The winners of the midterm Congressional elections have barely warmed their seats, but potential 2020 presidential candidates are wasting no time in declaring their intentions to join what political analysts have called a "free-for-all" and "candidate tsunami."
One prominent Democrat, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, announced her plans to form an exploratory committee for a presidential run last week, joining several others. A number of other prominent names are expected to announce within the next two weeks. Overall, more than a dozen candidates — perhaps as many as 30 — are expected to seek traction in the early stages of the race. Here's where things stand.
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NPR reports that in addition to Warren, three other Democrats have at least formed exploratory committees for a presidential run: ex-Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, who announced he was running in 2017; entrepreneur Andrew Yang; and Richard Ojeda, who lost his midterm race for a West Virginia congressional seat.
Expected to announce soon
Former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro, who has attracted presidential speculation ever since a star-making speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2008, will formally announce his run on Jan. 12, multiple sources reported last week. He formed an exploratory committee on Dec. 12.
Last month, former Vice President Joe Biden called himself the "most qualified person in the country to be president" during a speech in Montana. It was the clearest statement yet that he is considering a run. Shortly after the remarks, Antjuan Seawright, a Democratic strategist who worked for Hillary Clinton's 2016 campaign, called Biden’s strategy “ramp up to ramp down.” Said Seawright: “Biden is ramping up to try to clear the field, so if he gets in he won’t have a tough run."
On MSNBC Friday, former Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe said his chances of running were "50-50," then delivered the equivalent of a stump speech about his successes at the state helm, including health care and wage growth.
In early December, former NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg made some conspicuous preliminary moves, meeting with prominent Democratic leaders in Iowa — site of the first Democratic caucus vote in January 2020 — and telling Iowa Radio that he was ready to sell his company, Bloomberg LP, or place it in a blind trust ahead of a return to politics.
Over the last year, billionaire and progressive megadonor Tom Steyer has funded Need to Impeach, an ad campaign advocating the removal of President Trump, while contemplating his own presidential run. On Saturday, he launched a $435,000 ad buy targeting cities in Iowa, along with millions more in the early Democratic caucus states of New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina. He will visit Des Moines and Ankeney, Iowa, on Wednesday.
A surprise MoveOn poll last month found that Beto O'Rourke — who narrowly lost his Senate race to Ted Cruz in ruby-red Texas, while raising record amounts of cash and gaining national celebrity — was the candidate Democrats were most excited about.
Since then, other early polls have coalesced around three contenders: Biden, 2016 candidate Bernie Sanders, and O'Rourke, in that order. In mid-December, a straw poll of likely Iowa Democratic caucusgoers placed Biden first at 32 percent, Sanders second at 19 percent and O'Rourke third at 11 percent.
Sanders has run into some early headwinds: Recent news cycles have included reports about sexism in his 2016 campaign and "Bernie bros" attacking O'Rourke on social media; some Democrats blame Sanders supporters' ire for hobbling Hillary Clinton in her race against Trump.
Twenty-two months before the election, some veteran lawmakers have already issued the equivalent of endorsements. Last week, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) came out in support of Biden, and 2016 presidential candidate (and former Maryland governor) Martin O'Malley said he would not run in 2020 and threw his weight behind O'Rourke.
In addition to O'Malley, other prominent Democrats who have quashed once-discussed presidential bids include Stormy Daniels' attorney Michael Avenatti and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, both of whom announced last month that they would not run.
Also in the mix
Axios reported Friday that Hillary Clinton has been meeting with some potential candidates, including Warren, Booker, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Other names that have been mentioned include Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Sherrod Brown of Ohio.