Why you should care
Democratic socialist Bernie Sanders is seizing the left lane again — but it’s a lot more crowded than it was in 2016.
This is an OZY Special Briefing, an extension of the Presidential Daily Brief. The Special Briefing tells you what you need to know about an important issue, individual or story that is making news. Each one serves up an interesting selection of facts, opinions, images and videos in order to catch you up and vault you ahead.
WHAT TO KNOW
What happened? On Tuesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders — who famously finished second to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary — announced that he’s running again. The 77-year-old Vermont Independent joins an already crowded field: Other senators vying for the Democratic Party’s nomination for 2020 include New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand, California’s Kamala Harris (pictured), Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar, Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Warren and New Jersey’s Cory Booker. Members of Congress Tulsi Gabbard and John Delaney are also running, as is former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro. So whom should you keep your eye on … and who else might jump in?
Why does it matter? Though debates don’t begin till June — in what’s expected to be a two-night affair accommodating as many as 20 candidates — many contenders are already hot on the trail, stumping to be the progressive challenger who faces off with President Donald Trump. Some are aiming to capture moderates and independents, but many are looking instead to ignite the Democratic base. To make the debate stage, candidates must either gain 1 percent polling support or donations from 65,000 people.
HOW TO THINK ABOUT IT
To B or not to B. The three most-discussed candidates who are not yet running? Biden, Beto and Bloomberg — any of whom could instantly shake up the race. Former Vice President Joe Biden leads in all the polls — he has the name recognition and a store of goodwill from the Obama years, but he’d be 78 by Inauguration Day (older than Trump) and has some baggage from his years in the Senate such as his handling of Anita Hill’s allegations against Justice Clarence Thomas. Beto O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman who recently lost his Senate race to incumbent Ted Cruz, has drawn Obama comparisons — including after rallying thousands of supporters in El Paso last week to counter Trump’s appearance there. Meanwhile, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg could run as a far richer billionaire than Trump, but his Republican past may turn off fired-up progressive voters.
Pick a lane. Sanders’ entry into the race is huge given his near-upset of Clinton in 2016 and his enduring fan base, 225,000 of whom pitched in a staggering $6 million within the first 24 hours of his new candidacy. The democratic socialist is seizing the left lane again — but it’s a lot more crowded than it was four years ago. Most of the top candidates have adopted his policies like Medicare for all, and the Green New Deal that many now support is far more radical than anything Sanders proposed in 2016. His entry most hurts Warren, another liberal lion with a long track record. Meanwhile, Klobuchar is winning a lot of attention right now for fighting for the moderate lane. In her CNN town hall on Monday, she rejected the notion of free four-year college, for example, trying to set herself up as the “eat your vegetables” realist in the field who can win rural areas that went for Trump. Her lane will have a lot more competition soon depending on who else throws a hat into the ring. Keep an eye on current and former governors — no one with gubernatorial experience has entered the fray yet — like John Hickenlooper (Colorado), Steve Bullock (Montana) and Terry McAuliffe (Virginia).
You’ve come a long way. Women have run for president before and come very, very close to the White House, but we’ve never had so many — and Warren, Klobuchar, Gillibrand, Gabbard and Harris all bring vastly different strengths and a range of positions to the presidential field. That’ll mean talking points often branded as women’s issues may take center stage instead of being delegated to a single candidate.
Lurking between the reeds. Some candidates have gotten more press than others, but with 56 percent of Democrats saying they haven’t made their minds up, some lesser-known contenders may have time to step into the spotlight before the first debate. That’s good news for candidate Andrew Yang, a former tech executive and entrepreneur who’s running on a platform centered on universal basic income, and for South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who would be the youngest president ever and the first openly gay one. Also keep an eye out for Marianne Williamson, who ran an unsuccessful 2014 bid for Congress and is the spiritual guide to none other than Oprah Winfrey (who’s ruled out running herself).
WHAT TO READ
Democrats Have a Chance of Beating Trump With Julian Castro on the 2020 Ticket, by Brad Bannon in The Hill
“Castro could smooth the painful racial and generational transition that America is undergoing. Millennials and non-white Americans are replacing baby boomers and Anglos as the dominant forces in our society.”
The Bonfire of the Democrats, by Rich Lowry at National Review
“Democrats are about to embark on the first ‘woke’ primary, a gantlet of political correctness that will routinely wring abject apologies out of candidates and find fault in even the most sure-footed.”
WHAT TO WATCH
All the President’s 2020 Challengers
“Now, Trump is keeping an eye on this Democratic field and, reportedly, Trump sees former VP Joe Biden as the most formidable potential rival.”
Watch on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on YouTube:
Democrats Should Be Outraged Bernie Sanders Is Running for President
“He has been a national leader ever since he ran against Hillary Clinton in 2016 and did really well, but even though he is one of the national leaders in the Democratic party, he refuses to join the Democratic party.”
Watch on Fox News on YouTube:
WHAT TO SAY AT THE WATERCOOLER
Procedural changes. After much criticism in 2016 over the power of superdelegates (aka elected officials and party insiders), the Democratic National Committee voted last fall to deny superdelegates a deciding first-round vote at the party’s nominating convention. Although superdelegates have never selected the candidate with lower public support — and Hillary Clinton would have still won the nomination without them in 2016 — this change could alter Democrats’ election strategy. It now makes sense for candidates not to waste resources in lobbying superdelegates and instead focus on states’ regular voters.