Kamala Harris – arguably the de facto frontrunner for now in the 2020 presidential race – held her first official campaign rally today and made a big splash. Elizabeth Warren, also arguably the current frontrunner, just proposed sweeping economic reforms. Even as these strong candidacies continue to define themselves, this weekend the 2020 race has suddenly turned into a free for all.
We still don’t know if Joe Biden will run in 2020. Because he has major name recognition, he can afford to enter the race later than the candidates who have already jumped in. But the generally affable Biden will probably go out of his way to avoid having anything even resembling a negative impact on the up and coming candidates, and either voters will choose him, or they won’t. In other words, Biden’s potential run is already factored in. But suddenly, Biden isn’t the name from the past that’s getting the most attention.
Over the weekend Bernie Sanders strongly hinted that he’s about to enter the 2020 race. This has predictably been met with mixed reactions, for a few reasons. He lost the 2016 democratic primary race by a 58% to 42% popular vote margin, meaning the primary was never nearly as close as cable news pretended it was, and people have since figured out that he’s never been as broadly popular or viable as was once believed. There are also a ton of hard feelings about the belated and bitter manner in which he finally exited the race, months after he’d been effectively eliminated. There are also a lot of people who only supported Bernie in 2016 because Elizabeth Warren, who holds the same values but is twice as smart and effective, wasn’t running. So the Bernie 2020 rumblings were controversial, if expected. But then came the truly surprising news.
On Sunday, various media outlets reported that Hillary Clinton is telling her friends that she hasn’t ruled out running in 2020. It’s not yet clear if these rumblings are actually coming from her, or if the media is simply making this up, as they so often tend to do whenever covering anything involving Hillary. But if she is the one putting these hints out there, it sure does change the 2020 equation.
Regardless of whatever narratives her detractors might want to cling to, the facts about 2016 are rather straightforward. She won the primary race in a multimillion vote blowout that had nothing to do with superdelegates, debate schedules, or any other real or imagined controversies. She also won the general election in a multimillion vote blowout, even though the FBI Director tried to trick voters into believing she was headed to prison just a few days before election day. She only lost the electoral college because her opponent treasonously conspired with foreign enemies to rig the results in key swing states. If there’s anyone in U.S. history who deserves the right to run again, it’s her.
That said, Hillary Clinton would be facing a very different landscape in 2020. Last time she had no viable competition, because the likes of Biden and Warren didn’t run. This time Hillary would be facing both of them, along with very popular newcomers like Harris. The odds of any one candidate winning in a field full of viable candidates is fairly remote. That said, Hillary’s email scandal wouldn’t get much traction this time because the media has grown tired of beating that dead horse even if the GOP hasn’t. And because everything Hillary predicted about Trump has come true in nearly exact words, she comes off like Nostradamus these days.
But we don’t know what’s going to happen. Back when the media was desperate to turn the 2016 primary into a contest, it ran with phony stories about everyone from John Kerry to Al Gore to the eighty-something year old Michael Dukakis entering the race, all for the sake of ratings. So the buzz about Hillary running in 2020 could be just as fabricated. Or, for all we know, Hillary leaked this just to remind Bernie that she kicked his ass last time, and that he might want to think twice about running against a much more crowded field this time.
In any case, it shouldn’t be shocking that we’re hearing some of the same names from 2016 surfacing with regard to 2020. It’s only been two years since the 2016 election, even if it feels like a lifetime ago. But for now, based on who’s actually running, the 2020 democratic race is shaping up to be Kamala Harris vs Elizabeth Warren at the moment, with all due respect to the other current candidates. And on the republican side, we don’t even know who will be serving as president by the end of the current term, let alone who will end up seizing the nomination in the increasingly extremist and arguably collapsing GOP. Stay tuned.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report