Ready for somebody? Dems lack heir apparent this time

Greg Nash

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 Clinton’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.

{mosads}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 Trump 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 Sanders (I-Vt.) and former Vice President Joe Biden are already hinting that they’re considering a run, and Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) is already a confirmed candidate.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) are among the other possible candidates in the Senate.

Then there’s former Gov. Deval Patrick (D-Mass.), former Attorney General Eric Holder, 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.”

Tags Amy Klobuchar Bernie Sanders Cory Booker Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Eric Holder Hillary Clinton Joe Biden John Delaney Kirsten Gillibrand

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