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 ObamaBill Maher, Isiah Thomas score over the NFL's playing of 'Black national anthem' Democrats confront 'Rubik's cube on steroids' White House debates vaccines for air travel MORE, who became the nation’s first African-American president, and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP political operatives indicted over illegal campaign contribution from Russian national in 2016 Clinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney charged in Durham investigation pleads not guilty MORE, the first woman to win the popular vote.
Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHouse clears bill to provide veterans with cost-of-living adjustment On The Money — Dems dare GOP to vote for shutdown, default To reduce poverty, stop burdening the poor: What Joe Manchin gets wrong about the child tax credit MORE, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersPelosi says House members would not vote on spending bill topline higher than Senate's Groups push lawmakers to use defense bill to end support for Saudis in Yemen civil war Congress must address the looming debt crisis 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.
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 HarrisCIA chief team member reported Havana syndrome symptoms during trip to India: report Harris booked for first in-studio talk show appearance as VP on 'The View' Republicans caught in California's recall trap MORE (Calif.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats confront 'Rubik's cube on steroids' The Trojan Horse of protectionism Federal Reserve officials' stock trading sparks ethics review MORE (Mass.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharThis week: Democrats face mounting headaches Klobuchar: 'It is evil to make it deliberately hard for people to vote' Democrats push to shield election workers from violent threats MORE (Minn.), Cory BookerCory BookerDOJ announces agencywide limits on chokeholds and no-knock entries Fighting poverty, the Biden way Top Senate Democrats urge Biden to take immediate action on home confinement program MORE (N.J.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandHochul tells Facebook to 'clean up the act' on abortion misinformation after Texas law Democratic senators request probe into Amazon's treatment of pregnant employees The FBI comes up empty-handed in its search for a Jan. 6 plot MORE (N.Y.), to name just some of the potential candidates.
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.