GREENSBORO — Someone in the crowd handed the presidential hopeful a copy of his Vanity Fair cover to sign.

People were lined up for "Beto" gear.

He's that rare politician who can get by with only his first name.

Beto O'Rourke came to Greensboro Monday and talked nonstop about a litany of topics — with an enthusiastic crowd at rapt attention.

"Where we are right now, when you look at our foreign policy, is one of the most desperate moments of our history," O'Rourke said at Natty Greene's Pub & Brewing Co.

It was the Democrat's first visit to the state since announcing his run for president weeks ago as he tries to separate himself from a bloated field of contenders.

The former Texas congressman — repeatedly interrupted with cheers and chants of "Beto" as he spoke — was met by hundreds of people at Natty Greene's, where signs ranging from "We love Beto" to "Beto for President" dotted the crowd.

He drew people who have yet to settle on a candidate, but like college student Dominic Patafie, wanted to hear more about his views.

"I want someone who can bring people together," the 19-year-old said.

Brandy Brown was there with husband Matt and 15-month-old Thomas.

"It will be good to see how he separates himself," she said of the widening pool of Democratic candidates.

Arriving late after a start to the day in Charlotte and a stop at a Lexington barbecue restaurant on the way to Greensboro, the 46-year-old O'Rourke briefly spoke on a fire escape to an overflow crowd before discussing his thoughts with a group gathered inside.

The 6-foot, first-time presidential candidate, who arrived in jeans and a buttoned-down blue shirt, launched into the need for Medicaid expansion for those who can't afford health care.

He also said teachers shouldn't be working three jobs to survive. 

He emphasized women should be paid the same as men.

He applauded North Carolina for changes legislators made to the controversial "bathroom bill" that required a person to use public restrooms based on their gender at birth.

The bilingual O'Rourke also spoke of a comprehensive immigration bill that would focus resources to help strengthen the economy of those Latin American countries wracked with violence and economic problems that are causing people to flee.

"They are doing exactly what you would do," he said of those looking for opportunities and safety for their children.

O'Rourke said "Dreamers," children who were illegally brought into the country by parents with no legal status, should be given a path to citizenship.

"These are our fellow Americans by any measure that counts," he said.

Although he slipped and called the state South Carolina once — he was there Sunday — he had earlier paid homage to the four N.C. A&T students who in 1960 sat down at the lunch counter of the Woolworth department store, just blocks from where he was speaking, and helped rid the South of Jim Crow laws.

He also spoke of climate change and mentioned the devastating floods that have hit North Carolina in recent years. 

"We have a president today who rejects science," he said to laughter.

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Contact Nancy McLaughlin at 336-373-7049 and follow @nmclaughlinNR on Twitter.

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