As 2018 winds to a close, there’s no shortage of news coming from Democrats who want to run for president. Polls, particularly those among liberal special interest groups, are giving early indications about the direction Democrats may choose to go. And some candidates are already forming exploratory committees and planning official announcements in the coming days and weeks.
For the latest updates on what 2020 Democrats are up to, check out the rundown below:
Julian Castro (D-TX)
The former Housing and Urban Development (HUD) secretary under President Obama announced this week he’s forming an exploratory committee for a White House campaign. Castro told the Associated Press that he plans to make a formal decision by January 12.
To be clear, Castro will face enormous hurdles if he becomes a candidate. He’s the former mayor of San Antonio, but he’s never run statewide in Texas (or anywhere else). In 2016, he appeared to audition for the VP spot for Hillary Clinton but fell short. To make matters worse, the 44-year-old Castro has spent the past year watching fellow Texan Beto O’Rourke capture the hearts and imaginations of liberals across the country. In all likelihood, Castro is announcing early to try to get ahead of “Betomania,” should O’Rourke decide his time to run is now.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
After weeks of speculation, Warren saw her stock plummet when Democracy for America (DFA) released a poll of its members showing her coming in 4th place among 2020 Democrats. She trailed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), former Vice President Joe Biden, and O’Rourke in the poll that showed her in first place in 2016. The results reinforce the Boston Globe editorial that argued Warren missed her chance to run last time and the notion that a recent string of bad headlines have become setbacks to her campaign. DFA Executive Director Charles Chamberlain said the poll results indicate that Warren’s team has “some work to do” to win back disenchanted liberals.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
The midwestern Democrat earned double-digit support in Iowa, according to a Focus on Rural America poll released this week. At 10 percent, Klobuchar led Warren at 9 percent, and fellow Senate colleagues Kamala Harris (D-CA) at 7 percent, Cory Booker (D-NJ) at 6 percent, and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) at 3 percent.
That should give Klobuchar reason to be cautiously optimistic, but it is important to note that Iowa is losing some of its influence in the 2020 cycle thanks to states like Texas and California moving their primary dates up to early March. With early voting, voters will be picking candidates in California and at the Iowa caucuses on the same day.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI)
Gabbard’s trial balloon from a couple weeks ago has turned into a full-fledged effort, according to BuzzFeed News. “Her team is actively seeking to staff senior roles on a potential presidential campaign, according to a person briefed on the outreach, and has indicated that an announcement could come as soon as this week,” BuzzFeed’s Alexis Levinson wrote Monday.
Gabbard is a full-fledged liberal who has not shied away from bucking her party. She criticized President Obama, campaigned hard for Sanders in the 2016 presidential primary, and has an unusual (at best) relationship with Syrian President Bashar al Assad, who has killed thousands of his own people with toxic gas. She is also a veteran who served in a field medical unit of the Hawaii Army National Guard, with tours of duty in Iraq and Kuwait.
At only 37 years-old, Gabbard’s campaign would no doubt be “unconventional,” as Levinson notes. Keep an eye on an announcement in the coming days or weeks.
Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX)
Betomentum continues as the Texas Democrat topped a MoveOn.org poll of its members last week. In an early straw poll of the liberal group’s membership, O’Rourke narrowly defeated Biden, 15.6 percent to 14.9 percent. Sanders earned 13.1 percent in the poll. In 2016, 78 percent of MoveOn members chose Sanders over Clinton in a similar poll.
Democrats supportive of O’Rourke launched a “Draft Beto” campaign Tuesday, according to Politico. The group’s goal, for now, is simple: raise $1 million for his future political campaign. But O’Rourke was the best fundraising Senate candidate in 2018, so the move is likely more about keeping the Texas congressman’s name in the news than it is about money.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)
Booker became the second likely 2020 Democrat to back the so-called “Green New Deal” last week. It’s the brainchild of liberal groups the Sunrise Movement and Justice Democrats, and the Huffington Post describes it as “the radical plan to zero out greenhouse gas emissions in a decade and reduce poverty with federally backed clean-energy jobs.” Sanders has already endorsed the plan, which was a regular part of Rep.-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s stump speech on the campaign trail.
Further adding to Booker’s liberal bona fides, Vox.com founder Ezra Klein defended the New Jersey Democrat against criticisms of moderation, saying “his policies are extremely liberal and his message is spiritually radical.” That may be a good thing for Booker right now, but it won’t if he makes it out of the primary.
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA)
Women of color are very strong supporters of Harris’s potential 2020 bid. According to BuzzFeed News, a recent poll conducted by She The People found that Harris was among the top three choices of a whopping 71.1 percent of the group’s respondents. The next best candidate in the survey, O’Rourke, was in the top three among just 38.3 percent.
The survey was conducted among just 264 women across the country, but it should serve as a wake-up call to all 2020 Democrats that Harris will be a force to be reckoned with among this constituency, should she decide to run.
In other Harris news, her office announced that she just returned from Afghanistan in a likely attempt to increase her national security profile.