Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke formally announced Thursday that he'll seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, ending months of intense speculation over whether he'd try to translate his newfound political celebrity into a White House bid.

Until he challenged Republican Sen. Ted Cruz last year, O'Rourke was little known outside his hometown of El Paso.

But the Spanish-speaking 46-year-old former punk rocker became a sensation during a campaign that used grassroots organising and social media savvy to mobilise young voters and minorities.

He got within 3 percentage points of upsetting Cruz in the nation's largest red state - and shattered national fundraising records in the process - immediately fueling chatter that he could have higher ambitions.

Now O'Rourke must prove whether the energy he brought to the Texas campaign will resonate on a much larger stage.

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