What hath Elizabeth Warren wrought? Eighteen days ago, the Democrat from Massachusetts launched her 2020 presidential campaign, to mild acclaim but mostly shrugs. Now the Senate appears to be emptying itself of her caucus members as they flood into the competition for the Democratic presidential nomination next year.
Last week it was Kirsten Gillibrand. She’s all over the news today too, after officially announcing the formation of her exploratory committee on The Late Show last night. She’d better hope her political timing is better than her comic timing:
Yesterday, Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar dipped her toes in the water. She told the Morning Joe panel on MSNBC that her family was “on board, including my in-laws.” Mika Brzezinski even noted that others on the Senate Judiciary Committee have expressed similar ambitions:
BRZEZINSKI: All right and Senator Klobuchar some of the folks on the judiciary committee might have 2020 aspirations, are you one of them and will it impact your questioning today?
KLOBUCHAR: It won’t impact my questioning in any way, I have a very focused approach just as I did in the Kavanaugh hearings. But I will say that I have made very clear that I am looking at this, I think a few months ago I had talked about the fact that we just came off an election in Minnesota where we – I won in every congressional district including some rural districts that Donald Trump had won handily, that I think it is important to have someone who has some heartland sensibility. I also had said I wanted to talk to my family, so big news today, my family is on board including my in laws, showing some momentum. But I will make this decision on my own course regardless of what other candidates are doing, I think what America wants is someone that is going to make their own decisions, that’s not going to be influenced by every tweet out from the White House or what happens every single day in the news. I think they need a President that’s there for them in the long haul.
As a presidential candidate, Klobuchar would hardly stand out, even in contrast to her fellow Senate Democrats. She has the Minnesota curse of being relatively boring in public, plus the disadvantage of a relatively small base. The rumors of her being one of Congress’ “worst bosses” might actually be all the sparkle she will muster in a crowded field, although based on limited personal experience she comes across as genuinely nice in non-employment situations. (I worked with her on a 9/11 remembrance event a few years back, and didn’t get any hint of diva-ness at all. YMMV.)
Klobuchar would have to elbow out her Judiciary colleagues Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, at the very least, both of whom have larger constituencies and larger personalities. Harris will likely announce her next step over the weekend, while rumors of a Booker romance with Rosario Dawson can’t hurt his expected entry into the race.
The race kept expanding today, with Ohio’s newly re-elected Sherrod Brown going on a presidential tour to boost his standing as well:
Brown won a third term in November on the strength of a message he calls the “Dignity of Work.” He plans to use that motto for his forthcoming tour, which he announced Tuesday night on MSNBC.
It includes stops in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, as well as a kickoff in his home state. The 66-year-old has yet to decide whether to join a 2020 primary field that is expected to include as many as a half-dozen of his fellow Democratic senators.
At least. Bernie Sanders hasn’t committed yet to a 2020 bid, but his desire to quickly mend fences over sexual-harassment allegations certainly makes it seem like he’s got something in mind for 2020:
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is in damage control mode following allegations of sexual harassment in his 2016 campaign, as he weighs a second presidential campaign.
Sanders is seeking to make changes to his campaign team to show it won’t be run the same way as in 2016 to get the controversy behind him.
On Wednesday, he is set to meet in Washington with former staffers who allege they were harassed. That meeting will follow two public apologies from Sanders.
One has to wonder how bad the job is in the Senate that so many Democrats want out. (Answer: Cocaine Mitch, natch.) Who else wants in? Bob Casey Jr floated the idea of a presidential run back in November, and his Pennsylvania base could convince him he’d get to the head of the pack quickly as an antidote to Trump. Tim Kaine was the running mate on the last Democratic ticket and might decide he makes more sense than Beto O’Rourke. At times, it seems like the only member of the Senate Democratic caucus without designs on the White House is the one named Whitehouse. So far, anyway.
All of this Beltway interest in the job — and donor interest in Beltway candidates — opens up a real vulnerability for Democrats in what should be a high-potential cycle. Don’t forget former Senator and VP Joe Biden, who’s been in Washington since the Richard Nixon administration, too, who is leading early polling. Voters got fed up with insiders in 2016, and one could also argue the same in 2018’s midterm vote. Pairing up a Beltway darling against Trump gives the incumbent a lot of room to argue that he’s still the only person who can effectively take on the Washington swamp, regardless of what voters think of him personally.
With this many DC denizens crowding the field in the primaries, an outsider might have trouble penetrating well enough to give Democrats a better option — such as John Bel Edwards, or even John Hickenlooper, or another governor outside of the media/political elite bubble. Trump might yet luck out.