2020 Dem primary could be a New York affair

2020 Dem primary could be a New York affair
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New York gave the country not one, but two presidential nominees in 2016. The next contest may bring more of the same.

Five prominent Democrats from the greater New York area are eyeing bids for the White House in the next presidential cycle, which would again put the nation’s top media market at the center of national politics. 

Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandTrump thinks he could easily beat Sanders in 2020 match-up: report Listen: EMILY’s List upbeat about Dem House in '19 Desperate Democrats shouldn't settle for Oprah MORE (N.Y.), New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, New Jersey Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerDHS chief takes heat over Trump furor Booker to Nielsen: 'Your silence and your amnesia is complicity' Homeland Security secretary grilled over Trump comments MORE and Connecticut Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyFlake's anti-Trump speech will make a lot of noise, but not much sense Senate campaign fundraising reports roll in Puerto Rico's children need recovery funds MORE have all been mentioned as potential candidates in 2020.

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It’s a surprise to New Yorkers, who saw Republican Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpDems flip Wisconsin state Senate seat Sessions: 'We should be like Canada' in how we take in immigrants GOP rep: 'Sheet metal and garbage' everywhere in Haiti MORE cruise though the GOP primary last year and then defeat former New York Sen. Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonIntel Dem decries White House 'gag order' after Bannon testimony 'Total free-for-all' as Bannon clashes with Intel members Mellman: On Political Authenticity (Part 2) MORE (D) in the general election.

“We haven’t really seen this,” said New York-based Democratic strategist Jon Selib when asked about the crop of budding candidates in the Empire State area. “It’s pretty unusual.” 

At this point it’s not clear if any of the Democrats with ties to the New York area will run for the White House in 2020, though Trump is expected to run for reelection and expressed confidence to The New York Times in a Thursday interview that he will win another four-year term.

Whether he faces another New Yorker in the general election is an open question.

Gillibrand is widely seen as a possible contender. She recently made national headlines by calling for Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenPawlenty opts out of Senate run in Minnesota EMILY’s List president: Franken did 'right thing for Minnesota' Dem pledges to ask all court nominees about sexual harassment history under oath MORE’s (D-Minn.) resignation, and for saying Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonTrump’s first year in office was the year of the woman Can a president be impeached for non-criminal conduct? Dems search for winning playbook MORE should have stepped down during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. That led Trump to call her out in a tweet that said she used to come to him begging for money and would do “anything” for it, a remark Democrats blasted as sexist innuendo.

Booker has been seen as a future White House contender since he first reached the national stage. In December, he appeared side-by-side with Democratic candidate Doug Jones in the final days of the contentious Alabama Senate race. The Jones victory burnished Booker’s credentials.

Cuomo has long been seen as a possible White House candidate and has been in the news in recent weeks for his criticism of the tax-cut bill Trump signed into law last week.

Murphy is best known for his advocacy for gun control, which has won him a spot on many 2020 watch lists.

De Blasio recently took a trip to Iowa— a major sign that he is considering his options outside of the city. The New York City mayor gave a non-denial denial when asked about his presidential aspirations. 

“Thank you for the question but it’s the same answer that I have given dozens and dozens of times,” he told Brian Lehrer, a New York radio host. “We have got a lot to do and a very aggressive agenda for New York City for the next four years. I want to use my voice to support change in our party and in our country.” 

Having multiple candidates from the New York market could be a hindrance if they end up fighting for the same donors.

Susan Del Percio, a New York-based Republican strategist who worked for Cuomo several years ago, added that the candidates would have a problem differentiating themselves. 

“They all sound like each other,” Del Percio said. “When you look at New York and New Jersey in particular you see a race to the progressive movement.” 

When Cuomo was elected, she pointed out, his first priority was lowering taxes, but he’s since moved to a much more progressive management style. 

“In terms of zeitgeist, all of these candidates have placed themselves in the middle of the resistance; Cuomo and de Blasio have been in open competition in that regard,” said Grant Reeher, the director of the Campbell Public Affairs Institute at Syracuse University.

Of course, that’s also where much of the Democratic Party appears to be — which makes it difficult for candidates to stand out.

New York politicians haven’t always been able to take their brands across the country, which could be a particular problem for Cuomo and de Blasio, who have brands that are closely tied to the Empire State.

“I think the big question is ‘do you have a message that’s relatable, and does it fly in all time zones, if you will,” Del Percio said. “I think some might say, ‘You’re from New York, how do you understand my problems in Youngstown, Ohio?’ ”

Selib also said the multiple possible candidates from the New York area points to a larger geographic problem for Democrats.

“This is a challenge for Democrats who have so many candidates coming from places in the country where we're already really strong,” he said. “We'd be better off if we had a more geographically diverse set of candidates.” 

But Reeher said the number of high quality candidates coming from the same area shows signs of strength for the Democratic field. 

In 1988, he pointed out, the Democratic candidates were “often disparaged for lacking big names.”

“When Pat Schroeder entered the race it was labeled ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,' ” he recalled, referring to the former Colorado representative.

“That would not be the case this time. … Having that level of quality to choose from is probably a good thing for the Democratic Party, and of the process more generally, it will generate more excitement and attention.”