Dem primary in full swing — months before midterms

Dem primary in full swing — months before midterms
© Greg Nash

The 2020 Democratic presidential primary is in full swing — a full two months before 2018’s midterm elections.

Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSenate Dems introduce bill to prevent Trump from using disaster funds to build wall Klobuchar, O'Rourke visit Wisconsin as 2020 race heats up Sherrod Brown pushes for Medicare buy-in proposal in place of 'Medicare for all' MORE (Calif.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerKlobuchar, O'Rourke visit Wisconsin as 2020 race heats up Sherrod Brown pushes for Medicare buy-in proposal in place of 'Medicare for all' Harris off to best start among Dems in race, say strategists, donors MORE (N.J.) on Tuesday were vying for air time on the cable networks, trying to score points at a raucous confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

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A day earlier, former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenKlobuchar, O'Rourke visit Wisconsin as 2020 race heats up Biden: 'The America I see does not wish to turn our back on the world' DNC chair defends debate schedule after Biden says election process starts 'too early' MORE marched in a Labor Day parade in Pittsburgh, while Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSenate Dems introduce bill to prevent Trump from using disaster funds to build wall Klobuchar, O'Rourke visit Wisconsin as 2020 race heats up Sherrod Brown pushes for Medicare buy-in proposal in place of 'Medicare for all' MORE (I-Vt.) headlined an AFL-CIO breakfast in New Hampshire.

The weekend also revealed a public relations blitz by Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSenate Dems introduce bill to prevent Trump from using disaster funds to build wall Klobuchar, O'Rourke visit Wisconsin as 2020 race heats up Sherrod Brown pushes for Medicare buy-in proposal in place of 'Medicare for all' MORE (Mass.), who is trying to prove her background as a Cherokee had no role in landing her jobs in academia.

Typically, candidates wade into the primary waters immediately after the midterm elections.

But this year, with the Democratic field expected to be larger than ever, and Democrats clamoring to take down President TrumpDonald John TrumpMcCabe says he was fired because he 'opened a case against' Trump McCabe: Trump said 'I don't care, I believe Putin' when confronted with US intel on North Korea McCabe: Trump talked to me about his election victory during 'bizarre' job interview MORE amid the #Resist movement, potential candidates are getting a head start.

“Why not start early? The late-entrant model has never worked,” said David Wade, a Democratic strategist who served as a senior adviser to John KerryJohn Forbes KerryWarren taps longtime aide as 2020 campaign manager In Virginia, due process should count more than blind team support Trump will give State of Union to sea of opponents MORE, the Democratic nominee in 2004.

Ever since 1972, Wade said, it’s been the early bird who has gotten the worm in the Democratic primary.

The candidates standing at the end of the nominating season “are usually those who invested the most time at the beginning,” he said.

Starting earlier gives would-be candidates time to tinker with their messages to see what might work in Iowa and New Hampshire, as well as what should be used in a general versus a primary election.

“You're trying to differentiate among markedly similar product lines. It requires time and experimentation,” he said.

While the presidential election is more than two years away, the Iowa caucuses will be on in closer to 15 months. That leaves less time for candidates in a crowded race to make sure they are at the top of their party’s rankings.

“We are still 518 days until the Iowa Caucuses but that is barely enough time to do everything a presidential candidate needs to do to become a player,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon.

“By this time next year, the secret primary will already have culled the candidate herd into a more manageable flock,” he said. “That’s not much time to score endorsements and raise the money that a candidate needs to make it into the semifinals that start early in 2020.”

Harris jumped on before Tuesday’s hearing for Kavanaugh was barely underway, winning immediate attention on social media and cable television.

“We can’t possibly move forward, Mr. Chairman,” she said speaking over Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyHigh stakes as Trump, Dems open drug price talks Senate approves border bill that prevents shutdown Grassley raises voice after McConnell interrupts Senate speech MORE (R-Iowa) to complain that Democrats had not had time to read 42,000 pages of documents released Monday night.

Booker wasn’t ceding the spotlight either.

“What is the rush?” he asked Grassley and Republicans on the committee a few minutes after Harris’s initial interruption.

“What are we trying to hide by not having the documents out front? What is with the rush?” Booker asked.

As Booker spoke, the New Jersey Democratic State Committee sent out a fundraising email on his behalf asking supporters to join him in opposing Kavanaugh’s nomination.

All the while, Michael Avenatti, the lawyer who represents porn star Stormy Daniels and has said he is interested in running for president, slammed Democrats for not being tough enough.

“Newsflash - the Senate judiciary comm members knew long before last night that there were thousands of docs yet to be turned over. They should have been making this an issue on every media outlet they could find & seeking to delay the hearing. Outrage this morning is not enough,” Avenatti wrote on Twitter.

A day earlier, after the former vice president was seen jogging through the Pennsylvania parade, pundits and reporters on Twitter quipped that he was indeed “running.”

But Biden attempted to downplay his involvement in the Labor Day parade in the swing state of Pennsylvania, telling reporters that it “doesn’t mean anything for my political future.”

Still, while he didn’t commit to another White House bid, he added, “if I’m running for president, I’ll be here a lot.”

While Sanders avoided any mentions of 2020 in his speech to the AFL-CIO, his address could be a preview of a stump speech.

“We have a president, and I say this with no joy in my heart, who is a pathological liar. … We have a president for cheap political reasons who is trying to divide us up,” he said.

While the would-be candidates have all steered clear of committing to 2020 runs, they’ve used their time in the spotlight effectively.

Wade said it was “smart” for Booker and Harris to use the Kavanaugh hearings to show their toughness, and for Warren to “try and clean up a vulnerability.”

Biden, he said, was also wise to use Labor Day weekend to “press an institutional advantage with organized labor.”

“Presidential politics is usually a game of luck,” he said. “The harder you work, the luckier you get.”