Updating The Democratic Scorecard

By Jim Ellis

Jan. 28, 2019 — The old saying, “you can’t tell the players without a scorecard” certainly applies to the formulating 2020 Democratic presidential field of candidates.

This week, former Virginia governor and ex-Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe, who soon will likely take steps to formalize his own presidential campaign, said that regardless of the total number of people contemplating joining the race it is probable we could see as many as eight or nine candidates in serious competition for the party nomination. McAuliffe’s observation will likely prove correct.

The party rules involving delegate selection and apportionment, the fact that Democrats do not allow winner-take-all primaries or caucuses, the early voting schedule, and that Super Delegates no longer participate in the first convention roll call mean advancing to more than one ballot to determine the ultimate nominee becomes a distinct possibility. All of this adds to the uncertainty engulfing the early phase of this national campaign.

Right now, however, speculation is building around just who will advance into the credibility round, that is, those who have enough support to position themselves to actually win the nomination in July of 2020.

Let’s first look at the entire Democratic field, understanding that as many as 36 different individuals who at least at one time have publicly acknowledged consideration of forming, or expressed an overt desire to form, a presidential campaign. Some have already made public statements declining to run, while another segment appears unlikely to join the fray. Even disqualifying the persons from these categories would still leave us with at least 23 individuals who could well enter the race.

Below is a list of the most recent activities of the various potential candidates (individuals are listed alphabetically):

Announced Candidacy or Formation of Exploratory Committee

  • Mayor Pete Buttigieg – Indiana – likely a minor candidate attempting to build a constituency among millennials and the LGBTQ community. Attempting to jump from his position as a small city mayor into the presidential campaign, a move that will likely prove unrealistic.
  • Ex-Secretary Julian Castro – Texas – former HUD Secretary under President Obama, served as mayor of San Antonio. A long-shot candidate who needs a credible showing to build for the future. He is attempting to build a base constituency among Hispanics and will emphasize the immigration issue.
  • Ex-Rep. John Delaney – Maryland – wealthy now-former congressman. Began visiting Iowa and New Hampshire over a year ago but has reportedly made little headway.
  • Rep. Tulsi Gabbard – Hawaii – A strong military career; was elected to the House in 2012 after winning races for the Hawaii House of Representatives and the Honolulu City Council. A bit of a surprise entry into the presidential contest, when announcing the formation of an exploratory committee earlier this month.
    Some of her positions are very liberal while others make her more of a centrist. Has little in the way of a geographical base. She will have to score big in early debates to attract enough attention, but it appears Ms. Gabbard is capable of becoming a presence. Already, however, her presidential flirtation has attracted a major congressional primary opponent if she chooses to seek re-election.
  • Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand – New York – recently announced formation of an exploratory committee. Moving strongly to her left to compensate for a more moderate record when serving in the House. May find it difficult defining and attracting a winning coalition considering the volume and level of competition.
  • Sen. Kamala Harris – California – announced presidential candidacy last weekend. Could be a major candidate. Will have a strong delegate base coming from California, a state that will now vote in early March. A delegate bonanza in the California primary could well place her near the top of the delegate count after Super Tuesday. Sen. Harris will also attempt to capture the strongest share of President Obama’s victory coalition.
  • Gov. Jay Inslee – Washington – Publicly stated he will form an exploratory committee. Will use the climate change issue to anchor his vote coalition. Prior to his election as governor in 2012, Inslee served seven non-consecutive terms in the US House.
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell – California – Long-shot candidacy unlikely to develop. His California base will be overshadowed by Sen. Harris’ and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s presidential runs, and possibly others.
  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren – Massachusetts – One of the liberal leaders in the Senate who developed a strong constituency even before her original election. She is attempting to build upon the Democratic socialist base that Sen. Bernie Sanders forged in 2016. Sen. Warren may, however, find her position within this constituency being squeezed by Sanders himself, Harris, Gillibrand, and possibly many others. While her name identification is strong, early support appears lacking as single-digit performances in early national polls reveal.

Definitively Declined to Run

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo – New York
  • Sen. Christopher Murphy – Connecticut
  • Ex-Gov. Deval Patrick – Massachusetts
  • Billionaire Tom Steyer – California

Likely to Run

  • Ex-Mayor and Media Mogul Michael Bloomberg – New York
  • Sen. Cory Booker – New Jersey
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar – Minnesota
  • Ex-Gov. Terry McAuliffe – Virginia
  • Sen. Bernie Sanders – Vermont

Possible Candidates; Not Yet Publicly Committing to Run

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden – Delaware
  • Sen. Sherrod Brown – Ohio
  • Gov. Steve Bullock – Montana
  • Mayor Eric Garcetti – Los Angeles, California
  • Ex-Gov. John Hickenlooper – Colorado
  • Sen. Jeff Merkley – Oregon
  • Ex-Rep. Beto O’Rourke – Texas

Possible Candidates; Not Likely to Run

  • Sen. Michael Bennet – Colorado
  • Sen. Bob Casey Jr. – Pennsylvania
  • Mayor Bill de Blasio – New York City, New York
  • Former secretary of state, 2018 Democratic presidential nominee, ex-senator, and First Lady Hillary Clinton – New York
  • Ex-Attorney General Eric Holder – Washington, DC
  • Former secretary of state, senator, and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry – Massachusetts
  • Ex-Mayor Mitch Landrieu – New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Rep. Tim Ryan – Ohio
  • Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz – Washington

Minor Announced Candidates

  • State senator and 2018 US House Nominee Richard Ojeda – West Virginia
  • Entrepreneur Andrew Yang – New York

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