The midterm elections have shaken up the early race for the Democratic presidential nomination, The Hill writes. Enthusiasm for a White House bid by former Representative Beto O’Rourke is soaring after he came within three percentage points of Senator Ted Cruz in the Texas Senate race.
O’Rourke, seen as more of a dark-horse candidate in 2020 just a few weeks ago, is suddenly being embraced by former aides to President Obama, who are comparing him to their former boss. And he’s not ruling out a White House run after dismissing it as a Senate candidate.
The Texan isn’t not the only potential candidate with new momentum after the midterms, either. Senator Sherrod Brown, fresh off a decisive reelection victory in Ohio, is openly considering a run for the White House.
Democrats are giving him a fresh look, too, given his win in a perpetual swing state where President Trump handily defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Democrats focused on winning back working-class voters are wondering if Brown’s brand of populism and socially liberal politics would make him a credible national candidate, The Hill adds.
“Beto’s campaign has certainly catapulted him into the conversation,” said Adam Hodge, a Democratic strategist and former Democratic National Committee official. Likewise, he added, “Brown is getting a first look. Like Beto, he ran an authentic campaign that spoke directly to voters and did it in a battleground states that Democrats shouldn’t give up.”
The new momentum for O’Rourke and Brown will create new challenges for other would-be contenders who have long been seen as likely 2020 Democratic candidates.
The field of challengers to Trump is expected to be large, and Democrats will be looking for lanes to distinguish themselves in the crowded contest. That includes former Vice President Joe Biden and Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who have long been seen as top contenders in part because of their name recognition.
“The race has kind of flipped on its head in a really short time,” said one Democratic donor. “All of a sudden, it looks like the frontrunners aren’t really the frontrunners anymore.”
Democrats have long seen Biden as a strong general election candidate, while they have questioned his ability to win a primary against more liberal Democrats.
He would face real competition from Brown, who is to Biden’s left on trade, but also from Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.), who like the senator from Ohio won reelection convincingly in a state won by Trump.
Biden, who hails from Scranton, Pa., has long been seen as a candidate who could appeal to blue-collar white voters. But that is also the demographic that Brown or Casey could shoot for.
The former vice president might also have to compete with O’Rourke for the Obama crowd, judging from the effusive remarks about the Texan made by the ex-president’s former aides.
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is also seriously considering a White House bid as a Democrat, fresh off an election cycle in which he poured cash into races to help Democrats win back the House. Bloomberg, who would run as a centrist, could be a threat to Biden in that lane of a primary.
O’Rourke and Brown could also suck up the oxygen that other candidates need, including Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Cory Booker (N.J.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.).
Strategists say candidates will have to figure out how quickly to launch campaigns to try to get attention from donors and the public. They say established candidates might want to jump in quickly to blunt the momentum of a Brown or O’Rourke, for fear they could rev up like Obama’s campaign, The Hill notes.
“[The Clinton campaign] gave him an opening and he ran through it,” said Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis. “If I’m more of an established kind of candidate, If I’m a Biden or a Warren, you can’t wait. you’ve got to be out there really fast with a strong message.”
“The advantage someone like Beto has is that he has nothing to lose,” Kofinis added. “That is a dangerous candidate in a multi-candidate field. Same as Obama. Look at the kind of campaign he ran. He had nothing to lose.”
There are signs that some of the politicians long seen as 2020 candidates are getting into the deeper water. Warren this week rolled out a foreign policy vision focused on free trade agreements. Speaking at American University, she said foreign policy should “benefit all Americans, not just wealthy elites.”
Other candidates are on the move to early primary states. Booker is heading back to New Hampshire to headline a “post-election victory celebration,” the state party announced on Friday. Harris criss-crossed Iowa last month and proposed a tax credit of up to $500 a month for families earning less than $100,000.
Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Thursday said it would be unusual for the party to nominate O’Rourke in 2020 since you usually don’t nominate losers – a pointed reference to the loss to Cruz, The Hill concludes.