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 Democrats: Kavanaugh’s classmate must testify Kamala Harris on Kavanaugh accuser: ‘I believe her’ Senate Dems sue Archives to try to force release of Kavanaugh documents MORE (Calif.) and Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSenate Dems sue Archives to try to force release of Kavanaugh documents Judd Gregg: The collapse of the Senate Dems engage in last-ditch effort to block Kavanaugh 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 BidenBiden: Presume the 'essence' of sexual assault accusations are 'real' Sanders, Warren ask whether there’s room for both in primary Kavanaugh hires attorney amid sexual assault allegations: report MORE marched in a Labor Day parade in Pittsburgh, while Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersWarren joins Sanders in support of striking McDonald's workers Kavanaugh allegations could be monster storm brewing for midterm elections      Senate approves 4B spending bill MORE (I-Vt.) headlined an AFL-CIO breakfast in New Hampshire.

The weekend also revealed a public relations blitz by Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenOn The Money: Senate approves 4B spending bill | China imposes new tariffs on billion in US goods | Ross downplays new tariffs: 'Nobody's going to actually notice' Overnight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Warren joins Sanders in support of striking McDonald's workers 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 TrumpTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight South Korea leader: North Korea agrees to take steps toward denuclearization Graham calls handling of Kavanaugh allegations 'a drive-by shooting' 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 KerryRubio wants DOJ to find out if Kerry broke law by meeting with Iranians Time for sunshine on Trump-Russia investigation Pompeo doubles down on criticism of Kerry: The Iran deal failed, 'let it go' 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 GrassleyTrump: I hope voters pay attention to Dem tactics amid Kavanaugh fight Grassley: No reason to delay Kavanaugh hearing Dem senators back Kavanaugh accuser's call for FBI investigation 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.”