By Jim Ellis
March 14, 2019 — As the old saying goes, “you can’t tell the players without a scorecard,” which is quickly becoming the case with respect to the Democratic presidential nomination campaign.
With the announcement that former US representative and 2018 Texas Senate nominee Beto O’Rourke is making his first trip to Iowa this weekend and is joining the presidential fray, it’s a good time to recap exactly who is in, out, and still straddling the fence.
Counting an O’Rourke for President operation, there are now 14 active Democratic presidential candidates. Former Vice President Joe Biden looks to be weeks away from announcing his candidacy, while at least two others are also making moves to enter. And, an additional five more could also become contenders before the first televised debates begin in June of this year.
Here’s where they currently stand:
Arguably Top Tier (listed alphabetically)
- Former VP Joe Biden: Signs are now pointing to Biden entering the campaign in early April. He is the front runner in all polling, but his margin has closed to low single-digits in the past 10 days, and his approximate 30 percent standing is far from the 50 percent delegate support he, or any candidate, will need to claim the nomination.
- Sen. Cory Booker: Usually hovers around five percent in most polls. Attracts a fair amount of media attention, which normally casts him in the top tier. Sen. Booker is likely to fall behind Sen. Kamala Harris in attempting to establish himself within an identical constituency segment.
- Sen. Kamala Harris: Clearly top tier and runs third in almost every poll. Sen. Harris has a huge advantage with her home state of California moving their primary to the earliest possible date, March 3.
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar: Borderline top tier. Will have to improve her polling standing and fundraising to stay relevant. So far, Sen. Klobuchar has a Midwestern geographic base all to herself.
- Ex-Rep. Beto O’Rourke: Gained momentum from the Texas Senate race even though he lost by three percentage points. The $80 million O’Rourke raised for that campaign proved that he can become a legitimate national candidate.
- Sen. Bernie Sanders: Running neck and neck with former Vice President Biden in every national poll. Sen. Sanders has a legitimate chance of winning the party nomination.
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren: Off to a disappointing start, Sen. Warren languishes in single-digit polling, failing to reach 10 percent in any national poll. Still first tier, but dropping far behind Biden and Sanders, and now even clearly behind Sen. Harris.
Arguably Second Tier (listed alphabetically)
- Mayor Pete Buttigieg: Clearly a minor candidate as mayor of South Bend, Ind., but he has a built-in LGBT community constituency and a chance to reach the 65,000-donor threshold before the June debate. Buttigieg attracted 22,200 donations after a CNN televised town hall event, worth over $600,000 in contributions.
- Ex-Secretary Julian Castro: Served as the Housing & Urban Development chief in the Obama Administration and was elected three times as mayor of San Antonio. Castro is attempting to develop a Hispanic constituency segment.
- Ex-Rep. John Delaney: The former Maryland congressman was the first to enter the campaign and did so in 2017. It is unlikely he will be able to break into the top tier.
- Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: The four-term Hawaii congresswoman is also a long shot to enter the top tier, although she has potential to shine in a debate setting. Gabbard has been attacked by both the left and right of the political spectrum and her outreach to, and meeting with, Syrian dictator Bashar Hafez al-Assad raised eyebrows across the political spectrum.
- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: Though the media often portrays her as a top-tier candidate, nothing she has done so far merits such a classification. Some of the latest polls even show her dropping below one percent support.
- Ex-Gov. John Hickenlooper: Former two-term Colorado governor and Denver mayor, Hickenlooper just entered the race last week. Has the potential of getting lost in the large gaggle of candidates but could find a path should Biden suddenly decide not to enter the race.
- Gov. Jay Inslee: Two-term Washington governor and ex-congressman Inslee is running on a climate change and anti-Washington, DC platform. It’s hard to see him breaking through the crowded field. Apparently, he agrees since he refuses to rule out running for a third term as governor.
- Businessman Andrew Yang: New York entrepreneur Yang is running on his Universal Basic Income platform to provide every American with a $1,000 per month government stipend. Yang is clearly a minor candidate, but he has already exceeded the 65,000-donor threshold to qualify for the debates and is becoming an Internet sensation.
Possible Candidates (Listed Alphabetically)
- Former Gov. Candidate Stacey Abrams: Like Beto O’Rourke, losing a close statewide race, in this case for governor of Georgia, has propelled Abrams into the national limelight. Over the weekend, she again confirmed consideration of a 2020 presidential run, along with contemplating a potential challenge to Sen. David Perdue (R-GA).
- Gov. Steve Bullock: Term-limited Montana Gov. Bullock has ruled out challenging Sen. Steve Daines (R), as Democratic Party leaders want, and looks to be readying a presidential run. He has been making trips to Iowa and will hope to develop a rural-based constituency along with cultivating his Rocky Mountain geographic base.
- Ex-Gov. Terry McAuliffe: Former Virginia governor and ex-DNC chairman McAuliffe looked to be gearing up for a national run, but it is somewhat surprising that he has yet to announce. McAuliffe’s path to the nomination looks dubious as time progresses, and he registers almost no support in national polls.
- Mayor Wayne Messam: Miramar (Florida) Mayor Messam indicates that he is seriously considering entering the race and makes the point that Miramar is larger than current candidate and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s city. Messam will not be a factor in the campaign should he enter.
- Rep. Seth Moulton: Massachusetts Rep. Moulton was one of the leaders of the anti-Pelosi movement and, as such, now has virtually no path to success in the House. A former Marine who served four combat tours in Iraq, Rep. Moulton has been visiting neighboring New Hampshire and is going to Iowa. Individuals close to him believe he will announce his presidential campaign in April. He will certainly be a unique voice in the field and may find a constituency segment.
- Rep. Tim Ryan: Ohio Rep. Ryan, who once challenged Pelosi for Democratic leader of the House, is also making campaign visits to the early states. Though he may enter the race, it is difficult to see how he develops enough of a base to become a significant candidate.
- Rep. Eric Swalwell: East San Francisco Bay Area Congressman Swalwell has been talking about running for president for more than a year but still fails to enter the race. At this point, it makes little difference whether he decides to run or not.
Considering, But Unlikely to Run
- Sen. Michael Bennet: Colorado
- Mayor Bill de Blasio: New York City
Announced Not Running (Listed Alphabetically)
- Michael Avenatti: Attorney
- Michael Bloomberg: Ex-New York City Mayor; media organization founder
- Sen. Sherrod Brown: Ohio
- Sen. Bob Casey Jr.: Pennsylvania
- Hillary Clinton: Former Secretary of State; US Senator; First Lady; 2016 Democratic presidential nominee
- Gov. Andrew Cuomo: New York
- Mayor Eric Garcetti: Los Angeles
- Eric Holder: Former US Attorney General
- Sen. Tim Kaine: Virginia; 2016 Democratic Vice Presidential nominee
- Mitch Landrieu: Former New Orleans Mayor; Ex-Louisiana lieutenant governor
- Sen. Jeff Merkley: Oregon
- Sen. Christopher Murphy: Connecticut
- Richard Ojeda: West Virginia State Senator; 2018 Democratic congressional nominee
- Martin O’Malley: Ex-Maryland governor
- Deval Patrick: Ex-Massachusetts governor
- Tom Steyer: Billionaire Businessman and Environmental Activist