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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 DelaneyTop-tier Dems begin making way to Iowa Election Countdown: Midterm fight heats up over Kavanaugh | McConnell sees energized base | Dems look to women to retake House | How suburban voters could decide control of Congress | Taylor Swift backs Tennessee Dems | Poll shows Cruz up 5 in Texas Dem 2020 primary season is unofficially underway 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) SandersBiden: Trump administration 'coddles autocrats and dictators' Warren and Sanders question Amazon CEO over Whole Foods anti-union video Dem lawmaker to Saudis: Take your oil and shove it MORE (I-Vt.), Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren and Sanders question Amazon CEO over Whole Foods anti-union video Senate Dems ask Trump to disclose financial ties to Saudi Arabia Republicans should prepare for Nancy Pelosi to wield the gavel MORE (D-Mass.) or former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenBiden: I hope Dems don't move to impeach Trump if they retake the House Biden: Trump administration 'coddles autocrats and dictators' Election Countdown: O'Rourke goes on the attack | Takeaways from fiery second Texas Senate debate | Heitkamp apologizes for ad misidentifying abuse victims | Trump Jr. to rally for Manchin challenger | Rick Scott leaves trail to deal with hurricane damage 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 MoultonElection Countdown: O'Rourke goes on the attack | Takeaways from fiery second Texas Senate debate | Heitkamp apologizes for ad misidentifying abuse victims | Trump Jr. to rally for Manchin challenger | Rick Scott leaves trail to deal with hurricane damage Mellman: Why Kavanaugh should withdraw Senior Dem says Pelosi will be Speaker for as long as she wants 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 PelosiElection Countdown: O'Rourke goes on the attack | Takeaways from fiery second Texas Senate debate | Heitkamp apologizes for ad misidentifying abuse victims | Trump Jr. to rally for Manchin challenger | Rick Scott leaves trail to deal with hurricane damage Republicans should prepare for Nancy Pelosi to wield the gavel Pelosi calls Trump’s desire for border wall a ‘manhood issue’ 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 KennedyHouse lawmakers introduce bill to end US support in Yemen civil war Democrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her Ex-GOP donor urges support for Dems in midterms: 'Democracy is at stake' 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 TrumpTrump renews attacks against Tester over VA nominee on eve of Montana rally Trump submits 2017 federal income tax returns Corker: Trump administration 'clamped down' on Saudi intel, canceled briefing 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 blasts Trump for holding rally during Hurricane Michael: ‘NOPE NOPE NOPE’ Dem lawmaker mocks conservative activist as a ‘mansplainer’ after criticism of Taylor Swift Dem rep mocks Trump’s attack on SNL 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 GabbardThe importance of advancing the U.S.-India partnership House lawmakers introduce bill to end US support in Yemen civil war Congress just failed our nation’s veterans when it comes to medical marijuana 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 RyanSenior Dem says Pelosi will be Speaker for as long as she wants House Dems punt action on rule change for Speaker nominee Hoyer questions feasibility of new threshold for Speaker nomination 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 WatersTwo Minnesota Republicans report attacks Noisy democracy, or rude people behaving like children? Kavanaugh fight a GOP wake up call, but more is needed 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.