Democratic insiders stay on the sidelines in 2020 race

Democratic insiders stay on the sidelines in 2020 race
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LAS VEGAS — In the days leading up to Nevada’s caucuses, Democratic anxiety over Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersGOP lawmaker: Democratic Party 'used to be more moderate' 4 reasons why Trump can't be written off — yet Progressives lost the battle for the Democratic Party's soul MORE’s (I-Vt.) growing momentum rose. But those who had the power to influence voters on behalf of another candidate stayed notably silent.

Former Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidKamala Harris to young Black women at conference: 'I want you to be ambitious' Obama calls filibuster 'Jim Crow relic,' backs new Voting Rights Act bill McConnell warns Democrats not to change filibuster rule MORE, the most influential Democrat in the Silver State, voted for uncommitted delegates when he cast his early ballot. The powerful Culinary Union pointedly offered no endorsement, though its message to its 60,000 members took an unmistakable shot at Sanders’s health care plans.

The Las Vegas Sun and the Las Vegas Weekly both split endorsements between former Vice President Joe BidenJoe Biden2020 Democratic Party platform endorses Trump's NASA moon program Don't let Trump distract us from the real threat of his presidency Abrams: Trump 'doing his best to undermine our confidence' in voting system MORE and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharSenators press Postal Service over complaints of slow delivery GOP sparks backlash after excluding election funds from COVID-19 bill Hillicon Valley: Feds warn hackers targeting critical infrastructure | Twitter exploring subscription service | Bill would give DHS cyber agency subpoena power MORE (D-Minn.). The Las Vegas Review-Journal, owned by Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, sat out the primary entirely.

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As the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination reaches its crescendo, the major institutional players who could have once influenced and mobilized voters are keeping themselves on the sidelines. Major unions, party elders like Reid, big-name activist organizations and even newspapers have either declined to choose a candidate or split their endorsement between two or more contenders.

Their deafening silence, activists and observers say, reflects the large field of candidates, which has not winnowed appreciably after three early contests. Just like voters who remain unable to choose a candidate until the last minute, those party leaders who once played kingmaker roles have also been unable to take sides.

“We have a lot of friends that we have relationships with that are running for president. All of the candidates are talking about issues that impact unions and specifically working families,” said Lee Saunders, president of the influential American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

AFSCME was one of more than half a dozen major unions that backed Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonState polling problematic — again 4 reasons why Trump can't be written off — yet 'Unmasking' Steele dossier source: Was confidentiality ever part of the deal? MORE months before the first votes were cast in the 2016 primary season. This year, Saunders says, “we are in no rush to endorse.”

Other unions still on the sidelines include the American Federation of Teachers, which has narrowed the list of candidates it might back to Biden, Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Warren4 reasons why Trump can't be written off — yet Here are top contenders to be Biden's VP Kamala Harris to young Black women at conference: 'I want you to be ambitious' MORE (D-Mass.); Service Employees International Union, which decided against making an endorsement last year; and the National Education Association, the country’s largest union with about 3 million members.

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Only five Democratic governors have publicly endorsed a candidate still in the race, with two of them — Delaware Gov. John CarneyJohn Charles CarneyHere's your state's plan for reopening schools Here are the states requiring masks in public Gannett reporter covering Floyd protests detained in Delaware MORE (D) and Minnesota Gov. Tim WalzTimothy (Tim) James WalzMinnesota GOP official who posted image linking mask wearing to Nazi Germany resigns Minnesota couple banned from Walmart after wearing Nazi flags as face coverings Minnesota governor signs ban on chokeholds as part of new police reform law MORE (D) — backing candidates from their own states. Only eight Democratic senators are backing a candidate still in the race, with five supporting favorite sons or daughters. Just two of the Democratic Party’s former presidential nominees, former Secretary of State John KerryJohn Forbes KerryBudowsky: Trump October surprise could devastate GOP Hillicon Valley: Democrats request counterintelligence briefing | New pressure for election funding | Republicans urge retaliation against Chinese hackers National security leaders, advocacy groups urge Congress to send election funds to states MORE, who backs Biden; and Michael Dukakis, who endorsed Warren in April; have chosen a candidate.

The most notable absence from the field is former President Obama, who has told friends and allies he hopes to act as a unifying force once the primaries come to a close.

Prominent early state public officials have also held off choosing a horse, in part some said to attract attention from as broad a field as possible.

Some party leaders said the rising influence of social media has come at the cost of institutional endorsers. The larger the field, the more likely it is any endorsement will go to a losing candidate, and the more likely that those influencers will show their currency is not worth what it once was.

The significant number of party leaders staying on the sidelines has added to voter confusion over a consensus nominee, especially as Sanders rises and those competing for middle-of-the-road Democratic voters continue their campaigns.