Here’s what Joe Kennedy III had to say about his ‘good friend’ Beto O’Rourke running for president

The Massachusetts congressman, who endorsed Elizabeth Warren, says he's in an 'odd position' with O'Rourke and other close friends in the 2020 race.

U.S. Rep. Joe Kennedy III embraces Democratic Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke during a campaign rally at the McAllen Convention Center on Saturday ,Oct. 13, 2018, in McAllen, Texas. Joe Kennedy attended Saturday's rally with O'Rourke. (Delcia Lopez/The Monitor via AP)
Rep. Joe Kennedy III embraces Beto O'Rourke during a campaign rally last October in McAllen, Texas. –Delcia Lopez / The Monitor via AP

Rep. Joe Kennedy III is admittedly in an “odd position.”

Last summer, the Massachusetts congressman traveled to Texas to campaign for fellow Democrat and former House classmate Beto O’Rourke, who was challenging incumbent Republican Sen. Ted Cruz.

“Everybody asks me all the time who’s going to be the next president of the United States,” Kennedy said in a video filmed while he drove O’Rourke in April.

“I’ve got a few dark horse candidates,” he said. “Beto leads that pack.”

Kennedy noted that winning a statewide race Texas as a Democrat was perhaps even more difficult than running for president.

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“So Beto, I am all in,” he said. “Ambassador to Ireland sounds great.”

Of course, the election didn’t turn out as the close friends had hoped. Though his charismatic campaign elicited historic enthusiasm and national attention, O’Rourke narrowly lost the race against Cruz. And while the El Paso native spent much of the winter pondering his future, Kennedy’s home-state senior senator and former Harvard Law School professor, Sen. Elizabeth Warren — among many other Democrats — announced her own 2020 presidential campaign.

At her official campaign launch last month, Kennedy unequivocally endorsed Warren — though he thinks the race is getting a valuable addition with O’Rourke now in it, too.

“Beto — Congressman O’Rourke — is a good friend,” Kennedy said in an interview Thursday morning on WGBH’s Boston Public Radio, when asked about the 46-year-old former congressman’s presidential campaign announcement hours earlier.

The 38-year-old Newton Democrat added that he and O’Rourke — who was one of his “closest friends” in the House — still keep in touch “pretty frequently.”

“I was in touch with him over the course of the past several months as he was going through the decision-making process, and I think he really dedicated himself to try to figure out what was best for him and his family,” Kennedy said. “And I have no doubt his campaign will make a tremendous contribution to the discourse and the discussion and the debate that we need to have, as the Democratic Party and as a country.”

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That doesn’t mean he’s changing sides. Kennedy still thinks Warren has proven to be the candidate most committed to addressing structural economic inequities, which he has said is the “single biggest issue” facing the country.

“It is those inadequacies that you see rearing their head in this debate on health care, in the debate on immigration, and the debate on climate change,” Kennedy said. “The ways in which our economy is not representing and answering the needs of an electorate that are causing these inequities. I don’t think that there’s anybody out there in this race that has done as much — or is going to be as powerful a spokesperson — than Senator Warren.”

With the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential race shaping up to be a crowded on, Kennedy said he’s in an “odd position” where “four or five” of his fellow members of the 2013 congressional class may be running against each other. In addition to O’Rourke and Warren, New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, and former Maryland Rep. John Delaney — all of whom were sworn in along with Kennedy in 2013 — are competing to take on President Donald Trump in next year’s general election.

“It’s an odd circumstance where you actually have to sit around and say ‘Yeah, I’ve got a bunch of buddies that are running for president,” Kennedy said. “But, you know, such is life these days.”

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