Joe Biden is leading in the polls. Elizabeth Warren is hitting the ground in Iowa, where former Congressman John Delaney has been campaigning for months. Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders is building out his digital media staff, while Tulsi Gabbard and Julian Cruz are looking to upset the favorites. And Kirsten Gillibrand announced her White House ambitions on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.
That’s already a long list of potential and declared contenders, and it’s likely to get longer as the year goes on. Beto O’Rourke, despite being defeated in the Texas hotly-contested senate race, has emerged as a star. Popular Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown has been touring Iowa and other early states. Kamala Harris hasn’t officially declared but she’s been working to increase her profile in recent weeks. Oh, and Cory Booker is on a diet, with many speculating that he’s trying to shape up for the 2020 run.
The field is looking so jam-packed many are wondering how the logistics are going to work. For example, how are the debates going to be held? Indeed, some pundits are worried that there are simply too many candidates. How can one stand out in such a crowded field?
Republicans faced similar challenges in 2016. And it took a particular candidate, Donald Trump, to put together a strong enough base to advance through the primaries. For Trump, the crowded field played into his favor, with votes for his opponents divided.
For Democrats, the crowded field will be a breath of fresh air after the DNC labored so hard to ensure that Hillary Clinton won the 2016 nomination. Debates were limited and the party machine ensured that Clinton enjoyed every advantage. Challenger Bernie Sanders nearly upset Clinton anyways.
Like their Republican counterparts, many rank-and-file Democrats have grown sick of “the system” and the elites who sit at the top of it. Clinton was one such person. Despite her overall intelligence and skill, Democrats wanted someone different.
The crowded field means serious issues will have to be debated. The need to build a base means candidates won’t be able to easily softball policies, questions, and the like. They’ll have to get firm and serious with their opinions and ambitions.
Right now, the establishment favorite appears to be former Vice President Joe Biden. But Biden is a bit of an outsider himself, having been one of the more outspoken senators and presidential candidates. Biden hasn’t declared yet, and some are worried that, at 76, he may be too old. The same concerns surround Bernie Sanders.
One of Clinton’s biggest mistakes was arguably selecting a vice president candidate who was likewise known as a centrist, establishment Democrat. Come 2020, whichever Democrat wins the presidential nod would be wise to select a VP who can energize a different section of the Democratic Party.
Many of the long-shot candidates may be looking to secure the vice president nod. Sherrod Brown, for example, lacks the name recognition of Joe Biden and other leading contenders. Yet his pragmatic progressive policies and “Dignity of Work” campaign angle have proven to be very appealing in the Midwest. Given that Trump won the White House by flipping Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, the supposed “blue wall,” Brown could be an appealing VP choice.
Likewise, women candidates did very well in the 2018 Congressional races. If a male gets the nod, don’t be surprised if a woman is selected to run as VP. A Biden-Warren ticket would be formidable, for example, potentially capable of drawing both centrist and progressive Democrats.
This is all conjecture, of course, but that’s exactly what makes the crowded field so interesting. Unlike 2016, there are a lot of options. As the campaigns begin to debate with one another and present policies, the plethora of choices will shape the discussion.