By Jim Ellis
April 22, 2019 — After once indicating that he was preparing to announce a presidential effort, former Virginia governor and ex-Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe said that he would not become a national candidate. Rather, he said late last week, he plans to work in Virginia to help Democrats make further political gains in the Old Dominion.
Though McAuliffe continued to keep his name alive as a potential presidential candidate, the preparatory actions surrounding such a move never seemed to be in evidence.
Interestingly, when asked whether he would consider running for governor again in 2021, he didn’t rule out the possibility. Virginia is the only state in the nation that bars a governor from running for two consecutive terms, but it doesn’t prohibit an ex-chief executive from returning after a break in service.
Currently, the number of officially announced presidential contenders is 19, with former Vice President Joe Biden still not confirming his informal candidacy.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and US Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) are also making visits to early primary states and appear to be readying a respective campaign apparatus.
Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) indicated last week that he wants to enter the national campaign, but a prostate cancer diagnosis has derailed any short-term plans he had to join the large field; however, his long-term health prognosis appears strong.
After the final announcements are made, the next hurdle for the 20-plus contenders will be qualifying for the debate stage. The first of 12 forums will be held June 26 and 27 in Miami. The second will be a month later, in Detroit, on July 30 and 31. The remaining 10 will be scheduled with four more in 2019 and the other six in 2020.
To earn a podium, candidates must have 65,000 individual donors with at least 200 from 20 different states. Or, they will need to meet at least a one percent threshold in three polls, either nationally or regionally in at least one of the first four delegate apportioning states (Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina).
Such a low polling threshold requirement means most of the field will qualify, and the Intelligencer publication released a story yesterday saying that 15 candidates already meet at least the minimum debate participation qualifications.
The only ones who so far would not qualify are ex-Alaska senator, Mike Gravel, Miramar (Florida) Mayor Wayne Messam, Reps. Tim Ryan (D-OH) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA), and author Marianne Williamson. But, time remains for them to make it on stage, as well.
Once the debate field is set, the candidates will draw lots to determine which of the them appear on the first night and which are assigned to the second. Unlike the Republicans in 2016, whose party leadership designated the candidate appearance based upon standing and perceived political strength, the Democrats are leaving the appearance night and podium selection to random chance.
Though the vast majority of attention has been paid, and rightly so, to the individuals entering the presidential race, almost an equal number have declined to run. To refresh memories, below is the list of notable potential presidential candidates who decided not to enter the race (alphabetically):
- Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
- Ex-NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg (should Biden not become a candidate, Bloomberg indicated that he could reverse course and enter)
- Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA)
- Ex-Secretary of State and US Senator Hillary Clinton
- Gov. Andrew Cuomo
- Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti
- Former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum
- Ex-US Attorney General Eric Holder
- Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA)
- Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III (D-MA)
- Ex-Gov. Terry McAuliffe (VA)
- Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR)
- Sen. Christopher Murphy (D-CT)
- Former First Lady Michelle Obama
- Ex-Gov. Martin O’Malley (MD)
- Ex-Gov. Deval Patrick (MA)
- Ex-Hedge Fund CEO Tom Steyer
- Entertainer Oprah Winfrey