Would-be 2020 Dem candidates head for the exits

The race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination is expected to be crowded, but would-be candidates are quickly falling to the side as some determine they either don’t see a lane for their candidacies or that they don’t have the money, desire or stomach for the fight.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ruled out a run late last month, while former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick — a favorite of some former senior aides to former President Obama — said he wouldn’t enter the race on Tuesday.

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Michael Avenatti, the attorney for adult-film actress Stormy Daniels who for months had talked himself up as a candidate, also said Tuesday he wouldn’t enter the race.

“I think each have their separate reasons for not running,” said Patti Solis Doyle, who served as campaign manager to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonIdentity politics and the race for the Democratic nomination O'Rourke’s strategy: Show Americans the real Beto Conservatives pound BuzzFeed, media over Cohen report MORE during her 2008 bid for the presidency. “But the reason most potential candidates decide not to run— whatever the office— is not seeing a path to victory.”

More than two dozen candidates are expected to flirt with a 2020 bid, a number drawing comparisons to the large Republican field in 2016. With the midterms in the rear-view mirror and the field coming into view, would-be candidates are doing a gut-check. Many are in the process of chatting with donors and sizing up their possible competitors.

“When there are more than two years to the next presidential election, it is easy to play the teasing game when you are mentioned as a potential candidate,” said Democratic strategist Maria Cardona. “Then when reality slaps you in the face in terms of timing, every potential ‘candidate’ sobers up pretty quickly.”

While the Cuomo and Avenatti announcements were less surprising, some Democrats were taken aback by Patrick’s decision, particularly because it seemed as though so many close associates of Obama — including his confidante Valerie Jarrett — were pushing for a candidacy.

But a top Democratic bundler said Patrick was aware of the potentially “super crowded field,” and had “fears he might not make the first tier” of candidates out of the gate.

The bundler said Patrick’s legacy and reputation could be hurt by being seen as sitting at the “kids table” among so many competitors.

Strategists also said it would have been difficult for Patrick to reintroduce himself to the public with so many competitors at his back.

“He’s been out of the public domain for a few years and he would have had his work cut out for him in terms of building a public profile,” one strategist said.

Democrats say that while Cuomo was always mentioned as a potential candidate, his path to the nomination always looked narrow since he likely would have had to compete against former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandMedia reliability questioned over report Trump directed lies to Congress Gillibrand defends past stances on immigration: I would tell voters, 'look at my heart’ Identity politics and the race for the Democratic nomination MORE (D-N.Y.).

And while Avenatti was touting himself as a “fighter” who could take on Trump, he had trouble getting any traction within the Democratic establishment. In addition, even as he made the rounds and met with donors and political advisers, some strategists never believed he would actually run.

“Avenatti, in my opinion, was never serious about it and simply used the initial public swoon to increase his own name recognition and stroke his ego in order to bolster his business and ongoing cases,” Cardona said.

A source close to Avenatti said a run “just didn’t make sense.” But the source said he could also decide to get back in the race sometime next year “if no one has taken off.”

Even as some drop out of the running, Robert Wolf, who served as a bundler for Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, said the field isn’t shrinking.

“I would actually argue that the list got bigger,” Wolf said on Wednesday. He pointed to Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetCracks beginning to show in GOP shutdown resolve WHIP LIST: Who’s in and out in the 2020 race Would-be 2020 Dem candidates head for the exits MORE (Colo.), who announced earlier this week the he was “seriously thinking” about a White House run.

Former Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryKerry rips Trump’s ‘pull-out, walk-away presidency’ Graham criticizes Trump canceling Pelosi trip as 'inappropriate’ Howard Dean to CNN: All Dem candidates qualified to be president except Tulsi Gabbard MORE also said last week that he too was mulling another bid, and Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyTrump pitches new plan to reopen government amid Dem pushback Dem senator references 'The Office' when posting job for Scranton regional manager  Sen. Casey says he won't run for president in 2020 MORE Jr. (Pa.), fresh off a third-term win, has also been toying with this idea.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum, who narrowly lost the gubernatorial race last month in Florida, recently met with Obama — which left tongues wagging.

Still, many of those exploring campaigns are likely to decide against jumping in the race as would-be candidates struggle to find the backing they need to launch a campaign.

Democratic strategist David Wade, who served as an adviser to Kerry during his presidential bid in 2004, said the decisionmaking is a clear “inflection point” in the 2020 race.

“This is the moment where you have to sever private sector commercial relationships, start to hire operatives and staff, and lock in fundraisers and family to commit the next two years to one mission,” he said. “So it's natural that this is the point that separates many who have thought about running from those who actually will run.”