Just a week after the midterms and the 2020 talk has already risen from a quiet buzz to a dull roar. A new Morning Consult poll, for example, finds that former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke and Sen. Liz Warren–all well-known names–are at the top of the list of Democrats’ first choice for president.
Senators like California’s Kamala Harris and New Jersey’s Cory Booker have tried to use their positions to raise their political profiles, Starbucks exec Howard Schultz has made no secret of his interest in the race, and a new op-ed in the Wall Street Journal by two former Clinton aides all but guarantees a 2020 appearance by Hillary 4.0.
But being a front-runner is no guarantee of success. (Just ask President Jeb Bush.)
In 1974, Jimmy Carter was the obscure governor of a sleepy southern state. The same for Bill Clinton in 1990. And few Americans had heard of an Illinois state legislator named “Barack Obama” when he was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006.
Two years later, all three of these men won both their party’s nominations and the White House. Is there another relatively unknown candidate in the wings right now, waiting to shock the American political system? Perhaps. In a field that, at last count, contained at least 33 potential candidates, there’s certainly no shortage of currently-unknown contenders. Which ones should you keep your eye on ?
Here are some names to add to your 2020 POTUS Democratic primary office pool:
Sen. Sherrod Brown.
Sen. Sherrod Brown is a true, dyed-in-the-(blue)-wool progressive who just won his third term to the US Senate in a state Donald Trump won handily in 2016, and in the same 2018 midterm where Mike DeWine was elected governor by 5 points. Brown is an MSNBC regular and harsh critic of the president, but he pigeon-holed himself as part of the Left fringe of his party.
In fact, Brown isn’t shy about praising Trump on occasion, particularly on the issue of trade. His approach to politics is essentially old-school union organizer, which makes him less enthusiastic about mass immigration than many of his fellow Democrats. Brown has voted both against a comprehensive immigration plan and in favor of a bill that included a wall at the Mexico border, though he’s stayed more in line with this fellow Democrats since Trump took office.
Matthew Walther, who covers politics for The Week, says: “If I were asked to guess the Democratic politician most likely to win a presidential election in two years, I would name Brown without hesitation.”
Gov. Deval Patrick
His name is not well-known outside of Massachusetts, where he served two terms as governor, but it’s reportedly heard quite often among friends of a key Democrat: Barack Obama. More than a year ago, Politico reported that members of the former president’s inner circle wanted Patrick to make a play for the White House–including Democratic strategist David Axelrod, who oversaw the campaigns of both men.
Now a new profile of Patrick in the New Yorker this week reiterates that storyline, including a report that Michelle Obama met with Patrick’s wife Diane to persuade her to encourage her husband to run. According to the New Yorker, it worked.
President Obama’s longtime advisor Valerie Jarrett told Politico that “my heart desires” a Deval Patrick presidency. “He has the ability to touch people’s hearts as well as their minds. I think our country is ready for that now.”
“Klobuchar feels like the fulfillment of what many of us have been saying since November 9, 2016 — that the Democrat who can beat Trump in 2020 was out there hiding in plain sight amid the baggage-carrying, way-too-familiar front-runners like Joe Biden (age in January 2021: 78), Sen. Bernie Sanders (who’ll be 79), and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (71 in 1/21).”
I have a tip for Democrats who would like to not just beat Trump in 2020 but bury him: pic.twitter.com/fLIFLsWNNY
— Josh Barro (@jbarro) November 7, 2018
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH)
Veteran New Hampshire state senator Lou D’Allessandro, known as the “Lion of the NH Senate,” loves the blue-collar Ohio congressman, telling New Hampshire Journal “Keep an eye on Timmy Ryan.”
Ryan is best known as the moderate Democrat who launched an unsuccessful challenge to Nancy Pelosi to lead Democrats in the House. And it’s no secret that the Ohio congressman has a possible presidential run on his mind. Ryan has been traveling the country for Democrats, including a stop in South Carolina over the summer at Rep. Jim Clyburn’s (D-SC) annual “World Famous Fish Fry.”
“Rep. Tim Ryan for president in 2020? Think about it. (He sure is)” was a recent headline in Crain’s Business Cleveland.
West Virginia State Senator Richard Ojeda
From the West Virginia state senate to the White House? It’s never been done, but in the era of Donald Trump, anything is possible. Ojeda formally announced his candidate from the Korean War Memorial in Washington, DC on November 12th–the day America observed Veteran’s Day. Smart timing for an Army major who still looks the part
Ojeda has garnered a surprising amount of media coverage for a candidate who just lost a local race for Congress last Tuesday, has little money and virtually zero name ID. Why is he turning pundit heads?
Because in 2016 he was a Democratic office holder who publicly backed Trump and now wants to run against him. Because he’s from a corner of America, West Virginia’s coal country, where President Trump is wildly popular. And because, as the numbers-crunchers of FiveThirtyEight.com point out, even though he lost his bid in a solidly-red congressional district, “he got 43.6 percent of the vote, 20 points more than the Democrat who ran in 2016 did. Ojeda outperformed his district’s partisan lean by about 24 points — one of the best showings in the nation.”
The smart money is on the big-name, well-funded Democrats like Biden and Bernie–literally. The PredictIt.com betting market has them, along with Kamala Harris, at the top of the heap. But in 2014, how many people would have bet on an abrasive, big-city billionaire and reality-TV host becoming the GOP nominee, much less President of the United States?