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 SandersBiden campaign: Trump and former vice president will have phone call about coronavirus Judge slams Wisconsin governor, lawmakers for not delaying election amid coronavirus outbreak The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden offers to talk coronavirus response with Trump 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 ReidGOP embraces big stimulus after years of decrying it Five Latinas who could be Biden's running mate Winners and losers from Super Tuesday 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 BidenBiden campaign: Trump and former vice president will have phone call about coronavirus Overnight Health Care: Trump resists pressure for nationwide stay-at-home order | Trump open to speaking to Biden about virus response | Fauci gets security detail | Outbreak creates emergency in nursing homes 16 things to know today about coronavirus outbreak MORE and Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharBiden confirms he's considering Whitmer for VP Democratic senators call on domestic airlines to issue cash refunds for travelers Biden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much MORE (D-Minn.). The Las Vegas Review-Journal, owned by Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, sat out the primary entirely.


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 ClintonPoll: More Republican voters think party is more united than Democratic voters Whoopi Goldberg presses Sanders: 'Why are you still in the race?' Poll: Biden holds slight edge on Trump in Wisconsin 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 WarrenHillicon Valley: T-Mobile, Sprint complete merger | Warren pushes food delivery apps to classify workers as full employees | Lawsuit accuses Zoom of improperly sharing user data Warren calls on food delivery apps to classify workers as full employees Biden confirms he's considering Whitmer for VP 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.


Only five Democratic governors have publicly endorsed a candidate still in the race, with two of them — Delaware Gov. John CarneyJohn Charles CarneyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Airbnb - Senators clinch deal on T stimulus package Democratic insiders stay on the sidelines in 2020 race Democratic governors call on Trump, McConnell to support gun control measures MORE (D) and Minnesota Gov. Tim WalzTimothy (Tim) James WalzPress: America's governors lead the way on virus Idaho governor issues stay-at-home order for 21 days amid coronavirus spread Walmart, grocers adding sneeze guards for cashiers 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 KerryPoll: More Republican voters think party is more united than Democratic voters Biden's pick for vice president doesn't matter much Longtime Biden adviser posthumously tests positive for coronavirus 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.