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Hoping to catch fire, House Dems eye White House

Hoping to catch fire, House Dems eye White House
© Greg Nash, Keren Carrion

The only Democrat who has officially declared a bid for president in 2020 is not a senator, governor or even a mayor. It’s Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyMeet the lawmakers putting politics aside to save our climate Warren lays out foreign policy agenda ahead of 2020 Trump makes Fed chief economic punching bag MORE (D-Md.), a member of the House.

Election observers are predicting that even more contenders could emerge from the lower chamber, especially after New York congressional candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D) shock victory over a longtime Democratic incumbent made her an overnight sensation last month.

They say her instant rock star status has helped dispel the notion that politicians need to come from higher levels of office to amass political star power and major fundraising cash.

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But House members could still struggle with national name recognition, which is why Delaney, a three-term congressman, declared his bid so early, though he has so far struggled to gain national ground.


Still, it’s difficult to predict whose campaign will catch fire, and strategists say it’s likely that a dark horse candidate will emerge in what is expected to be a crowded, wide-open field, with party heavyweights such as Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersChildren's singer Raffi on criticizing Trump: 'You have to fight fascism with everything you’ve got' Sanders to Colbert: 'You will be my vice presidential candidate!' Sanders: Trump said midterms were about him, and he lost MORE (I-Vt.), Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenDemocrats wise to proceed cautiously on immigration Strategist behind Warren's political rise to meet with O'Rourke: report Warren fell for ‘Trump trap’ with DNA test, says progressive MORE (D-Mass.) or former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by The Embassy of the United Arab Emirates — Trump taps William Barr as new AG | Nauert picked to replace Haley at UN | Washington waits for bombshell Mueller filing Warren fell for ‘Trump trap’ with DNA test, says progressive Major Obama 2008 fundraiser throws support behind Beto 2020: ‘Time to pass the torch’ MORE also seen as considering bids.

“If you look at the history of Democratic presidential primaries, somebody always breaks through and comes out of nowhere,” said Brad Bannon, a Democratic strategist. “And I think that’s especially true [in 2020] because everything is so unsettled. It’s possible that it could be a House member.”

Here are seven other House lawmakers who are seen as potential candidates in 2020.

Rep. Seth MoultonSeth Wilbur MoultonWHIP LIST: Pelosi seeks path to 218 Moulton calls out Ocasio-Cortez's tweet defending Pelosi as 'offensive' The Hill's Morning Report — Intraparty skirmishes light up lame-duck session MORE (D-Mass.)

Moulton, a former Marine Corps officer, often sees his name tossed around as a likely 2020 contender, having already made a high-profile appearance at an event in Iowa last year.

His foreign policy credentials could also give him a leg up on many of his House colleagues who are considering running for president.

The 39-year-old combat veteran served four tours in Iraq after graduating from Harvard, where he earned three degrees. Moulton is also the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.

The two-term congressman, who represents the North Shore of Massachusetts, came to Congress in 2015 promising to bring a new generation of leadership to Washington.

Moulton has been one of the most outspoken critics of Democratic leadership, joining an insurgent group of lawmakers calling to replace Minority Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDisputed North Carolina race raises prospect of congressional probe The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by T-Mobile — The political currents that will drive the shutdown showdown Kobach ‘very concerned’ voter fraud may have happened in North Carolina MORE (D-Calif.) last year.

Moulton’s willingness to challenge the Democratic establishment has made him more popular on the left and has helped elevate his own profile.

Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedySenate Republicans urgently need to embrace criminal justice reform Overnight Health Care: Senators urge vote on delaying health insurance tax | Joe Kennedy III 'hopeful' he can back 'Medicare for all' bill | Latest Ebola outbreak becomes world's 2nd-worst Joe Kennedy III 'hopeful' he can support revised 'Medicare for all' bill next year MORE III (D-Mass.)

Kennedy, the great nephew of former President Kennedy, hails from a political dynasty, so it’s no surprise that his name regularly surfaces in discussions about 2020.

The 37-year-old will also reportedly headline a New Hampshire Democratic Party dinner this fall, which has further fueled speculation about his political ambitions.

Kennedy, who has represented the Boston suburbs since 2013, has kept a relatively low profile in Congress, though he is slowly making a name for himself and playing a larger role in the party.

The three-term congressman has been an outspoken advocate for mental health and addiction issues, working on legislation to combat the deadly opioid crisis.

And Kennedy, who got his law degree from Harvard and served in the Peace Corps, gave the Democratic rebuttal to President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoaquín Castro: Trump would be 'in court right now' if he weren't the president or 'privileged' Trump flubs speech location at criminal justice conference Comey reveals new details on Russia probe during House testimony MORE’s State of the Union address earlier this year, though the media coverage of his response seemed to focus more on the shine on his lips than his actual performance.

Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellSwalwell: Open to Swalwell-Biden or Biden-Swalwell ticket Cher pitches Biden-Harris or Biden-Swalwell for 2020 Swalwell: 'Circumstantial evidence' Michael Cohen told more lies to committee MORE (D-Calif.)

As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Swalwell has quickly raised his national profile through his regular appearances on cable television defending the Russia probe and criticizing Trump.

Swalwell, who grew up in Iowa, has already made several visits to the state, though he has downplayed the significance of the trips.

The 37-year-old earned his law degree from the University of Maryland before returning to the Bay area, where he served as a prosecutor in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office for seven years.

After coming to Congress in 2013, Swalwell founded the Future Forum, a group of roughly 25 young Democrats who are focused on issues impacting millennials. Swalwell is also the co-chairman of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee, which helps set the party’s agenda and nominates members for committee assignments.

Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardGabbard says being Saudi Arabia's 'bitch' is not 'America First' Election Countdown: Takeaways from heated Florida governor's debate | DNC chief pushes back on 'blue wave' talk | Manchin faces progressive backlash | Trump heads to Houston rally | Obama in Las Vegas | Signs of huge midterm turnout Gabbard considering 2020 run: report MORE (D-Hawaii)

Gabbard has been hailed as a champion for progressives, but the 37-year-old hasn’t always fit the typical mold of her party.

The American Samoa-native made waves in her party when she resigned as vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee in order to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for president, which has helped endear her to the left.

But the Hawaii congresswoman took some heat for bashing former President Obama for refusing to use the term “radical Islamic extremists.” Gabbard also made headlines for a controversial meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad and for meeting with President Trump before he took office.

Still, her willingness to take unorthodox positions and stand up for her beliefs could make Gabbard a strong contender in 2020, especially as the party becomes increasingly more diverse and female.

Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John RyanOn The Money: Trump touts China actions day after stock slide | China 'confident' on new trade deal | GM chief meets lawmakers to calm anger over cuts | Huawei CFO arrested GM chief meets lawmakers to calm anger over cuts GM lobbyists go into full crisis mode over layoffs MORE (D-Ohio)

Ryan was elevated from a back-bench lawmaker to a rising party star after he challenged Pelosi for minority leader in 2016.

While his bid was unsuccessful, Ryan, 45, gave a voice to frustrated Democrats who had been clamoring for generational change in their party leadership.

Ryan is again considering challenging Pelosi after Rep. Joseph Crowley’s (D-N.Y.) stunning primary loss last month threw the Democratic leadership races wide open.

The Youngstown, Ohio, lawmaker is also seen as someone who could help win back the blue-collar voters who left the party to vote for Trump in 2016. Ryan has been focused on protecting American manufacturers and pushing for a progressive economic agenda.

Rep. Luis Gutiérrez (D-Ill.)

After Gutiérrez announced his surprise retirement last fall, the 13-term congressman hinted that he was exploring a presidential bid.

Gutiérrez, 64, got his start in activism and local politics in Chicago, quickly earning a reputation for his fiery speaking style.

Since coming to Congress, the liberal lawmaker has been a fierce champion for immigration rights and other progressive causes. Gutiérrez also has been at the forefront of efforts to help rebuild  Puerto Rico following the devastating damage from Hurricane Maria last year.

Gutiérrez, who is Puerto Rican, said he plans to move to the island next year. But he told the Chicago Sun-Times that he wants to focus on rallying the party to help “defeat Donald Trump in November in 2020 and bring democracy back to the United States.”

Rep. Maxine WatersMaxine Moore WatersOn The Money: Markets roiled by trade tensions | Rally on hopes of Fed pause on rate hikes | Senate sends two-week spending measure to Trump | Consumer bureau pick confirmed | Trade deficit at highest level since 2008 Black Caucus chairman pushes back against committee term limits On The Money: US, Mexico, Canada sign trade deal | Ocasio-Cortez seeks spot on House banking panel | New GOP tax bill hits roadblock MORE (D-Calif.)

Waters has been a liberal icon in Congress for more than 20 years, but her political star has risen to the national spotlight in the era of Trump.

The Los Angeles lawmaker has been one of the most vocal Democrats calling for the president’s impeachment, which other members in the party have shied away from. Waters, 79, also angered some Democrats last month when she encouraged her supporters to confront Trump administration officials in public.

As the top Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, Waters will be in a prime position to play chief antagonist to Trump should Democrats take back the House next year. Waters would have the power to subpoena the administration, and she has long called on the committee to subpoena Trump’s bank records.

Waters, who has even been given an adversarial nickname from Trump, is seen as someone who can go head-to-head with the president in 2020.