Daily Press (Sunday) - - Opinion - Jules wit­cover

Demo­cratic Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren of Mas­sachusetts, in an­nounc­ing her 2020 pres­i­den­tial can­di­dacy a full year in ad­vance, gets the ball rolling amid un­cer­tainty whether Pres­i­dent Trump him­self will sur­vive the in­ves­ti­ga­tions against him to seek re-elec­tion.

In­di­ca­tions of a larger Demo­cratic field sug­gest a de­sire of even more com­pe­ti­tion than what oc­curred on the Repub­li­can side in 2016, when16 pres­i­den­tial hope­fuls — in­clud­ing long shot Don­ald Trump — en­tered the start­ing gate.

Also in 2016, Demo­cratic fron­trun­ner Hil­lary Clin­ton, with a huge lead in fundrais­ing and a grow­ing women’s move­ment be­hind her, had lit­tle se­ri­ous opposition be­yond demo­cratic so­cial­ist Bernie San­ders, who made a good show­ing but was never a re­al­is­tic con­tender.

Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den chose not to en­ter the 2016 race, but this time around he has said he should not be counted out. In fact, he leads the Demo­cratic flock in the polls with as much as 30 per­cent to only 10 per­cent for San­ders. He has sub­stan­tial fundrais­ing in­ter­est and po­ten­tial.

Bi­den at 76 now would be the old­est elected pres­i­dent, but War­ren, 69, and San­ders, 77, are in the same range, with Amer­i­cans these days lead­ing longer lives. But Demo­cratic mid­dle-agers, such as re­cently over­whelm­ingly re­elected Sen. Sher­rod Brown of

Ohio at 66, are lin­ing up to en­ter the com­pe­ti­tion.

Even a com­par­a­tive young­ster, Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas, at 46, a sur­pris­ingly very nar­row loser to re-elected Repub­li­can Sen. Ted Cruz in Novem­ber, has Demo­cratic hearts pal­pi­tat­ing.

But all these Democrats will likely be over­shad­owed in pub­lic at­ten­tion in 2019 by the news me­dia spot­light and at­ten­tion on Trump’s strug­gle for po­lit­i­cal sur­vival in the Oval Of­fice over the re­main­ing two years of his first term.

De­spite all signs of Jus­tice Depart­ment spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion clos­ing in on the sit­ting pres­i­dent as well as a sep­a­rate fed­eral in­quiry in New York’s South­ern District against him, Trump sol­diers on with the as­sump­tion or hope he will sur­vive and run for a sec­ond term.

Un­like the un­re­strained Demo­cratic surge of can­di­date in­ter­est in their party’s 2020 pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion, few Republicans known to have White House am­bi­tions have dared to in­vite the ire of the in­cum­bent who has re-made the once Grand Old Party in his own im­age.

Of these, the most and cred­i­ble so far is re­tir­ing Repub­li­can Gov. John Ka­sich of Ohio, an18-year vet­eran of con­gres­sional bud­getary wars in the House who was the last of the 2016 chal­lengers to Trump’s suc­cess­ful cam­paign for the nom­i­na­tion and the pres­i­dency.

The Repub­li­can lead­er­ship in the House and Se­nate, former House Speaker Paul Ryan and Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch Mc­Connell, obe­di­ently and con­spic­u­ously rolled over for Trump in his first two years in Oval Of­fice. Their rep­u­ta­tions and those of other com­ply­ing Republicans on Capi­tol Hill ac­cord­ingly also suf­fered, amid the shrink­ing and tooth­less estab­lish­ment there.

In all, the early start of 2020 pres­i­den­tial pol­i­tics two years be­fore the next elec­tion au­gurs a weary­ing pre­lude to the real thing through­out the pri­mary elec­tion pre­lim­i­nar­ies in 2020.

Po­lit­i­cal re­porters, in­clud­ing yours truly, will gaze dili­gently into our crys­tal balls and con­vert what­ifs to what- may-bes, as view­ers and read­ers suf­fer through a long pre­elec­tion year await­ing the 2020 elec­tion it­self.

Mean­while, the im­por­tant ques­tion through­out will re­main: Will Don­ald Trump some­how es­cape the clutches of the le­gal sleuths here in Washington and in South­ern New York, long enough to al­low him to go be­fore the na­tion’s vot­ers a sec­ond time to seek their ap­proval in Novem­ber 2020?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in re­gain­ing that crit­i­cal post af­ter an eight-year Repub­li­can oc­cu­pancy, hit the ground run­ning Wed­nes­day by declar­ing flatly her party would of­fer no new money for the south­ern bor­der wall Trump keeps de­mand­ing.

She also has con­firmed that the new House Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity will make op­ti­mal use of the Con­sti­tu­tion’s grant of “over­sight over the agen­cies of gov­ern­ment,” mean­ing a bar­rage of subpoena power to ob­tain essen­tial doc­u­ments in the quest for ev­i­dence of Trump cor­rup­tion. It au­gurs the wel­come dawn of a new day on Capi­tol Hill. Email Jules Wit­cover at juleswit­[email protected]­

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