There’s no Ready for Elizabeth super PAC. Nor is there a Prepping for Kamala, Begging for Booker or Salivating for Sanders.
Unlike the run-up to the 2016 campaign, when the Ready for Hillary super PAC served to stoke Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty MORE’s entry into the Democratic presidential race, there are no candidate-specific PACs forming this time around to either lay the groundwork for a campaign or to create a sense of anticipation.
Is this a problem? That depends on which Democrat you ask.
Some Democrats are surprised and worry it could be a signal the party isn’t completely prepared to do what it takes to defeat President TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE in his reelection bid.
Others say it’s just a manifestation of what many believe will be a much more wide-open race than was seen in 2016.
It’s possible that dozens of candidates could enter the 2020 race on the Democratic side.
Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersFranken targets senators from both parties in new comedy tour Pelosi says House members would not vote on spending bill top line higher than Senate's Groups push lawmakers to use defense bill to end support for Saudis in Yemen civil war MORE (I-Vt.) and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Schumer moves to break GOP blockade on Biden's State picks GOP Rep. Cawthorn likens vaccine mandates to 'modern-day segregation' MORE are already hinting that they’re considering a run, and Rep. John DelaneyJohn DelaneyDirect air capture is a crucial bipartisan climate policy Lobbying world Coronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Rep. Rodney Davis MORE (D-Md.) is already a confirmed candidate.
Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBipartisan senators to hold hearing on 'toxic conservatorships' amid Britney Spears controversy Senate advances Biden consumer bureau pick after panel logjam White House faces increased cries from allies on Haitian migrants MORE (D-Mass.), 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.), Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisSenate advances Biden consumer bureau pick after panel logjam House passes bill to compensate 'Havana syndrome' victims Harris 'deeply troubled' by treatment of Haitian migrants MORE (D-Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandHochul tells Facebook to 'clean up the act' on abortion misinformation after Texas law Democratic senators request probe into Amazon's treatment of pregnant employees The FBI comes up empty-handed in its search for a Jan. 6 plot MORE (D-N.Y.) and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharThis week: Democrats face mounting headaches Klobuchar: 'It is evil to make it deliberately hard for people to vote' Democrats push to shield election workers from violent threats MORE (D-Minn.) are among the other possible candidates in the Senate.
Then there’s former Gov. Deval Patrick (D-Mass.), former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderChristie, Pompeo named co-chairs of GOP redistricting group Democrats look to state courts as redistricting battle heats up On The Trail: Census kicks off a wild redistricting cycle MORE, former Gov. Terry McAulffe (D-Va.) and billionaire donor Tom Steyer.
Candidates from the business world, like retiring Starbucks executive Howard Schultz, and celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey may also end up in the mix.
That’s a much different landscape than in 2016, when Democrats, as early as 2014, expected Clinton to enter the race and began to coalesce around her.
“This time four years ago, there was a consensus among millions of Democrats who supported Hillary, and we sought to organize them through Ready for Hillary,” said Seth Bringman, who served as a spokesman for the group. “The lack of similar groups today is a reflection of the wide-openness of the 2020 field as well as a laser focus on the midterms and resisting Donald Trump.”
“It’s almost blasphemy for a Democrat to talk about 2020 today when there’s so much at stake this year, but I have a feeling that will change the day after the midterms,” he added.
Cal Jillson, a professor of political science at Southern Methodist University, said the biggest factor is the “lack of an heir apparent.”
Jillson also said Democrats are more focused on 2018 than 2020 for the time being.
“I do think there’s a lot of excitement on the Democratic side, but it’s focused on the midterms,” he said.
Midterms aside, Democrats say they have a lot on their plate right now: Along with trying to win back the House and Senate in November, they’re rebuilding a party left in tatters after the stunning 2016 election and they’re focusing on rebutting Trump in a seemingly never-ending news cycle.
The main difference from 2016, Democrats say, is the lack of a dominant candidate — and the lack of opposition to a dominant candidate.
“The star power is much lower and there aren’t the obvious choices to get behind,” said Grant Reeher, the director of the Campbell School of Public Affairs at Syracuse University. “There isn’t that equivalent of Hillary Clinton who is being bandied about.”
Adam Parkhomenko, who co-founded Ready for Hillary in 2013, two years before Clinton would announce her candidacy, said he also doesn’t see one particular front-runner.
“There just isn’t the energy and excitement out there for one person,” he said.
Parkhomenko pointed out that there are groups such as Swing Left and Indivisible that are building excitement on the left. But those groups aren’t focused on one candidate.
“They’re targeting Trump and winning in the midterms,” he said.
Some Republicans see this as a weakness.
Alexandra Smith, the executive director for the America Rising super PAC, said she’s “not that surprised by the lack of grass-roots support groups for potential 2020 contenders.”
“The Democrats’ existential crisis is definitely on full display here,” she said. “When you don’t know if you’re fighting for impeachment or single-payer health care, it’s difficult enough to coalesce around a single figure, let alone create a corresponding grass-roots organization.”
Democrats disagree, and aren’t particularly lacking for confidence in 2020.
“We’re up against Donald Trump, and I think there are a number of potential candidates who will be able to take him out,” Parkhomenko said. “We just need to hit the ground running as soon as the midterms are over.”