Category Archives: 2020 Election

What The Potential 2020 Candidates Are Doing And Saying, Vol. 12

Welcome to a weekly collaboration between FiveThirtyEight and ABC News. With 5,000 people seemingly thinking about challenging President Trump in 2020 — Democrats and even some Republicans — we’re keeping tabs on the field as it develops. Each week, we’ll run through what the potential candidates are up to — who’s getting closer to officially jumping in the ring and who’s getting further away.

The Democratic National Committee announced Thursday its first presidential primary debates will be held in Miami, Florida on June 26 and 27, which is less than three months away, but the presidential field is still far from set.
Miramar, Florida Mayor Wayne Messam entered the race this week, inching the primary field count closer to 20 candidates. And with former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Michael Bennet, and Rep. Tim Ryan (among others) discussing possible runs, it may not be long before the group tops 20. If that happens, that could pose serious problems for the DNC and the thresholds it set for its initial primary debates. The party has currently capped the number of debate participants to 20 and said in February that if more than 20 candidates met this criteria, they would give preference to candidates who cleared both the polling and fundraising thresholds, and if that was still too many people, they would include candidates with the highest polling averages.
Here’s the weekly candidate roundup:
Mar. 22-28, 2019
Stacey Abrams (D)
In an interview on “The View” Wednesday, Abrams responded to reports that Biden was interested in naming her as his running mate as he reportedly prepares to mount a presidential bid.
“I think you don’t run for second place,” the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate said, adding, “If I’m going to enter a primary, I’m going to enter the primary.”
From ABC News:

Abrams said she still has not reached a final decision about her political future, but is “thinking about everything,” including presidential and Senate campaigns.
Michael Bennet (D)
The Colorado senator told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Thursday that he’s “very inclined” to run for president in 2020.
“We’re looking at it and I think … the American people need somebody who’s going to run and tell them the truth in 2020,” Bennet said. “We can’t get anything done around here if we continue to do what we’ve been doing here for the last 10 years, it’s not just since Trump arrived.”
Joe Biden (D)
CNBC reported Wednesday that a Biden presidential announcement could come as late as the end of April, citing those familiar with his plans.
The former vice president also attracted attention for expressing regret over his handling of the 1991 Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings for now-Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, during which Anita Hill accused Thomas of sexual harassment. “To this day, I regret I couldn’t come up with a way to get her the kind of hearing she deserved,” he said, during remarks at the Biden Courage Awards in New York Tuesday, honoring students who have worked to prevent sexual assault.
From ABC News:

Cory Booker (D)
A CNN town hall in South Carolina on Wednesday touched on a number of Booker’s campaign priorities, including criminal justice reform and the rising costs of health care.
The New Jersey senator said he would “absolutely” consider issuing mass pardons for those convicted of marijuana-related crimes, noting that “there is no difference in America between using and even selling marijuana between blacks and whites, but if you’re African-American in this country, you’re almost four times more likely to be arrested for that.”
Booker also somewhat broke from his past support of the pharmaceutical industry — which is particularly prominent in his home state — by pledging not to take money from industry executives and PACs.

Pete Buttigieg (D)
Buttigieg had a relatively strong performance in a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday, polling at 4 percent,which tied him with Sen. Elizabeth Warren and vaulted him into an upper-tier of candidates where in a crowded field capturing more than 1 percent support is hard..
Sports fans who have noticed the resemblance between Buttigieg and Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens got a kick out of Stevens expressing his admiration for the South Bend mayor and noting he has “followed him pretty close.”
“I’ll be real candid, I love a lot of his platforms. I’m a big fan of his,” Stevens told NBC Sports Boston. “I haven’t endorsed anyone yet, I don’t get into the political stuff too much, but he’s a hard one for me to root against. He’s also rising pretty quickly.”
Julian Castro (D)
Castro called President Trump’s claim that the GOP would soon be known as “the party of health care” by calling the declaration “stunning.”
“This administration is going completely against the will of the people; going against the will of Congress, and trying to pull the rug out from under millions and millions of American families,” he said on CNN Tuesday.
John Delaney (D)
The former Maryland congressman said in response to Barr’s letter to Congress, which summarized the results of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation that “as an American” he was glad “on some level … that the President of the United States was not indicted for colluding with a foreign power.”
“I was happy that the report is over because I think we’ve spent way too much time talking about this, and obviously I think every American on some level should be happy with the headline results,” Delaney said on Fox News Wednesday.
Tulsi Gabbard (D)
While acknowledging she supported Mueller being given the opportunity to complete his investigation without interference, Gabbard tweeted Monday that Americans now needed to “set aside our partisan interests and recognize that finding the President of the United States not guilty… is a good thing” for the country.
Kirsten Gillibrand (D)
Gillibrand became the first candidate to release her 2018 tax returns Wednesday, revealing that she earned roughly $218,000 and paid nearly $30,000 in taxes. The New York senator further called on her fellow candidates to follow suit. Elizabeth Warren’s website includes 10 years of tax returns but her 2018 form has yet to be posted.
In her first major event since officially joining the race, Gillibrand spoke outside of Trump International Hotel in New York last weekend, where she called the president a “coward” and said she has “stood up against Donald Trump more than anyone in the Senate.”
From ABC News:

Kamala Harris (D)
On Tuesday, Harris rolled out a plan to invest federal money in raising teacher salaries across the nation, promising an average increase of $13,500, plus additional funding for educator training programs.
From ABC News:

“Our country’s success is a product of the two groups who raise our children: parents and teachers. We are not paying our teachers their value,” the California senator said in a statement. “Teachers should not have to work two or three jobs to pay the bills.”
John Hickenlooper (D)
In a Washington Post op-ed, the former Colorado governor said he supports “the concept of a Green New Deal,” but that the much publicized proposal put forth by Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. “sets unachievable goals.”
“We do not yet have the technology needed to reach ‘net-zero greenhouse gas emissions’ in 10 years. That’s why many wind and solar companies don’t support it,” Hickenlooper writes. “There is no clean substitute for jet fuel. Electric vehicles are growing quickly, yet are still in their infancy.”
“Amid this technological innovation, we need to ensure that energy is not only clean but also affordable,” he continues.
Amy Klobuchar (D)
The Minnesota senator announced a $1 trillion infrastructure plan Thursday, focused on repairing and replacing roads, highways and bridges; expanding public transportation; increasing internet access; rebuilding schools; and modernizing airports and seaports, among other initiatives.
“This plan is about bringing our country together,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “Building bridges is not just a metaphor — this is what I’ve done and what I will continue to do as president. ”
Terry McAuliffe (D)
CNN reported Wednesday that McAuliffe, the former governor of Virginia, is leaning toward entering the presidential race, citing Democrats close to him as sources.
McAuliffe has long said that he is considering a campaign, but numerous outlets have previously reported that the former governor’s decision could be influenced by Biden’s deliberations.
Wayne Messam (D)
The relatively unknown mayor of Miramar, Florida officially entered the race Thursday morning with a video detailing his background as the son of Jamaican immigrants who earned a football scholarship before starting a construction business and entering local politics.
In an interview with CNN, Messam touted his outsider status as an advantage in the crowded field of Washington politicians.
“I see it to be a unique opportunity for Americans to look at another option of leadership,” he said, adding “When you look at a mayor, Americans see mayors favorably. We are at the front line of what Americans are dealing with every day.”
Seth Moulton (D)
The Massachusetts congressman, who is still considering a presidential campaign, issued an electoral reform plan Thursday, which included things like expanding automatic voter registration, granting Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. statehood, and making Election Day a national holiday, CNN reported.
Beto O’Rourke (D)
After a quiet week following his whirlwind first days on the campaign trail, O’Rourke will hold a trio of kick-off rallies in El Paso, Houston and Austin, Texas Saturday.
The Texas congressman finished third in a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday, garnering support of 12 percent of respondents, trailing only Biden and Bernie Sanders, who have consistently finished first and second in early primary polls.
Tim Ryan (D)
Ryan continues to deliberate over a presidential run, but he acknowledged this week he could join the field soon.
“In the next few weeks definitely got to pull the trigger one way or the other, got to make a decision,” Ryan told the Youngstown Vindicator Monday, while adding he was concerned he was not hearing enough about “jobs, health care and pensions” from the current candidates.
The Ohio congressman will visit Iowa Saturday for the Iowa Farmers Union “Heartland Forum.”
Bernie Sanders (D)
The Vermont senator told MSNBC Tuesday that he does not support “incremental reform” to improve the Affordable Care Act, only his “Medicare-for-All single payer program” and argued for the complete elimination of private insurance.
In a column in the Des Moines Register, Sanders pledged to support Iowan farmers and take on corporate agribusinesses, writing that farmers have “been systematically stripped of their ability to control their own futures and no longer know whether their hard work will earn them future success and stability.”
“When we are in the White House, we are going to strengthen antitrust laws that defend farmers from the corporate middlemen that stand between the food grower and the consumer, and have now become so big and powerful that they can squeeze farmers for everything they’re worth,” Sanders wrote.
From ABC News:

Elizabeth Warren (D)
Much like her crusade against some of the country’s largest tech companies, Warren is also proposing that large agriculture businesses be broken up, writing in a blog post Wednesday that “we must address consolidation in the agriculture sector, which is leaving family farmers with fewer choices, thinner margins, and less independence.”
Northeast corridor travelers felt kinship with the Massachusetts senator earlier in the week when, in a viral moment, TMZ captured her running to New York’s Penn Station to catch a train.
Bill Weld (R)
The former Massachusetts governor and Libertarian vice-presidential candidate, who established a presidential exploratory committee in February, said during a radio interview Monday that he’ll reach a final decision on a primary challenge of President Trump by April.
“I’m leaning towards doing it unless something changes, and set myself an informal deadline of the month of April to pull the trigger,” he later told reporters in New Hampshire.

Our 2020 Democratic Primary Draft: Episode 2

Category : 2020 Draft , 2020 Election , Video

Warren, Castro, Gillibrand, Harris, Buttigieg, Gabbard … the list goes on and on. The number of candidates trying to become the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee is growing every week, and it can be difficult to tell who really has a shot at winning. With that in mind, we are back with another round of our 2020 draft. For the first-timers here, the goal is to predict who we think has the best chance of winning the nomination. Some on our panel take that prompt more seriously than others.
This time around, our usual FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast team (Clare, Galen, Micah and Nate) gathered to debate their picks.
You can watch this episode above, and our first episode here.

How Tulsi Gabbard Could Win The 2020 Democratic Nomination

Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has had an unconventional political career. When first elected in 2012, she became the first Hindu and first American Samoan voting member of Congress. Before that, she was the youngest person ever elected to the Hawaii Legislature but left it behind to deploy to Iraq with the Army National Guard. She is a progressive favorite with a conservative record. She grew up in a mixed-race, mixed-religion12 household that preached both vegetarianism and homophobia.
Now, Gabbard is launching a long-shot campaign for president of the United States, although she still hasn’t made her promised formal announcement. She has little name recognition outside Hawaii, and at age 37, she is only just constitutionally eligible to sit behind the Resolute desk. Fittingly, if she wants to win the Democratic nomination, she’s going to have to follow an unconventional path to get there.
First, it’s very hard to become president — or even get nominated for the job — if the top line on your résumé is U.S. representative. I count 10 such candidates who have run for president in either the Republican or Democratic primary since 2000.13 None finished higher than third place. John W. Davis, in 1924, was the last major-party presidential nominee whose highest previous elected office was the U.S. House.14 The last — and only — sitting U.S. representative to be elected president was James A. Garfield in 1880. It’s hard to stand out when you’re just one of hundreds of legislators, and Gabbard is no exception. Pollsters didn’t ask about Gabbard in a single poll between Election Day 2018 and her announcement earlier this month, a sign that she hadn’t yet made a splash in the invisible primary. And in three national polls released on Tuesday, she registered no higher than 2 percent (3 percent if you limit the field to only the candidates who have announced thus far).
That doesn’t mean Gabbard can’t build a core of support from scratch. She is undeniably a very talented politician, as observers of Hawaii politics can attest. When she first ran for Congress in 2012, she trailed the primary front-runner, the well-known former mayor of Honolulu, by 45 points in early polling, but she wound up defeating him by 21 points. According to the most recent Honolulu Civil Beat poll, she is now Hawaii’s most popular elected official, with a 61 percent positive and 24 percent negative rating. She won her 2018 general election with a whopping 77 percent of the vote, albeit in a very blue district.
Gabbard’s brand in Hawaii is strong thanks in part to her unique combination of identities. As her website puts it, “As a mixed-race woman, combat veteran, martial artist, lifelong vegetarian, and practicing Hindu, she also is the embodiment of the type of diversity which is at the very heart of what America was founded upon.” However, it’s not clear that what helps her in Hawaii will help her in a nationwide primary. The U.S. has a smaller share of Pacific Islander and military voters than Hawaii does, for instance. Her youth and gender look like they could be electoral strengths, at least on the surface: We estimate that around 30 percent of the 2020 Democratic primary electorate will be millennials — a group that Gabbard, having been born in 1981, can uniquely appeal to. And there is evidence from 2018 that Democratic primary voters are going out of their way to vote for women in the Trump era. But on the flip side, it’s naive to assume Gabbard won’t face at least some ageism and sexism in how she’s perceived and covered.
Most likely, though, none of these factors will be as important as Gabbard’s ability to appeal to the left wing of the party. According to Chad Blair, a reporter and editor at Civil Beat, Hawaii’s many progressives are the single biggest source of Gabbard’s political strength. Nationally, she made headlines in the 2016 primary when she quit her position as vice chair of the Democratic National Committee to endorse Bernie Sanders, frustrated with the DNC’s reported favoritism toward Hillary Clinton. In the popular imagination, the episode established her firmly on the progressive side of the “progressive vs. establishment” divide.
There’s just one problem: Although she has voiced support for progressive positions like Medicare for all and free college tuition, her actual record skews moderate. She has broken from her party on votes to increase restrictions on refugees and weaken gun control. She has introduced legislation supported by GOP donor Sheldon Adelson and interviewed for a possible position in Trump’s Cabinet. She has a -0.280 DW-Nominate score, which measures politicians on a scale from -1 (most liberal) to 1 (most conservative) based on their congressional voting records. That made her more conservative than 83 percent of House Democrats in the 115th Congress.

True-believer progressives also balk at Gabbard’s lengthy opposition-research file, which is bulging with ties to controversial figures and lingering questions about her conservative upbringing. While some say her opposition to military intervention in Syria makes her an advocate for peace, others say it makes her a “mouthpiece” for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In 2017, she was widely rebuked for taking a meeting with Assad, an act that legitimized the accused war criminal, and saying she was “skeptical” of the U.S. conclusion that Assad had used chemical weapons. The previous year, she was one of only three members of Congress to vote against a resolution condemning the Syrian government’s use of force against its own people.
Closer to home, Gabbard grew up a spiritual follower of a Hare Krishna sect that has been accused by former members of being an authoritarian cult. Its teachings ran the gamut from environmentalism to anti-gay activism, something that has already created headaches for Gabbard’s presidential campaign. As a teenager, Gabbard worked with her father, a fervent crusader against gay rights, at the Alliance for Traditional Marriage, which supported conversion therapy and helped pass an anti-same-sex marriage law. At least twice as a state representative, Gabbard referred to LGBT-rights advocates as “homosexual extremists.” She has since apologized and released a lengthy statement affirming her support for same-sex marriage and “LGBTQ+” rights, but as late as 2016, she told Ozy magazine that her personal views remained unchanged. In 2017, she told the New Yorker, “Just because that’s not my lifestyle, I don’t think that government should make sure that everybody else’s lifestyles match my own.”
Overall, Gabbard is a good example of why the “progressive vs. establishment” narrative is a flawed one. Really, party divisions unfold along two dimensions: ideology (progressive vs. moderate) and tone (establishment vs. anti-establishment). Gabbard is an anti-establishment moderate, and it’s not clear if there’s an appetite for that in a primary. Then again, that’s what Trump was — and GOP primary voters didn’t seem bothered by his controversies and frequent departures from conservative gospel. The big question for Gabbard is whether Democratic voters are also willing to look past similar imperfections for the right messenger. And like Trump, she is a compelling messenger.

How Much Trouble Could Larry Hogan Cause Trump In A 2020 GOP Primary?

In 1974, Rep. Lawrence Hogan Sr. became the first Republican member of the House Judiciary Committee to call for President Richard Nixon’s impeachment. Now there’s speculation in Washington that his son, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, might challenge President Trump in the 2020 Republican presidential primary. So we decided to take a look at what might prompt Hogan to run and how he might fare against Trump. Hogan would not have an easy go of it, but we can see why he might run — and why he might find some success.
First, a look at his record. Larry Hogan became the governor of Maryland after pulling off an upset victory against Democratic Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown in 2014. In 2018, Hogan cruised to re-election, winning by 12 percentage points despite Maryland’s deep-blue hue and a Democratic-leaning national environment. Hogan was the first Republican governor to win re-election in the state since 1954. But that came as no surprise: Just before the election, Hogan had the second-highest approval rating of any governor in the country, at 67 percent, according to polling by Morning Consult. Hogan can’t run for governor again because of term limits.
According to OnTheIssues, which tries to measure a politician’s positions based on votes and public statements, Hogan’s views are notably more moderate than those of either Trump or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — the most powerful Republican in Congress — which might help explain Hogan’s continued success in Maryland. His candidacy also had a feel-good element: Hogan overcame cancer during his first term — twice, actually.

Hogan has been critical of Trump. In the aftermath of August 2017’s violent white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, Hogan called Trump’s “both sides” response a “terrible mistake.” And in his second inauguration speech, Hogan said that Americans like his father, who bucked partisanship for the sake of the country, made people “yearn for something better and more noble than the politics of today.”
Practical considerations might also push him to run. Although Marylanders have sent Hogan to the governor’s mansion twice, a Senate seat might still be out of reach (partisanship tends to matter more in congressional races than in gubernatorial contests). And at 62, Hogan might feel like this is his moment to try for the presidency — not, say, in 2024, when he will have been out of office for two years.
So if Hogan were to challenge Trump for the GOP nomination … could he actually win? Well, it depends on what your definition of “win” is. (Bear with me for a second.)
In the modern era of presidential primaries, no incumbent president has ever lost renomination.15 Heck, the last time a president didn’t win renomination was in 1884, when Republican President Chester A. Arthur lost to James Blaine at the GOP convention. Moreover, among rank-and-file Republicans, Trump’s approval rating remains high — north of 80 percent. So actually defeating Trump in a Republican primary contest would be quite difficult, based on what we know now.
But if Hogan’s goal is to win a substantial share of the vote while making the case for a different kind of Republicanism, that seems more attainable. National polls find Trump in reasonably good shape against potential primary foes, but surveys suggest that at least some Republicans in the early primary states of New Hampshire and Iowa might be open to alternatives.
And the president’s national numbers could present an opening. According to the Pew Research Center, in 2018, Republican leaners — independents who say they “lean” toward the Republican Party — were less likely than self-identified Republicans to approve of Trump. And among all voters — so, not just Republicans — somewhere between one-third and half of those who approve of the president’s job performance say they only “somewhat” approve, as opposed to “strongly” approve, according to recent polls. It’s possible, though far from certain, that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election could help Hogan attract some Republicans if serious negative revelations about the president come out. Although polls show that most Republicans believe the Mueller investigation is a “witch hunt” and that the president is handling the matter appropriately, Trump’s numbers could worsen in the face of damning evidence and make an alternative choice like Hogan more attractive.

Hogan’s centrism could also make him competitive in New Hampshire, long known for its relative moderation. Other recent Republicans running as middle-of-the-road candidates have garnered a substantial share of the primary vote there, albeit without an incumbent president in the field. In 2016, Ohio Gov. John Kasich finished second in the New Hampshire primary, with 16 percent; in 2012, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, now the U.S. ambassador to Russia, finished third, with 17 percent.
Still, Hogan could have a tough time breaking through. If Trump’s popularity among Republicans holds steady, he’ll go into the 2020 primary with one of the highest intra-party approval ratings of any recent president running for re-election. Also, Hogan has generally shied away from social issues such as abortion — though he’s personally against it — which means he might have trouble attracting support among socially conservative Republicans. Although that might not be much of a problem for Hogan in less socially conservative states like New Hampshire, it’s difficult to see him building meaningful support in other early primary states such as Iowa or South Carolina (if they even participate in the GOP primary in 2020). One can imagine Hogan winning over some suburban voters in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and West Coast, but it’s not clear that he could win a state beyond his own, which probably won’t vote until April 2020.
All in all, it would be tough sledding for Hogan to defeat Trump in the 2020 GOP presidential primary. Nonetheless, he’s a popular governor who would present a clear-cut alternative to the president. So perhaps Hogan could make a splash and win over a substantial chunk of the Republican electorate. That alone would be significant: The past three presidents to endure a notable primary challenge — Gerald Ford in 1976, Jimmy Carter in 1980 and George H.W. Bush in 1992 — all went on to lose in the general election.

Senate Update: How This Year’s Race Sets Up 2020

Welcome to our Election Update for Thursday, Nov. 1!
According to all three versions of our forecast — Lite, Classic and Deluxe — as of 9 a.m. Eastern, Republicans have a 6 in 7 chance of holding on to the Senate. Every time a new poll fails to show Democrats gaining ground, the party’s window to turn things around closes a little bit further. Their 15.3 percent chance of flipping the chamber (according to the Classic version of our model) is one of the lowest we’ve seen all cycle.
With numbers like that, the Senate may seem like a foregone conclusion. But that would be the wrong way to approach it. Even if Republicans hold the Senate, the margin by which they do so could be decisive for future elections. In contrast to the 2018 Senate map, which presented Democrats with very few opportunities for gains and exposed tons of vulnerabilities, the 2020 Senate map has several possible openings for Democrats. Republicans picked up nine seats from Democrats in the 2014 elections, including in the swing states of Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina. That means Democrats will be able to play offense when those seats are up again in 2020 and may have a decent chance of flipping the chamber — as long as 2018 doesn’t dig them into too deep a hole.

The 2020 Senate battleground
Senators up for re-election in 2020 and their state’s partisan lean*


Partisan Lean

Michael Enzi

James Risch

James Inhofe

Mike Rounds
South Dakota

Shelley Moore Capito
West Virginia

Lamar Alexander

Doug Jones

Tom Cotton

Ben Sasse

Pat Roberts

Mitch McConnell

Steve Daines

Bill Cassidy

Lindsey Graham
South Carolina

John Cornyn

Cindy Hyde-Smith†

Dan Sullivan

David Perdue

OPEN (Jon Kyl)^

Joni Ernst

Thom Tillis
North Carolina

Jeanne Shaheen
New Hampshire

Mark Warner

Gary Peters

Cory Gardner

Tina Smith†

Susan Collins

Tom Udall
New Mexico

Jeff Merkley

Dick Durbin

Cory Booker
New Jersey

Chris Coons

Jack Reed
Rhode Island

Ed Markey

* Partisan lean is the average difference between how a state or district voted and how the country voted overall. In our new partisan lean formula, 2016 presidential election results are weighted 50 percent, 2012 presidential election results are weighted 25 percent, and results from elections for the state legislature are weighted 25 percent.
† Assuming the incumbent wins a special election in 2018.
^ Sen. Jon Kyl was appointed to serve out the remainder of the late John McCain’s term but has declared he will not run for a full term in 2020.
Sources: U.S. Senate, The New York Times

As you can see in the table above, Democrats have two obvious targets in 2020: Maine Sen. Susan Collins and Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, the only two Republicans up for re-election in blue states. Four more Republicans sit in states that lean Republican by no more than 12 points,9 and so might be beatable in a favorable election environment or with the right candidates. Of course, it’s not a given that Democrats will add any seats at all to their total in 2020: Sen. Doug Jones faces an uphill fight in deep-red Alabama. What’s more, six more Democratic seats are also plausibly vulnerable.10
Granted, we have no idea what the political climate will be in 2020. (We’re still not sure what will happen five days from now!) But bear in mind that, although Democrats faced a terrible environment in 2010, President Barack Obama was comfortably re-elected just two years later, so even if Democrats prove to have a strong 2018, that doesn’t mean the GOP can’t turn it around in 2020. And if 2020 is a strong Republican year, Democrats probably have no chance at picking up the Senate no matter what happens in 2018. But let’s assume there’s no red wave in 2020 and that, thanks to the power of incumbency, Democrats are favored to hold all their current seats except Alabama in two years. What can they do in 2018 to make their task in 2020 as easy as possible?

Other than picking up the Senate outright, Democrats’ best bet is to make a net gain of one seat (say, picking up Arizona — where Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema currently has a 3 in 5 chance — while holding on to North Dakota or ousting Sen. Dean Heller in Nevada). That would create a 50-50 tie in the chamber11 — and there’s a 14.6 percent chance that will happen, per our forecast. In that scenario, Democrats would have plenty of paths to a majority in 2020: They could hold Alabama and flip either Colorado or Maine; they could flip both Colorado and Maine while losing Alabama; they could even get away with winning just one of those three states if they also win the vice presidency (and therefore the tiebreaking vote).
But according to the model, there’s a very real chance that the Senate’s balance of power will simply stay the same: 51 Republicans, 49 Democrats. If that happens (our model gives it a 17.7 percent chance as of 9 a.m.), Democrats would need to hold on to Alabama and win both Maine and Colorado — or else pick up a seat in one of the four closest Republican-leaning states.12
But our forecast also gives Republicans a 17.3 percent chance to net one seat and secure a 52-48 majority. In this scenario, maybe Republicans win with Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley in that state (a 2 in 5 chance) in addition to Kevin Cramer in North Dakota, while Democrats win with Sinema in Arizona. That would be a big win for the GOP because it would force Democrats to hold Alabama, win both Maine and Colorado, and pick up a Senate seat in a red state in 2020 to gain a majority. Based on states’ partisan leans,13 their easiest target would be Sen. Thom Tillis in North Carolina, which is 5 points more Republican-leaning than the nation as a whole. But we’re starting to get into scenarios where a relatively neutral political environment in 2020 would be enough for Republicans to easily keep the Senate that year.
Let’s say Republicans net two seats in 2018 — something our model assigns a 13.8 percent chance of happening. (For example, if the GOP holds on to Arizona while picking up North Dakota and Missouri.) Then in 2020 Democrats would need to hold on to all of their current seats (including Alabama) and flip four Republican seats. Their most plausible targets would be Collins, Gardner, Tillis and Sen. Joni Ernst in Iowa. Iowa is about as red as North Carolina, so Ernst wouldn’t necessarily be a tougher target than Tillis, but Democrats couldn’t afford to lose even one of those races, so the odds would be stacked against them.
Finally, there’s a roughly 21 percent chance that the dam breaks and Republicans net three or more Senate seats this year. Democrats might lose their grip on seats like Indiana (where former Republican state Rep. Mike Braun has a 2 in 7 chance) or Florida (Gov. Rick Scott also has a 2 in 7 chance) in this scenario. The party would really have its work cut out for it in this case: Democrats would have to win all the seats outlined above plus places like Arizona or Georgia. Arizona may be feasible for Democrats in 2020, since it will likely be an open seat14 in a diversifying state. But that’s true of Arizona this year, too.
This is all speculation, of course. There are lots of moving parts in both 2018 (who will win and where) and 2020 (which incumbents will retire, whether the political environment will improve or worsen for Republicans). But it’s a useful exercise in understanding why Democrats should absolutely be sweating the difference between picking up one seat and losing one. Control of the chamber is at stake in 2018 … and in 2020.
CORRECTION (Nov. 01, 2018, 11:12 a.m.): An earlier version of this article misstated the number of Senate seats Republicans picked up in 2014. It was nine, not seven.

Who’s Behaving Like A 2020 Presidential Candidate

Sen. Cory Booker went to Iowa. Michael Bloomberg re-registered as a Democrat after years as an independent. Former Secretary of State John Kerry would not rule out another presidential run, even though it’s very unlikely he will actually pull the trigger. And that’s just the 2020 campaign activity that made the news this week.
The 2020 Democratic presidential primary started the day after the 2016 election — let’s not pretend otherwise. But we’re hitting a new phase of the campaign: the last few weeks of the midterms, when prospective presidential candidates campaign across the country, officially in support of other politicians, but unofficially to build their own brands. And right after the midterms, I would expect a few Democrats to formally announce that they are running in 2020, others to start hiring staff and taking other concrete steps toward a run without quite fully jumping in, and a third bloc to bow out before they have to pretend to enjoy spending the winter in Iowa and New Hampshire
At this point, however, it’s hard to distinguish “I’m keeping my options open” from “Hell yes, I’m running.” So rather than wildly speculating about who’s going to do what, let’s try to answer this question: Who’s already doing the things that eventual candidates typically do at about this point in the election cycle? We’ll use the same rubric we used back in May 2017 for our article “The 7 Signs That Someone Might Be Running For President in 2020”: whether a candidate appeared at a political event in an early primary state (Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina), whether they were profiled for a major magazine, whether they campaigned for their party’s candidates for senator or governor, whether they released a book during this campaign cycle, and whether they’re being included in polls of the Democratic field.22
Here’s the latest tally23:

Who’s acting like they plan to run for president?
Based on indicators between the 2016 election and the 2018 midterms


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Visits to Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire include formal political events only, including scheduled visits that haven’t happened yet. Candidates count as having a book out if they have published a book or are scheduled to publish a book during the 2018 election cycle. For polls, we’re counting any national, nonpartisan primary surveys that include the potential candidate. A national profile is defined as a piece in The Atlantic, New York magazine, The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine or Time that is more than 1,000 words long and includes an interview with the potential candidate. Campaigning is defined as participating in an event for a gubernatorial or Senate candidate.

There are a lot of names there, though even so we probably still missed a few. Because we started with a list of candidates who had visited early primary states, we were more likely to capture candidates who met that criteria and less likely to capture people who have been campaigning in other ways. And since much of this information is pulled from news reports, we may have missed events that didn’t attract much media attention, like a campaign stop in support of candidate whose re-election looks like a sure thing.24 With those caveats in mind, let’s run through this list we have in groups.
Basically running right now
Lawyer Michael Avenatti; South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg; Montana Gov. Steve Bullock; former Vice President Joe Biden; New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker; former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro; Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper; Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti; New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand; California Sen. Kamala Harris; Former Attorney General Eric Holder; former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu; Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon; former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley; Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts; Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio; Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders; Rep. Eric Swalwell of California; businessman and pro-impeachment activist Tom Steyer; Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren
I should emphasize that these signs are a general rubric — a way to test our impressions of the field against reality — not some kind of formal system for predicting who will run for president. That said, I think these indicators do give you some sense of which politicians seem to really want to run.
This first group is potential candidates who have taken at least four of the seven steps toward running. I think of the people in this group as running for president right now, even if some of them end up never launching full-blown campaigns. (For example, at this point, the more interesting story would be if Bernie Sanders didn’t run for president; he is the only person who hit all seven of our indicators.) It’s worth noting the diversity of approaches in this group. Some of them, like Michael Avenatti and Eric Garcetti and Sanders, are making visits to multiple early primary states, which is the equivalent of saying, “I’m really, really thinking about running for president and I really, really want the national media to cover my explorations.”
To be fair to people like Garcetti, if you’re not a nationally known figure, going to the early states is perhaps the most efficient way for an aspiring president to get his or her name in articles like this one. Elizabeth Warren, on the other hand, is already well-known among Democratic activists, so she can skip the activities that seem very self-focused — she hasn’t gone to Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina — while making moves that keep her profile up (campaigning for Democrats in key gubernatorial races).
There are 20 people in this bucket — a fairly large group. That said, I don’t expect all 20 to run, and I would be surprised if even half of them ultimately do. People who have taken this many early steps often bow out because they decide that they are unlikely to win. Jeff Merkley, for example, is an economic populist who was the only U.S. senator to endorse Sanders in 2016. In terms of message and policy views, the two have a lot in common. So it’s hard to see a path to victory for Merkley if the much-better-known Vermont senator runs too.
Two governors in this group, Steve Bullock and John Hickenlooper, are presenting themselves as more centrist candidates. If Joe Biden decides to run, he will likely enter that centrist lane too, and I doubt there is room for both him and those other two.
Indeed, Biden and Sanders would enter the contest as two of the best-known candidates. But you could imagine one or both of them deciding that the possibility of winning both the primary and the general election is outweighed by the possibility that they will lose one of those races and taint their strong political brands with another presidential defeat.
Of these 20, I’m most skeptical of the idea of Holder and Landrieu running. The former attorney general could be publicly teasing a presidential campaign not because he really wants to run but because the national coverage will bring more attention to his project to mobilize Democrats against what he considers unfair Republican-engineered gerrymandering in states across the country. Or I could be wrong — Holder might launch a formal campaign over the next year, and we could have a field with three high-profile black candidates (I think Booker and Kamala Harris are almost definitely running).
Landrieu has been downplaying the idea of running, and he’s the kind of person with low national name recognition who should probably be overhyping himself if he really wants to compete in 2020.
Notice there are only three women in this group. To be sure, Harris and Warren, in particular, seem more likely to wind up being the Democratic presidential nominee than men like, say, Eric Swalwell. That said, despite the rise of women candidates in the Democratic Party after President Trump’s election, the majority of Democratic presidential candidates will likely be male, in part because the ranks of senators, governors and House members are disproportionately male.
Taking steps but not being as aggressive
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii
This category covers anyone who hit three of our seven signs. I don’t want to overemphasize the distinction between this group and the first one — some people in this group are almost definitely running. Michael Bloomberg and Jay Inslee, for example, are being quite open about considering candidacies, so I just as easily could have included them in the section above.
Amy Klobuchar has a lot of potential appeal: She’s expected to cruise to a third term in a closely divided state; she has gotten fairly strong support in Minnesota’s rural areas, an unusual quality for a Democrat; and she’s a woman at a time when Democratic voters appear to be seeking more gender parity in their elected officials.
I don’t think Brian Schatz has any plans to run, and his visit to Iowa really seemed like an exercise in helping party activists there and not raising his personal profile. But you never know.
Doing fairly little
Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire; Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick; businessman Howard Schultz
Deval Patrick and Howard Schultz are fairly high-profile figures. Neither seems to have closed the door on the possibility of running, but they have been less aggressive than others in laying clear groundwork for a campaign.

Whew. That’s 27 people. And that’s not all. Remember, Rep. John Delaney of Maryland has been an official, declared candidate for over a year. The third-term congressman is not being taken too seriously — many outlets doing polls of the 2020 field aren’t including him. I’m keeping my eye on a businessman named Andrew Yang, who has also officially declared his candidacy. He could run at least a semi-serious campaign for two reasons: He is making a universal basic income, a buzzy idea in left-wing circles, the center of his candidacy, so he is getting some media attention, and, yes, reporters like me are going to cover more out-the-box candidates to avoid missing the next Donald Trump.
Also, and we may come back to this in a later piece, at least three Republicans (Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, Gov. John Kasich of Ohio and Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska) have emerged as anti-Trump figures in the GOP and visited at least one of the early primary states. I would not rule out the possibility that one of them (probably Kasich) will run against the president in the Republican primary.
But let me finish with this: Who seems likely not to run?
On the sidelines
Sen. Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Sen. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, former first lady Michelle Obama, media mogul Oprah Winfrey
After Trump was elected in 2016, it seemed like the rules of politics no longer mattered and so we would see a lot of actors, corporate titans, musicians and other political neophytes run in 2020. That seems fairly unlikely, at least as of now. Avenatti, Bloomberg and Tom Steyer, in particular, would be non-traditional candidates with some Trump-like characteristics. But we’re not seeing real, bonafide celebrities making active moves to run for president.
Michelle Obama, for example, has been included in polls and is coming out with a book, so I could have put her in the section with Deval Patrick, but those are pretty weak indicators in her case; I really, really, really don’t think she is running. Winfrey has two post-2016 books and she polls well, but I don’t think she is running either. In an interview last year, The Rock expressed interest in running for president, but far in the future (2024). And he wouldn’t really fit into our analysis here anyway, since the actor is not affiliated with either party.
It also seemed, in the days immediately after the 2016 election, that the Democrats would be desperate to draft anyone who could appeal to white working class men in Ohio and push those candidates into the presidential field. So far, not so much.
Tammy Baldwin, Sherrod Brown and Bob Casey are likely to win re-election this November in key states that Trump flipped to the GOP side in 2016. The fact that Democratic party activists are not clamoring for any of these three to run in 2020 is a sign that the party is not singularly obsessed with finding an “electable” candidate. Democrats might regret this choice if Trump defeats, say, Sanders or Warren in 2020, carrying Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin along the way.