O’Rourke nearly triples Iowa staff as focus grows on first 2020 voters

The Democratic presidential candidate and former El Paso congressman now has 44 campaign workers in the Hawkeye State.

Democratic 2020 presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke speaks with supporters during a three-day road trip across Iowa, in Waterloo, Iowa on March 16, 2019.

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke has nearly tripled his Iowa staff as the former El Paso congressman puts a growing emphasis on the first-in-the-nation caucus state.

His campaign announced Friday morning that it now has 44 staffers in Iowa, including 37 organizers tasked with spreading out across the state to build support for the candidate. That's up from 16 Iowa staffers in late April.

The organizers are holding a "Statewide Weekend of Action" this weekend, canvassing in regions throughout the state. O'Rourke himself is set to arrive later next week for a trip during which he will open an office in Cedar Rapids, his campaign's first Iowa outpost beyond its Des Moines headquarters.

O'Rourke's ramped-up activity in Iowa makes clearer than ever how important he views the state to his 2020 prospects. By his campaign's count, he has held more events and visited more counties in Iowa than any other 2020 candidate. His four-day swing next week will be his fifth trip to the state since launching his campaign in mid-March, while he has visited two other critical early voting states, New Hampshire and South Carolina, three times and twice, respectively.

O'Rourke's Iowa hiring is also outpacing his staffing in the two other states. He only recently named a state director in New Hampshire, plus five other staffers, and has announced nine hires in South Carolina.

One of O'Rourke's earliest hires for his 2020 campaign was Norm Sterzenbach as Iowa state director. Sterzenbach, the former executive director of the Iowa Democratic Party, has promised that O'Rourke's Iowa organizing staff eventually will "be on par with some of the largest caucus campaigns we’ve seen throughout caucus history." And Sterzenbach has expressed doubt that any candidate in the crowded Democratic field can continue if they do not finish in the top three in Iowa.

O'Rourke's upcoming trip to Iowa will be four days long and start June 7. It will be the first time his wife, Amy, joins him on the campaign trail in the Hawkeye State.