BLACKSBURG, Va. – The 2020 presidential campaign season is officially underway in Southwest Virginia. Democrat Beto O'Rourke became the first candidate to visit our area this campaign season and likely the first candidate to ever visit Bland County.
O'Rourke is trailing in the numbers right now to the three frontrunners for the Democratic nomination, those being former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. But despite that, people on the Virginia Tech campus were extremely excited to have the chance to get face time with a presidential hopeful.
The line to get into the meeting hall wrapped around campus and after the seats filled up, the remaining people packed into the lobby. O'Rourke came in the front doors to a sea of applause and then jumped up on a table in the lobby, before tipping his hat and introducing himself to the crowd.
Once inside the main hall, O'Rourke dove right into his topics of gun violence, climate change, health care and more. The lecture hall was standing room only.
"I leave Virginia Tech more optimistic, more hopeful than when I arrived. These are the folks who are leading the charge right now, so very grateful that I had the chance to be here," O'Rourke said.
Before visiting Virginia Tech, O'Rourke spent time in Roanoke County and Wine Gourmet, a locally owned wine store. He likely made history, however, when he started the morning in Bland County as the first presidential candidate to ever visit the county, let alone a democratic presidential candidate. Bland County voted strongest for President Donald Trump out of any county in Virginia in the last election.
"It was great. It's like almost any part of America. People see beyond the differences, especially if you show up in person," O'Rourke said.
At the town hall, students and other community members got to ask their own questions of the candidate. While many still aren't sure for whom they are voting, people seemed to like the way O'Rourke treated them.
"I think he was a great speech. I know that he had great dialogue and rhetoric. He answered all the questions really well, and it was really nice seeing him here," Virginia Tech freshman Luke Somers said.
O'Rourke said the one thing he'll remember for the rest of his life about his Blacksburg trip is visiting the April 16 memorial on campus. O'Rourke continues his Virginia trip with a campaign stop in Charlottesville on Saturday.