Pres­i­den­tial spec­u­la­tion sur­rounds War­ren, San­ders

2020 hope­fuls scram­ble for po­si­tion early

Pawtucket Times - - REGION / OBITUARIES -

NEW YORK (AP) — Democrats are hit­ting fast for­ward.

The first ma­jor pres­i­den­tial cam­paign an­nounce­ments could come be­fore year’s end. The Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee plans to an­nounce a de­bate frame­work by then fea­tur­ing 15 to 20 can­di­dates. The first pri­mary de­bate could hap­pen as early as May, a full three months be­fore the pre­mier de­bate of the 2016 cy­cle.

And long-ru­mored White House hope­fuls are al­ready bow­ing out.

Like it or not, the 2020 pres­i­den­tial sea­son has ar­rived. For some po­ten­tial con­tenders, there’s an in­creas­ing sense of ur­gency to be in the first wave of de­clared can­di­dates in what will likely be a large, un­wieldy field. And for the party as a whole, there’s a de­sire to move for­ward with what’s ex­pected to be a nasty fight — and wrap it up in time to give the even­tual nom­i­nee strong foot­ing to take on Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

“It starts now, but there will be a lot of ups and downs,” said Demo­cratic con­sul­tant Jesse Ferguson, who pre­vi­ously worked for Hil­lary Clin­ton’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. “Any­one who thinks the early front-run­ner will also go the dis­tance hasn’t seen how th­ese cam­paigns play out.”

This week has of­fered a pre­view of the drama that could lie ahead. For­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den de­clared him­self “the most qual­i­fied per­son in the coun­try to be pres­i­dent,” bil­lion­aires Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer courted ac­tivists in key states, and at least two prospects — for­mer Mas­sachusetts Gov. De­val Pa­trick and fire­brand at­tor­ney Michael Ave­natti — pub­licly bowed out of the 2020 con­test.

For those pre­par­ing can­di­da­cies, ac­tiv­ity is pick­ing up. While she has yet to make a fi­nal de­ci­sion, Mas­sachusetts Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren is lay­ing the ground­work for an early launch — po­ten­tially by year’s end but more likely in Jan­uary. New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Colorado Gov. John Hick­en­looper and New York Sen. Kirsten Gil­li­brand are also lin­ing up for early launches.

Aides to the Democrats ad­dressed their plans on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they were not au­tho­rized to pub­licly dis­close in­ter­nal dis­cus­sions.

An­other well-funded set, in­clud­ing Ver­mont Sen. Bernie San­ders, Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Bloomberg and Steyer, be­lieve they can af­ford to wait slightly longer to an­nounce their in­ten­tions given their fundrais­ing prow­ess.

Oth­ers may need to soon form pres­i­den­tial ex­ploratory com­mit­tees to ac­cess mil­lions of dol­lars locked in their Se­nate cam­paign ac­counts to pay for travel, con­sult­ing and polling re­lated to a pos­si­ble White House bid. That’s es­pe­cially true for War­ren, Gil­li­brand, O’Rourke, Ore­gon Sen. Jeff Merkley and Ohio Sen. Sher­rod Brown.

O’Rourke, who smashed fundrais­ing records this year in his failed Texas Se­nate bid, is dis­cussing a pos­si­ble 2020 run with his fam­ily, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple with di­rect knowl­edge of his think­ing. He feels the only draw­back to run­ning would be an­other pro­longed pe­riod away from his wife and three chil­dren.

O’Rourke has been in­vited to visit Iowa and New Hamp­shire in re­cent weeks. He hasn’t ac­cepted any such in­vi­ta­tion but has not de­clined them ei­ther.

Se­nior aides to San­ders, who mounted an ag­gres­sive chal­lenge to Clin­ton in 2016, are lay­ing the ground­work for a big­ger cam­paign or­ga­ni­za­tion, ac­cord­ing to chief ad­viser Jeff Weaver.

San­ders’ wife, Jane O’Meara San­ders, told The Associated Press that the gru­el­ing pace of a pres­i­den­tial con­test would not be a de­ter­rent for a sec­ond run. She also high­lighted San­ders’ phi­los­o­phy of not at­tack­ing other Democrats.

“We’ve never been neg­a­tive to­ward an op­po­nent,” she said in an in­ter­view last week­end. “And that’s go­ing to be the case this time.”

Bi­den, who has been less ac­tive than other 2020 prospects in pre­par­ing to run, is sched­uled to ap­pear in San­ders’ home base of Burling­ton, Ver­mont, over the week­end as part of a na­tion­wide book tour.

Weaver said there were no plans for San­ders and Bi­den to meet.

Booker, who says he will make a fi­nal de­ci­sion over the hol­i­days, has been among the most ag­gres­sive prospects.

In ad­di­tion to ag­gres­sively court­ing ac­tivists and prospec­tive staff, the New Jersey Demo­crat is sched­uled to make a series of ap­pear­ances this week­end in New Hamp­shire, which tra­di­tion­ally hosts the nation’s first pres­i­den­tial pri­mary elec­tion.

Among the Democrats not rul­ing out a run is John Kerry, the for­mer sec­re­tary of state and Mas­sachusetts se­na­tor who lost the 2004 pres­i­den­tial race. Democrats close to Kerry say he’s done lit­tle to start build­ing a cam­paign in­fra­struc­ture, but he’s happy to keep his name in the dis­cus­sion, par­tic­u­larly in the event other el­der states­man-like fig­ures — namely Bi­den — de­cide not to run.

As the field takes shape, DNC Chair­man Tom Perez is work­ing to craft what he says must be a fair process that doesn’t leave the even­tual nom­i­nee fac­ing in­ter­nal crit­i­cisms of fa­voritism like those that dogged Clin­ton in 2016.

A group of DNC of­fi­cials and ad­vis­ers, led by Mary Beth Cahill, who man­aged Kerry’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, is months into pri­vate dis­cus­sions with tele­vi­sion net­works, pre­vi­ous pres­i­den­tial cam­paign of­fi­cials and state party lead­ers as they craft a plan for Perez.

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