In the 2020 Race Reset series, we’re taking a fresh look at the candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination as we approach the start of the primaries. We’re also examining what we got right and what we got wrong in our 2020 Preview series, published in January 2019 (read part one, part two, part three, part four of last year’s preview series). In part one of the 2020 Race Reset series, we looked at the frontrunners and underachievers. In part two, we looked at the middle-tier underdogs. In today’s part three, we’re looking at those we identified in 2019 as long-shots and wild cards.
Last year we identified long shot candidates and wild cards who were unlikely to run against President Trump, but could upend everything if the rumors we true.
What happened, and where are they now?
The long shots who didn’t run.
Former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, the right-hand man of the Clintons, was said in March 2019 to be “moving closer” to jumping in the race, but ultimately told CNN he wouldn’t run and endorsed Joe Biden. Former Attorney General Eric Holder made some forays into the media teasing a run, and made his infamous “we kick them” comment in the days leading up to the midterm elections, but he also declined to run and said he would focus on the census and redistricting while also continuing private sector work.
Congressman Adam Schiff (CA), Sen. Bob Casey (PA), Sen. Jeff Merkley (OR), Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu were all potential candidates who opted not to run.
Two failed candidates and media darlings from the 2018 elections – Stacey Abrams, who lost the Georgia gubernatorial race, and Andrew Gillum, who lost the Florida gubernatorial race – both teased bids but never jumped in. Abrams is still crusading around the country, convinced she didn’t actually lose the Georgia gubernatorial race, while Gillum has kept a low profile.
The long shots who did run.
Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg is the only long shot who has mounted a serious bid.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, and Congressman Eric Swalwell (CA) all jumped in, only to drop out a few months later.
Congressman Tim Ryan (OH) sought to take the mantle of Rust Belt blue-collar Democrat, but dropped out in October and endorsed Biden. Congressman John Delaney (MD) was the first Democrat to announce a bid, way back in 2017, but was never taken seriously.
A special shout-out goes to Marianne Williamson, an author and “spiritual leader” whose campaign was based on “harness[ing] love for political purposes.” She appeared in two debates and created some bizarre viral moments, but little else. She dropped out last week.
A few long shots are still in the race, including Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI), who has broken the mold in many ways, but has never polled higher than 4 percent and failed to qualify for the most recent debate.
Sen. Michael Bennet (CO) appeared in the first two debates but hasn’t been in one since, and has never polled above 2 percent.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick made a late entry into the race in November 2019, but hasn’t even registered in most polls and had to cancel a campaign event because only two people showed up.
Billionaire Tom Steyer appeared on TV sets in homes across America in 2017 and 2018 after he spent $10 million of his own money running ads calling for President Trump’s impeachment. After saying early last year that he wouldn’t run, he jumped in the race in the summer and has pledged to spend $100 million on his candidacy. He seems to be the only one of the long shots still in the race who could go deep, in part because he has essentially unlimited money and he’s drawn decent poll numbers in the early primary states of Nevada and South Carolina.
The wild cards who weren’t
There was wild speculation about outsider candidates who could run.
Remember the rumors about Oprah Winfrey or Dwayne Johnson running for president?
Ultimately, the field looked pretty much how we expected it to look.
Billionaire and TV personality Mark Cuban toyed with the idea, but didn’t make the leap (although an independent or third-party candidacy can’t, apparently, be ruled out).
Former senator, Secretary of State, and 2004 presidential nominee John Kerry was also on the list because he also hinted at considering a run, but decided to endorse Biden instead.
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz made the most serious effort of any of them, touring early primary states and holding televised town halls, but ultimately decided his relatively moderate positions – like support of capitalism – wouldn’t play well with today’s Democrat voters.
We’re now down to about two weeks to go before the primaries begin with the Iowa caucuses on February 3rd, followed by the New Hampshire primary on February 11th.
We’re down to six serious candidates and a few on the outside looking in, and those first two contests should winnow the field further.
We’ll preview the Iowa caucuses at the end of January.
Stay with The National Pulse for continued analysis of the Democrats’ race to take on President Donald Trump.