By Jim EllisFeb. 13, 2019 — Major action is beginning to occur within the Democratic presidential field. Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s (D-MN) announcement entering the race on Sunday means that now 11 individuals are official candidates or have working exploratory committees. Expect more to be on the way.
Three more Democrats, men who we have yet to hear much from, confirmed that they in fact are taking serious steps to potentially enter the presidential field just a couple days ago. US Reps. Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Seth Moulton (D-MA) told media sources that they both may become candidates. Ryan is going so far as to travel to Iowa and New Hampshire later this week. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is also making a trip to the Granite State, site of the first-in-the-nation primary, but he has, at least until now, been categorized in the “less than likely to enter” group.
Former Vice President Joe Biden continues to hover above the active candidates with a great deal of speculation surrounding his potential candidacy. Many believe he will soon enter the race, but just as many are also predicting that he will ultimately decline to run.
The McClatchy news organization, owner of 31 local newspapers that stretches from California to North and South Carolina, published an analysis article early this week from DC Bureau reporter Kevin Roarty summarizing his interviews of 31 Democratic strategists who largely believe that Biden might actually prove to be a weaker candidate than Hillary Clinton.
The group sites many of his past votes and actions as justification to support the premise that Biden is vulnerable in a Democratic nomination campaign and even against President Trump. Their list includes him voting for, or being associated with, the Iraq War, the Clinton era criminal justice overhaul bill in the 1990s, the deportations occurring during the Obama Administration, and the Anita Hill controversy during Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee of which Biden chaired.
Doubts also were voiced among the strategists expressing concern about just how much he could energize African Americans, Hispanics, white women under 40, and college students — voter segments from whom those interviewed said any Democratic nominee will need to participate in large numbers in order to overcome the Trump coalition.
Turning back to the potentially curious entries of Reps. Ryan and Moulton, it appears they may now be energized to become candidates because of the way the numbers are beginning to divide within the primary field.
As the party image moves more leftward and the candidates who have entered so far are all appealing to that core group, a large centrist segment remains primarily untapped within the party’s voting populace. This is where Biden becomes a major player. He is most likely to gather support from this sector while the many others attempt to garner their share from the fractionalized left.
A unified centrist faction behind the former vice president would likely give Biden enough delegate support to lead the pack but would be too small to boost him over the 50 percent mark that any candidate needs to clinch a first-ballot victory at the Democratic National Convention in July 2020.
Yet, the Super Delegates re-emerging as a voting base on subsequent ballots could well play to his favor just as they largely did for Hillary Clinton in 2016. What negative ramifications, however, would result if he needed their wide-ranging support to cobble together a winning nomination coalition, is a question many are asking.
It is within this numbers sector where Ryan and Moulton may see an opening for themselves particularly if Biden decides to bypass the race. If the ex-VP and long-time Delaware senator should not become a candidate, this large group of Democrats would mostly be in search of a more palatable contender rather than gravitate to one of the left faction’s multiple candidates.
As the field is again on pace to surpass the 20-candidate threshold, things are now beginning to become quite interesting as more Democrats declare their intention to join or explore joining the presidential campaign.