2020 Democrats: state of the race (April 21st, 2019)

We now have a 2020 Republican to compete with our incumbent President of the United States (cue the party horn!): former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld, who from all appearances seems like a sanity-based person with legitimate reasons (“It is time to return to the principles of Lincoln — equality, dignity, and opportunity for all”) and experience to run for higher office. And who knows, maybe he’ll even make some headway in the GOP nominating process, even in these wacky times. Also, he was Gary Johnson’s running mate for the Libertarian Party in 2016, which is kind of interesting. 
I’ll be watching to see if the likes of (now) Sen. Mitt Romney will be willing to take the political risk to endorse Weld for president. Romney, for his part, claimed to be “appalled” by the findings of the Mueller Report just this week. So let’s keep an eye on this, but holding of the breath will not be on the table, if you can dig. 
Washington Governor and 2020 Dem Jay Inslee has proposed a debatefocused solely on climate change, but the Democratic National Committee responded with an “extremely noncommittal statement last night, even as the party emphasized the topic’s importance.”

This seems like an exceptional idea to me, even if it leans into Inslee’s main rationale for running. To me, that’s fine: let’s hear exactly what each candidate has to say about climate change in as much detail as possible.

Inslee was a guest on the Pod Save America podcast this week, and I found him to be an impressive, competent, accomplished, technocratic, mild mannered, Western governor. He’s progressive especially on climate change (a good thing) but has a bipartisan and inclusive tone, and talked about working with Republican opposition in the Washington state legislature.

I came away believing that this is a guy who should get a serious look over from Democratic voters. It could well be that in a crowded field and as a relative unknown with the public nationally (I had not heard of him until well after I moved into the state where he’s the governor, I’m ashamed to say) he’s going to have an uphill battle to gain serious traction.

And in terms of larger numbers of Democratic voters hearing from him and other candidates in the crowded field, the debates are going to be a critical forum. Five Thirty Eight looks at “Who Might Make the Debate Stage?” And here’s a primer on how they calculate who “major candidates” are.

I also heard an interview with Beto O’Rourke on the excellent Axe Files podcast with David Axelrod (not to be confused with Bobby Axelrod from Billions). As expected, Beto was personable and affable and presented a generic progressive-yet-inclusive Democrat vibe, but I didn’t quite come away thinking, “This guy could be the next President of the United States.”

Here are the biggest bets of the 2020 Democratic field so far from a campaign spending standpoint:

  • The early hiring spree, which cost Warren’s campaign nearly $1.2 million in salary plus more on related expenses, amounts to a big bet on what it will take to win the 2020 presidential race. The buildup had Warren spending money almost as fast as she raised it at a time of year when presidential campaigns traditionally hoard their cash, according to new campaign finance filings. But the decision sheds new light on the priorities and strategy behind Warren’s campaign, which believes organization in the early-voting states could make the difference next year.

Also interesting to learn that Kamala Harris’ splashy and successful early campaign rally in Oakland “cost the campaign more than a half-million dollars — but drew 22,000 people and saturation media coverage, providing an early jolt for her standing.”

Speaking of Harris, she is leading the way in attracting donations (those who helped raise at least $100,000) for those who also made big time money donations to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.

Joe Biden is inching ever closer to a third run at the White House:

  • Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has begun accepting financial donations for a 2020 presidential campaign, an unambiguous sign that he intends to begin his challenge to President Trump within days.

He has also hired “over a dozen senior advisors from the Obama administration” for the 2020 campaign.

Here’s Harry Enten’s take on Biden’s chances:

  • Biden’s biggest obstacles for winning the nomination imho are… 1. Most Democrats don’t say they’d feel comfortable nominating someone over 75. 2. He could be QUITE rusty campaigning. 3. Are people thinking he’s merely Obama? And then will realize he’s not.

Former Virginia Governor and Clinton adviser Terry McAuliffe won’t be running for president, so that’s one off the list.

I almost sent off a politics section without a Mayor Pete mention, but(tigieg) I must note this New York Magazine piece that talks about why the presidential candidate from Indiana may check “so many boxes relevant to this moment.”

This post originally appeared in what had originally been called The Eric Berlin E-mail Newsletter. To get a weekly blast of pop culture, digital media, and politics that helps make sense of an increasingly frazzled world, sign on up for The Berlin Files here.

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