Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates

Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates
© Greg Nash

Senate Democrats are staying on the sidelines of the fierce fight to win the party’s presidential nomination.

As several of their colleagues compete to take on President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew EPA rule would expand Trump officials' powers to reject FOIA requests Democratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Democrats: Ex-Commerce aide said Ross asked him to examine adding census citizenship question MORE, Democratic senators are holding off on picking favorites in the crowded primary field that includes seven senators, 18 total candidates so far and several others weighing bids.

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Senators say White House hopefuls have reached out to them, but most are steering clear of an endorsement game that could lead to an awkward post-primary dynamic.

“You know, I will if my gut tells me I want to,” Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineDemocratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Overnight Health Care — Sponsored by Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids — Trump issues order to bring transparency to health care prices | Fight over billions in ObamaCare payments heads to Supreme Court Senate set to bypass Iran fight amid growing tensions MORE (D-Va.), the party’s 2016 vice presidential nominee, told The Hill about endorsing during the primary. “I kind of do it by intuition.”

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyOvernight Defense: Officials brief Congress after Iran shoots down drone | Lawmakers fear 'grave situation' | Trump warns Iran | Senate votes to block Saudi arms sales | Bombshell confession at Navy SEAL's murder trial Senate votes to block Trump's Saudi arms sale Trump faces skepticism about Iran war authority from both parties MORE (D-Conn.), a progressive senator once considered a dark horse candidate, jokingly asked if he could “endorse them all” and bypass picking just one in the wide-ranging field that includes some of his friends in the Senate.

“Can they all be president? Could I endorse them all?” Murphy recently told reporters, adding that he wants to “stay out of it for as long as possible.”

With a crowded primary field, candidates are vying for high-profile endorsements that could boost their name recognition in key states and open up access to coveted donor networks. But as campaigns try to seize the mantle of momentum from the pack of competitors, Senate Democrats are notably missing from the list of endorsements.

That includes several lawmakers who are popular with the party’s progressive base, such as Sens. Tammy BaldwinTammy Suzanne BaldwinHillicon Valley: House panel advances election security bill | GOP senator targets YouTube with bill on child exploitation | Hicks told Congress Trump camp felt 'relief' after release of Clinton docs | Commerce blacklists five Chinese tech groups Senate Democrats press regulators over reported tech investigations Chris Murphy may oppose bipartisan health bill unless it addresses ObamaCare 'sabotage' MORE (D-Wis.), whose home state is hosting the party’s 2020 convention; Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate set to bypass Iran fight amid growing tensions Congress unlikely to reach deal on Trump border bill before break Chaos within the EPA exposes Americans to toxins like asbestos MORE (D-Ore.), the only senator to endorse Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's Morning Report - In exclusive interview, Trump talks Biden, Iran, SCOTUS and reparations Biden to debate for first time as front-runner Rules for first Democratic primary debates announced MORE (I-Vt.) in 2016; and Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownHouse panel to hold hearing on Facebook cryptocurrency project Democrats talk up tax credits to counter Trump law Facebook's new cryptocurrency raises red flags for critics MORE (D-Ohio), who floated his own 2020 run.

Of the 47 senators in the Democratic caucus, seven are running or have said they will run for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination: Sens. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetRules for first Democratic primary debates announced Inslee unveils plan to fight fossil fuel pollution, ban fracking The Hill's Morning Report - Crunch time arrives for 2020 Dems with debates on deck MORE (Colo.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBiden to debate for first time as front-runner Rules for first Democratic primary debates announced Press: Democrats form circular firing squad MORE (N.J.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandRules for first Democratic primary debates announced Juan Williams: Warren on the rise 2020 primary debate guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the first Democratic showdown MORE (N.Y.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisThe Hill's Morning Report - In exclusive interview, Trump talks Biden, Iran, SCOTUS and reparations Biden to debate for first time as front-runner Rules for first Democratic primary debates announced MORE (Calif.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharRules for first Democratic primary debates announced Senate set to bypass Iran fight amid growing tensions Sanders unveils student debt plan amid rivalry with Warren MORE (Minn.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenAbigail Disney: 'We're creating a super-class' of rich people Is Big Tech biased? The Hill's Morning Report - In exclusive interview, Trump talks Biden, Iran, SCOTUS and reparations MORE (Mass.) and Sanders.

Only four of the other 40 Democrats in the Senate have endorsed a fellow senator — all from their home states.

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Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSenate to vote on blocking Trump's Saudi arms deal as soon as this week There is a severe physician shortage and it will only worsen Democrats ask Fed to probe Trump's Deutsche Bank ties MORE (D-N.J.) became the first senator to endorse a colleague in February when he backed Booker. Sens. Tina SmithTina Flint SmithHillicon Valley: House panel advances election security bill | GOP senator targets YouTube with bill on child exploitation | Hicks told Congress Trump camp felt 'relief' after release of Clinton docs | Commerce blacklists five Chinese tech groups Senate Democrats press regulators over reported tech investigations Democrats ask Fed to probe Trump's Deutsche Bank ties MORE (D-Minn.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeySenate set to bypass Iran fight amid growing tensions Young activists press for change in 2020 election Hillicon Valley: House panel advances election security bill | GOP senator targets YouTube with bill on child exploitation | Hicks told Congress Trump camp felt 'relief' after release of Clinton docs | Commerce blacklists five Chinese tech groups MORE (D-Mass.) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyNegotiators face major obstacles to meeting July border deadline This week: Congress set for clash on Trump's border request Congress unlikely to reach deal on Trump border bill before break MORE (D-Vt.) followed suit by backing Klobuchar, Warren and Sanders, respectively.

Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinProposed bipartisan kidney legislation takes on kidney disease epidemic in America Lawmakers raise security concerns about China building NYC subway cars House votes to boost retirement savings MORE (D-Md.) didn’t rule out that he would eventually support someone, but added with a laugh, “Not now.”

“I have some people that are in the category that I would have confidence [in], that are stronger than others,” he told The Hill, while declining to name names.

The hands-off attitude starts at the top of the caucus, where no member of leadership has endorsed a candidate.

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerMcConnell-backed Super PAC says nominating Roy Moore would be 'gift wrapping' seat to Dems McConnell vows to 'vigorously' oppose Moore's Senate bid Pelosi: Trump delay on Harriet Tubman is 'an insult to the hopes of millions' MORE (D-N.Y.), who recommended Gillibrand for her Senate seat, is staying neutral and has given no indication on when he’ll come off the fence.

In addition to Gillibrand, the primary also includes three members of his leadership team: Klobuchar, Sanders and Warren.

Schumer, in an interview last month with New York radio station WAMC, reiterated that his philosophy for the field of Democratic contenders is “let a thousand flowers bloom.”

“Let’s see who the strongest candidate is against Donald Trump, because we have to beat him. And I don’t know who it is but I do believe … the electorate will choose the candidate they think is the strongest to beat him,” Schumer said.

The slow pace of endorsements is a break from the 2016 race, when several senators began endorsing Clinton, the presumptive front-runner, years before the election.

Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDemocratic senator introduces bill to ban gun silencers Negotiators face major obstacles to meeting July border deadline Young activists press for change in 2020 election MORE (D-Calif.), Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: Trump officials defend changes to family planning program | Senators unveil bipartisan package on health costs | Democrats pass T spending bill with HHS funds Chris Murphy may oppose bipartisan health bill unless it addresses ObamaCare 'sabotage' Key senators release bipartisan package to lower health care costs MORE (D-Wash.), Schumer and Gillibrand, as well as now-former Democratic Sens. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerOnly four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Hispanic civil rights icon endorses Harris for president California AG Becerra included in Bloomberg 50 list MORE (Calif.) and Clare McCaskill (Mo.), each endorsed Clinton in 2013, according to FiveThirtyEight. An additional dozen senators, many of whom are still in office, had endorsed Clinton by the end of 2014.

The endorsement race was slower for the 2008 cycle, when Clinton battled with then-Sen. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBiden to debate for first time as front-runner John Kerry: Play based on Mueller report is 'an act of public service' Obama photographed alongside Clooney on boat in Italy MORE (D-Ill.). They were also running at the time against then-Sens. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Joe BidenJoe BidenThe Hill's Morning Report - In exclusive interview, Trump talks Biden, Iran, SCOTUS and reparations Biden to debate for first time as front-runner Rules for first Democratic primary debates announced MORE (D-Del.) and former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.), but all three withdrew from the race in January 2008.

Schumer endorsed Clinton in December 2006, and then-Sen. Barbara MikulskiBarbara Ann MikulskiLobbying World Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates Raskin embraces role as constitutional scholar MORE (D-Md.) backed her in April 2007. By the end of 2007, Clinton had 10 Senate supporters.

Hanging over the 2020 Senate endorsement game is a potential White House bid by Biden — he is widely expected to get into the race and has the most Senate endorsements.

Democratic Sens. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperSenate investigation finds multiple federal agencies left sensitive data vulnerable to cyberattacks for past decade Senate set to bypass Iran fight amid growing tensions The '90-10 rule' in higher education is a target on veterans' backs MORE (Del.) and Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsDemocrats want White House hopefuls to cool it on Biden attacks Senators revive effort to create McCain human rights commission Senate Dem to reintroduce bill with new name after 'My Little Pony' confusion MORE (Del.), as well as Feinstein, have all indicated they would support Biden. Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) has also publicly talked about how he’s encouraged Biden to run.

 Asked last month about backing someone in the primary, Jones said it may “depend on how things go.”

“I mean, everybody knows that Joe Biden and I have been friends for 40 years, and so I have talked about Joe a lot. And I’ve always wanted him to be president,” he said. “Outside of Joe, we’ll see how that goes.”

The fight for the party’s nomination could yield plenty of awkward moments.

Only hours after Feinstein told reporters in January that she would back Biden, she found herself walking next to Harris, with the eventual 2020 candidate accompanying her on the Senate floor as she was sworn in for her sixth term.

Murphy, when asked if he had talked with any presidential contenders, appeared to acknowledge the possibility that several could pass through the Senate basement as he answered questions about the primary.

“I’ve talked to a bunch of them,” he said, before adding with emphasis, “I see a lot of them.”

And the questions about the former vice president have become so common in the Capitol that Carper, when approached by a reporter on an unrelated topic, deadpanned: “Yes, Joe Biden, I’d be happy to support him.”