Democrat Beto O'Rourke rejoined the presidential race on Thursday following a nearly two-week pause—using a speech in his Texas hometown where a mass shooting killed 22 people to overhaul his White House bid and argue that President Trump is morally unfit for a second term. The former congressman spoke at a park close to his home, saying what happened in El Paso, on the US-Mexico border, "is an attack on America" and "an attack on our ideal of what America can be." He blamed assault weapons and endorsed a federal buyback program for them, but was far more critical of the president for what he called fomenting hate and racist attitudes, the AP reports. Trump's re-election campaign responded that O'Rourke was using tragedy "to bolster his struggling presidential bid."
"We must take the fight directly to the source of this problem, that person who has caused this pain and placed this country in this moment of peril, and that is Donald Trump," O'Rourke said during an emotional, 30-plus minute address. "I want to be the leader for this country that we need right now and that we do not have." Aides say the next phase of O'Rourke's campaign won't simply focus on plodding through states that vote early in the presidential primary, like Iowa, which goes first, but instead feature their candidate drawing more sharp contrasts between himself and Trump. O'Rourke says he'll return to the campaign trail using a better way to woo voters than normal staples like visiting state fairs for "corndogs and Ferris wheels." Instead, he'll travel to "those places where Donald Trump has been terrorizing and terrifying and demeaning our fellow Americans." (He also announced Thursday that he won't exit the presidential race to run for Senate, as he's been urged to do.)