Dems worry: Top three candidates in polls are all white men

Democrats are worried that they have a problem: The three people leading polls in the very early stages of their presidential race are all white men.

The party traditionally battles over identity politics and wants to be seen as promoting diversity.

Its last three nominees have been Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaOn The Money: Trump presses GM, union to start talks over closed plant | Trump renews call to cut arts, PBS funding | Alan Krueger, former Obama economic adviser, dies at 58 | Americans expected to bet .5B on March Madness Obama reminisces about visit to Ireland on St. Patrick's Day: 'It'll always be O'Bama' Klobuchar on Trump's rhetoric and hate crimes: 'At the very least, he is dividing people' MORE, who became the nation’s first African-American president, and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonOvernight Health Care: CDC pushes for expanding HIV testing, treatment | Dem group launches ads attacking Trump on Medicare, Medicaid cuts | Hospitals, insurers spar over surprise bills | O'Rourke under pressure from left on Medicare for all O'Rourke faces sharp backlash from left Dem strategist says South Carolina will be first 'real test' for O'Rourke MORE, the first woman to win the popular vote.

Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenBiden weighing an early announcement of running mate: report Poll: Biden leads among millennial voters O'Rourke faces sharp backlash from left MORE, Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersWarren calls for abolishing Electoral College Biden weighing an early announcement of running mate: report Poll: Biden leads among millennial voters MORE (I-Vt.), and Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) are this year’s top-tier candidates, according to a recent and very early Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom poll.

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It showed that 32 percent of those polled in Iowa favored Biden, while 19 percent preferred Sanders and 11 percent liked O'Rourke.

While some Democrats believe the early polls are merely a metric on name recognition, they say it defies the party’s mission to be more diverse and more inclusive that the top three candidates are all white men. 

“It’s almost like we’re moving backwards,” said one Democratic strategist. “We elected a black president in 2008 and 2012, we nominated a woman in 2016, so why are we now back with three white men at the top of the polls?” 

Democratic strategist Seth Bringman added that it “definitely sends the wrong message about who our party is.” 

To be sure, a number of Democratic women and members of minority groups have expressed an interest in running for president. 

The list includes Sens. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisBiden weighing an early announcement of running mate: report Poll: Biden leads among millennial voters O'Rourke faces sharp backlash from left MORE (Calif.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren calls for abolishing Electoral College Warren: 'White supremacists pose a threat to the United States like any other terrorist group' Poll: Biden leads among millennial voters MORE (Mass.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharPoll: Biden leads among millennial voters Sanders fundraises off O'Rourke's announcement that he pulled in .1M The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump hits media over New Zealand coverage MORE (Minn.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerPoll: Biden leads among millennial voters Booker: Racists think Trump's racist Booker vows to reverse 'ridiculous' transgender military ban if elected president MORE (N.J.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump hits media over New Zealand coverage Warren, Harris, Gillibrand back efforts to add justices to Supreme Court The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 Dems grapple with race, gender and privilege MORE (N.Y.), to name just some of the potential candidates. 

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In an interview last week, CNN host Van Jones asked Gillibrand, who has been a vocal supporter of the "Me Too" movement, if she found the latest poll concerning: “In a party as diverse as ours, does it worry you to see the top three being white guys?”

“Yes,” Gillibrand replied. 

“I aspire for our country to recognize the beauty of our diversity at some point in the future and I hope someday we have a woman president,” she continued after Jones pushed her on the point.

“I love the fact that Barack Obama was our president for eight years. I hope more people of color not only aspire [but] win the presidency because that’s what makes America so extraordinary, that we are all of that, we are everything, and I think a more inclusive America is a stronger America.” 

At the same time, other Democrats say it’s much too early to read anything into the polls. 

“Polls at this stage are political Viagra,” said Robert Zimmerman, a top Democratic fundraiser. “The results are artificial, the rise temporary, and if they last more than a few weeks, get a new pollster.” 

Democratic strategist Patti Solis Doyle, who served as campaign manager during Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign, also poured cold water on the early polling. 

“I don’t know if such early polls say anything about the party,” Solis Doyle said. “Such early polls don’t tell you much. 

Still, she added, “I do think that Democrats won 2018 in large measure due to women voters. Women are leading movements politically, socially and culturally across the country. I just don’t see how a woman is not on the ticket in 2020.” 

While the polls reflect name recognition now, Bringman predicts a diverse group of candidates will come to the fore, and will have “diverse support.” 

In the southern states, for example, he pointed out that only 15 percent of the primary electorate consists of white men. 

“A white male candidate will have challenges because our voters are predominantly women and people of color,” Bringman said. “Women candidates dominated Democratic primaries in 2018. The last two competitive Democratic primaries were won by the candidate who was the overwhelming favorite among black voters."

Bringman said that all three men will have problems going forward.

For Biden, voters will be reminded of the Anita Hill testimony, where the then-senator chaired the Senate Judiciary Committee which handled the confirmation hearings for then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. On the heels of the "Me Too" movement, Biden has been under scrutiny for failing to ease the attacks on Hill. 

Sanders struggled in connecting with black voters in the 2016 campaign, something that could come back to haunt him. And Bringman said O’Rourke “seems like the flavor of the month.” 

“Once this thing gets going, I don’t expect the party of women, people of color, and young people to want 70-plus-year-old white men leading us,” he said.  

A CNN exit poll taken last month showed that 65 percent of those Democrats polled felt it was important to support minorities and women. 

Democratic strategist Maria Cardona agreed. 

“Nothing means anything at this point in the polls for 2020,” she said.