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 Trump Former US ambassador: 'Denmark is not a big fan of Donald Trump and his politics' Senate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Detroit county sheriff endorses Booker for president 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 KaineA lesson of the Trump, Tlaib, Omar, Netanyahu affair Warren's pledge to avoid first nuclear strike sparks intense pushback Almost three-quarters say minimum age to buy tobacco should be 21: Gallup 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 MurphyHobbled NRA shows strength with Trump Overnight Defense: US, Russia tensions grow over nuclear arms | Highlights from Esper's Asia trip | Trump strikes neutral tone on Hong Kong protests | General orders ethics review of special forces White House eyes September action plan for gun proposals 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 BaldwinRecessions happen when presidents overlook key problems Trade wars and the over-valued dollar Overnight Health Care: Senate panel advances drug pricing bill amid GOP blowback | House panel grills Juul executives | Trump gives boost to state drug import plans | Officials say new migrant kids' shelter to remain open but empty MORE (D-Wis.), whose home state is hosting the party’s 2020 convention; Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate Democrats push Trump to permanently shutter migrant detention facility Senate Dem seeks answers from DHS on reports of pregnant asylum seekers sent back to Mexico Schumer backs Pelosi as impeachment roils caucus MORE (D-Ore.), the only senator to endorse Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSenate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Top adviser on Sanders: 'He's always been underestimated' 'The Simpsons' pokes fun at Trump's feud with 'the squad' MORE (I-Vt.) in 2016; and Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownBank watchdogs approve rule to loosen ban on risky Wall Street trades Dayton mayor assigned extra security following verbal spat with Trump The Hill's Campaign Report: Battle for Senate begins to take shape 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 BennetThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes The Hill's Morning Report - Trump searches for backstops amid recession worries Biden, Buttigieg bypassing Democratic delegate meeting: report MORE (Colo.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSenate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Detroit county sheriff endorses Booker for president 'The Simpsons' pokes fun at Trump's feud with 'the squad' MORE (N.J.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandSenate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Sanders unveils plan to double union membership in first term The Hill's 12:30 Report: Biden expands lead in new national poll MORE (N.Y.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisSenate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Top adviser on Sanders: 'He's always been underestimated' 'The Simpsons' pokes fun at Trump's feud with 'the squad' MORE (Calif.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharSenate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill The Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes Harris to appear in CNN climate town hall after backlash MORE (Minn.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenSenate Democrats push for arms control language in defense policy bill Top adviser on Sanders: 'He's always been underestimated' 'The Simpsons' pokes fun at Trump's feud with 'the squad' 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) MenendezPelosi warns Mnuchin to stop 'illegal' .3B cut to foreign aid House passes temporary immigration protections for Venezuelans Senate panel advances bipartisan bill to lower drug prices amid GOP blowback MORE (D-N.J.) became the first senator to endorse a colleague in February when he backed Booker. Sens. Tina SmithTina Flint SmithReid says he wishes Franken would run for Senate again Senate Democrats introduce bill to combat foreign influence campaigns Durbin says he has second thoughts about asking for Franken's resignation MORE (D-Minn.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyJoseph Kennedy mulling primary challenge to Markey in Massachusetts Overnight Energy: Trump sparks new fight over endangered species protections | States sue over repeal of Obama power plant rules | Interior changes rules for ethics watchdogs To cash in on innovation, remove market barriers for advanced energy technologies MORE (D-Mass.) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyAppropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions Graham moves controversial asylum bill through panel; Democrats charge he's broken the rules MORE (D-Vt.) followed suit by backing Klobuchar, Warren and Sanders, respectively.

Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinAmerica is in desperate need of infrastructure investment: Senate highway bill a step in the right direction Financial aid fraud is wrong — but overcorrection could hurt more students Democrats denounce Trump's attack on Cummings: 'These are not the words of a patriot' 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 SchumerSaagar Enjeti: Biden's latest blunder; Krystal Ball: Did Schumer blow our chance to beat McConnell? Johnson eyes Irish border in Brexit negotiations Lewandowski on potential NH Senate run: If I run, 'I'm going to win' 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 FeinsteinTrump administration urges Congress to reauthorize NSA surveillance program The Hill's Morning Report - More talk on guns; many questions on Epstein's death Juan Williams: We need a backlash against Big Tech MORE (D-Calif.), Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care: Planned Parenthood to leave federal family planning program absent court action | Democrats demand Trump withdraw rule on transgender health | Cummings, Sanders investigate three drug companies for 'obstructing' probe Democrats demand Trump officials withdraw rule on transgender health The Hill's Morning Report - Progressives, centrists clash in lively Democratic debate 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 Obama'Forever war' slogans short-circuit the scrutiny required of national security choices Which Democrat can beat Trump? Middle East scholars blame Trump for an Iran policy 40 years in the making MORE (D-Ill.). They were also running at the time against then-Sens. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Joe BidenJoe BidenTop adviser on Sanders: 'He's always been underestimated' 'The Simpsons' pokes fun at Trump's feud with 'the squad' 'Forever war' slogans short-circuit the scrutiny required of national security choices 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 CarperAmerica is in desperate need of infrastructure investment: Senate highway bill a step in the right direction FARA should apply to Confucius Institutes The 23 Republicans who opposed Trump-backed budget deal MORE (Del.) and Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsThe United States broken patent system is getting worse Biden faces scrutiny for his age from other Democrats Democrats press FBI for details on Kavanaugh investigation 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.”