourke said of his loss. He said he had found comfort only when he "stopped looking at myself and started looking at others," including 17 black women judges who won elections in Houston.
The interview, which won't air on OWN until Feb. 16, sounded at times much like an episode of Winfrey's long-running show.
"I don't believe the agency to achieve our dreams is outside of us," O'Rourke said of the factors he blamed for his loss.
O'Rourke's time since losing to Cruz and exiting the House of Representatives has been — like his campaign, which rejected consultants and pollsters — far from conventional.
Rather than inviting the media to swarm behind him on a cross-country road trip in January that many assumed would be a publicity stunt ahead of a presidential announcement, O'Rourke snuck out of Texas and drove alone to Liberal, Kansas, and blogged about "the gloomy early morning sky" in rambling posts on Medium.
"Have been stuck lately. In and out of a funk. My last day of work was January 2nd," O'Rourke wrote on Medium.
Some journalists and supporters mapped out his car route and speculated on Twitter that O'Rourke was headed to Iowa; instead, he ended up in the Native American community of Taos Pueblo, in New Mexico.
O'Rourke attracted Winfrey's attention after a video of him talking about why he believed NFL players kneeling was patriotic went viral last summer, an O'Rourke staffer told BuzzFeed News. On Tuesday, Winfrey called that moment a "viral game changer."
Winfrey asked O'Rourke about his conversation with former president Barack Obama, who O'Rourke met in the weeks after Election Day in Obama's office over coffee. (O'Rourke got a porcelain cup with a saucer, he said; Obama walked in with a paper cup.)
O'Rourke was "tense and tight," he said, and forced himself to "try to look relaxed." Obama did not encourage him to run for president. But O'Rourke admitted to Oprah that they had, in fact, talked about the possibility of a campaign.