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 ObamaBarack Obama wishes Michelle a happy birthday: 'You’re one of a kind' NY Times prints special section featuring women of the 116th Congress Former congressmen, RNC members appointed to Trump administration roles MORE, who became the nation’s first African-American president, and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDershowitz to The Atlantic: Do not violate Constitution to safeguard it Why Joe Biden (or any moderate) cannot be nominated GOP Rep. Tom Marino resigns from Congress MORE, the first woman to win the popular vote.

Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenLosing the fight against corruption and narco-trafficking in Guatemala Group aiming to draft Beto O’Rourke unveils first 2020 video Why Joe Biden (or any moderate) cannot be nominated MORE, Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersWomen's March plans 'Medicare for All' day of lobbying in DC Group aiming to draft Beto O’Rourke unveils first 2020 video Why Joe Biden (or any moderate) cannot be nominated 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 HarrisOcasio-Cortez's first House floor speech becomes C-SPAN's most-viewed Twitter video Kamala Harris says her New Year's resolution is to 'cook more' Harris to oppose Trump's attorney general nominee MORE (Calif.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenOn The Money: Shutdown Day 27 | Trump fires back at Pelosi by canceling her foreign travel | Dems blast 'petty' move | Trump also cancels delegation to Davos | House votes to disapprove of Trump lifting Russia sanction Group aiming to draft Beto O’Rourke unveils first 2020 video The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Day 27 of the shutdown | Cohen reportedly paid company to rig online polls, boost his own image | Atlantic publishes ‘Impeach Donald Trump’ cover story MORE (Mass.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean Klobuchar5 takeaways from Barr’s testimony Klobuchar dismisses mock campaign logo as something from 'very enthusiastic supporter' Grandson's note to Barr during confirmation hearing goes viral MORE (Minn.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerWe need action on personal cybersecurity Gillibrand and Booker play 'How Well Do You Know Your Co-Worker' game amid 2020 speculation The Hill's Morning Report — Trump’s attorney general pick passes first test MORE (N.J.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandGroup aiming to draft Beto O’Rourke unveils first 2020 video The Hill’s 12:30 Report: Day 27 of the shutdown | Cohen reportedly paid company to rig online polls, boost his own image | Atlantic publishes ‘Impeach Donald Trump’ cover story Gillibrand to attend Women's March Iowa after announcing 2020 bid MORE (N.Y.), to name just some of the potential candidates. 

ADVERTISEMENT

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.