By Jim EllisMay 20, 2019 — It is often said, “you can’t tell the players without a scorecard,” and that is certainly becoming the case with the presidential campaign. A 24th candidate entered the national political fray just late last week — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Greeted with the reminder that the last Quinnipiac University poll of New York City residents found that 76 percent of those polled didn’t want the mayor to run for president, de Blasio launched his late-starting campaign with a video of him talking about “putting working people first,” interspersed with video footage of being chauffeured around the city in a limousine. Saddled with poor approval ratings within his home base and a late start, de Blasio is the longest of shots to become a viable candidate.
It is likely that the de Blasio declaration is the last significant announcement, meaning all of the major players are finally in the race. Seeing two dozen candidates – and while many media networks report different numbers, the total clearly exceeds 20 – it is a good time to review the field (alphabetically) and summarize how the plethora of candidates is doing. We’ll go through the first 12, and tomorrow finish up the field:
• Former Vice President Joe Biden: The clear early race leader. Biden received the announcement bump that he desired and is proving to be the man to beat. Still, much will happen before he can legitimately clinch the party nomination. In the first 24 hours after his announcement, the former VP raised $6.3 million.
• Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO): A prostate cancer diagnosis and surgery delayed Sen. Bennet’s entry into the race, so his campaign is just getting underway. He is a second-tier candidate who is unlikely to seriously challenge for the nomination.
• Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ): Has not gotten much early attention, but reports suggest his campaign is among the best organized in terms of ground operation. Sen. Booker could surprise in the national candidate forums and, despite current low polling performance, might become a factor as the campaign develops.
• Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT): Another in the late announcement group, Gov. Bullock had been talking about running for the better part of a year and eschewed a Senate run against Republican incumbent Steve Daines to make his national bid. Campaigning as a western candidate who can accomplish things by working with Republicans probably won’t sell well in super-charged partisan big-state Democratic primaries. Therefore, Bullock also is a second-tier candidate who will likely become lost in the shuffle.
• Mayor Pete Buttigieg: No doubt the surprise of the early going, Mayor Buttigieg has already propelled himself into the top tier. Raising over $7 million in the first quarter and rising as high as third in many polls, Mayor Buttigieg has easily earned a debate podium but will be under pressure once the forums begin to sustain his early prominence.
• Ex-Secretary Julian Castro: The former HUD Secretary and San Antonio mayor was among the first to officially enter the campaign, but he has done little to distinguish himself since. He had raised only $1.3 million for his campaign through the first quarter despite being one of the first to form a committee. He will need a strong performance in multiple debates to even make it to the first voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.
• Mayor Bill de Blasio: Chances are good that his announcement last week will be the high point of his presidential campaign. De Blasio will have almost no chance of qualifying for the first candidate forum in June, and it’s possible we may never see him at a debate podium. He will not be a factor for the nomination.
• Ex-Rep. John Delaney (D-MD): The former Maryland congressman began campaigning in Iowa two years before the first-in-the-nation caucus. But, his efforts aren’t likely to bear fruit. Delaney, who is independently wealthy, has offered to donate to a person’s charity if they will contribute to his campaign in order for him to reach the debate-qualifying threshold. He is unlikely to be a factor.
• Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI): Wrapped in controversy over her meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, Rep. Gabbard also began her campaign with staff and organizational problems. Still, she has the presence to attract attention in the forums and will promote a unique message. Though her presidential campaign has yet to file a disclosure report, Gabbard has reportedly already qualified for the debate both through fundraising and poll presence.
• Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY): Off to a disappointing start, Sen. Gillibrand has barely made a ripple in polling or fundraising. In fact, Sen. Booker and his campaign manager said they would contribute to her campaign just to help her reach the donor qualification standard to earn a debate podium. Unfortunately for her, one of Sen. Gillibrand’s best polling performances — three percent — came in a University of New Hampshire poll that asked, “who would you never vote for.” Sen. Gillibrand needs to qualify for the debates and make a splash if her campaign is to continue.
• Ex-Sen. Mike Gravel (D-AK): At 89 years of age, Gravel, who was twice elected to the Senate in the 60s and 70s, is running to highlight “American imperialism,” and then promises to withdraw from the race. He won’t make the debate and isn’t a factor for the nomination.
• Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA): Expected to be one of the major first-tier candidates, Sen. Harris has been slipping into single-digit standing in the latest national polls, however. California, with its 416 first ballot delegates (the second largest state, ahead of Texas, which has 228 first ballot delegates), has moved its primary to March 3, which will be a major positive for Sen. Harris. Raising over $13 million through the first quarter and in position to attract much of the attention during the national candidate forums, Harris figures to be in the race until the end.
NOTE: On Monday, we will cover the remaining 12 candidates, alphabetically from former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper all the way to New York City entrepreneur Andrew Yang.