Potential Democratic presidential candidates are campaigning for the midterms in states that President TrumpDonald TrumpCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Netanyahu suggests Biden fell asleep in meeting with Israeli PM Aides try to keep Biden away from unscripted events or long interviews, book claims MORE took from their party’s column in 2016, testing the waters for the next presidential election.
The so-called invisible campaign has begun with would-be candidates including Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisRepublicans caught in California's recall trap Harris facilitates coin toss at Howard University football game Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol MORE (D-Calif.), 53; Cory BookerCory BookerDOJ announces agencywide limits on chokeholds and no-knock entries Fighting poverty, the Biden way Top Senate Democrats urge Biden to take immediate action on home confinement program MORE (D-N.J.), 49; and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Trojan Horse of protectionism Federal Reserve officials' stock trading sparks ethics review Manchin keeps Washington guessing on what he wants MORE (D-Mass.), 68, checking out the political landscape while campaigning for congressional candidates.
“It’s like preseason football practice: you’re not playing in pads yet but you’re on the field, leading the playbook,” said David Wade, a Democratic strategist who served as a senior aide to John KerryJohn Kerry Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington Biden confirms 30 percent global methane reduction goal, urges 'highest possible ambitions' 9/11 and US-China policy: The geopolitics of distraction MORE during his presidential bid in 2004, said of the presidential hopefuls. “It’s candidate training, with a net.”
A number of presidential hopefuls have been stumping in blue states that turned red during the 2016 presidential election, such as Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Trump was the first GOP presidential candidate to win Wisconsin since 1984, and the first to win the other two states since 1988.
Harris, for example, attended a fundraiser for Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowSanders says spending plan should be .5T 'at the very least' Senators call on Taiwan for aid in automotive chip shortage Photos of the Week: Infrastructure vote, India floods and a bear MORE (D-Mich.) last month and sources close to her say she is expected to campaign for incumbent Sen. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinWarren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack This week: Democrats kick off chaotic fall with Biden's agenda at stake Bottom line MORE in Wisconsin in the coming weeks.
Baldwin also recently received a boost from Booker, who appeared at two events in Madison and Milwaukee. He has also been making other appearances, including in Florida, where he campaigned for Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonHow will Biden's Afghanistan debacle impact NASA's Artemis return to the moon? Biden to talk Russia, anti-corruption with Ukraine's president Blue Origin's Jeff Bezos wages lawfare on NASA and SpaceX MORE, and in Ohio for Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownThe Trojan Horse of protectionism Advocates call on top Democrats for 0B in housing investments Democratic senators request probe into Amazon's treatment of pregnant employees MORE.
Warren has had a similar schedule, campaigning in Ohio, Wisconsin and Michigan for her Senate colleagues. In addition, she did a fundraiser for Brown and also campaigned with Ohio gubernatorial candidate Richard CordrayRichard Adams CordrayDennis Kucinich jumps into race to be Cleveland mayor Biden administration reverses Trump-era policy that hampered probes of student loan companies On The Money: IRS to start monthly payments of child tax credit July 15 | One-fourth of Americans took financial hits in 2020: Fed MORE, who led the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau she spearheaded, last month in the Buckeye State. Meanwhile, Bernie SandersBernie SandersManchin suggests pausing talks on .5 trillion package until 2022: report Yarmuth and Clyburn suggest .5T package may be slimmed Sanders calls deadly Afghan drone strike 'unacceptable' MORE (I-Vt.) has stumped for Democratic candidates in states including Iowa, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Arizona.
Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenCapitol fencing starts coming down after 'Justice for J6' rally Senate parliamentarian nixes Democrats' immigration plan Biden pushes back at Democrats on taxes MORE, 75, who has said he is considering a 2020 run, has campaigned in red states including Montana and North Dakota along with Pennsylvania, where he campaigned for Conor Lamb, who won a House seat in March.
“If they are smart, they are also listening, trying catch the vibe out there that Clinton, the [Democratic National Committee], and most of the rest of us so clearly missed last time around,” said Cal Jillson, a professor of political science at Southern Methodist University, said of the visits to the key states.
The midterm campaign is seen as a time for those with 2020 hopes to earn political chits while getting exposed to voters around the country. It also allows candidates to try out a version of their stump speech with very low risk to their personal brands.
“It’s an indispensable part of getting ready to run,” Wade added. “You get into a rhythm rhetorically, you spot strengths and weaknesses and candidate mechanics to work on before the invisible primary season goes public and you pick a whole universe of early state supporters who are forever loyal to the people who helped them when the chips were down.”
The visits could also highlight who is popular with voters at an early stage, as candidates fighting for attention in 2018 seek to bring in the Democratic stars that will most help them in the midterms.
To date, it seems like anyone’s race.
“Every cycle, this is the first big indicator about who is wanted out on the campaign trail and who is likely to get attention in the months ahead,” one top Democratic strategist said. “You begin to start seeing a field come into view.”
The campaigning can bear fruit for 2020 if the top-tier Democrats help members of their party take congressional seats and other political posts.
“A presidential hopeful who campaigns for a successful 2018 candidate can expect the winners to pay back big time in 2020,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon, who added that some of the winners could become superdelegates in two years.
But Bannon said there are some downfalls to campaigning for the 2018 candidates.
“The big problem is backing the wrong 2018 candidate, which could bit you on the butt in 2020,” he said.
The would-be candidates also need to be careful to not “say something stupid that could kill a 2020 campaign in the crib before it’s ready to stand by itself,” said Bannon.
Wade added that the prospective candidates need to walk a fine line when they’re out on the stump.
“A little subtlety goes a long way,” he said. “The presidential aspirants who breeze in and make themselves the show rather than the candidates on the ballot this year often end up alienating as many people as they attract. Your job is to help the party, help the candidates and remember that it’s not about you, it’s about them.”