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 TrumpMnuchin knocks Greta Thunberg's activism: Study economics and then 'come back' to us The Hill's Morning Report - House prosecutes Trump as 'lawless,' 'corrupt' What to watch for on Day 3 of Senate impeachment trial 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 KaineIran resolution supporters fear impeachment will put it on back burner House war powers sponsor expects to take up Senate version of resolution Sens. Kaine, Lee: 'We should not be at war with Iran unless Congress authorizes it' 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 MurphyTensions between McConnell and Schumer run high as trial gains momentum Nadler gets under GOP's skin Senate Republicans muscle through rules for Trump trial 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 BaldwinSenate fails to get deal to speed up fight over impeachment rules Lawmakers introduce bill to bolster artificial intelligence, quantum computing Trump's China deal is a gift to Wall Street and Beijing MORE (D-Wis.), whose home state is hosting the party’s 2020 convention; Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyEnvironmentalists, Oregon senators oppose DOT increasing transport of natural gas by rail Senate Democrat says he is concerned intelligence community is 'bending' Soleimani presentations Democrats conflicted over how to limit Trump's war powers MORE (D-Ore.), the only senator to endorse Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's Morning Report - House prosecutes Trump as 'lawless,' 'corrupt' Tensions between McConnell and Schumer run high as trial gains momentum Sanders wants one-on-one fight with Biden MORE (I-Vt.) in 2016; and Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownSunday shows - All eyes on Senate impeachment trial Senate Democrat: 'Fine' to hear from Hunter Biden Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers gear up for Senate impeachment trial 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 BennetWarren ad claims Trump fears her most Sanders to headline Iowa event amid impeachment trial On The Money — Presented by Wells Fargo — Sanders defends vote against USMCA | China sees weakest growth in 29 years | Warren praises IRS move on student loans MORE (Colo.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerThe Hill's 12:30 Report: House managers to begin opening arguments on day two Patrick backs reparations in unveiling 'Equity Agenda for Black Americans' Booker ahead of Trump impeachment trial: 'History has its eyes on us' MORE (N.J.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandSanders defends vote against USMCA: 'Not a single damn mention' of climate change The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial Overnight Energy: Schumer votes against USMCA, citing climate impact | Republicans offer details on their environmental proposals | Microsoft aims to be carbon negative by 2030 MORE (N.Y.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisCalifornia Democrat Christy Smith launches first TV ad in bid for Katie Hill's former House seat Steyer spokesperson: 'I don't think necessarily that Tom has bought anything' Biden wins endorsement of Sacramento mayor MORE (Calif.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharBiden leads Sanders by 7 in new national poll Sanders joins Biden atop 2020 Democratic field: poll The Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clashes, concessions MORE (Minn.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTensions between McConnell and Schumer run high as trial gains momentum Sanders wants one-on-one fight with Biden Biden, Sanders tax plans would raise less revenue than claimed: studies 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) MenendezMedia's selective outrage exposed in McSally-Raju kerfuffle Dem senators say Iran threat to embassies not mentioned in intelligence briefing Overnight Defense: Iran crisis eases as Trump says Tehran 'standing down' | Dems unconvinced on evidence behind Soleimani strike | House sets Thursday vote on Iran war powers MORE (D-N.J.) became the first senator to endorse a colleague in February when he backed Booker. Sens. Tina SmithTina Flint SmithSix mayors making a difference Klobuchar releases names of bundlers Living in limbo may end for Liberians in the US MORE (D-Minn.), Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeyParnas pressure grows on Senate GOP Sanders defends vote against USMCA: 'Not a single damn mention' of climate change The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial MORE (D-Mass.) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyLawmaker wants Chinese news outlet to register as foreign agent Overnight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request Senate Dems urge Esper to oppose shifting Pentagon money to border wall MORE (D-Vt.) followed suit by backing Klobuchar, Warren and Sanders, respectively.

Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinTensions between McConnell and Schumer run high as trial gains momentum New Parnas evidence escalates impeachment witnesses fight Pressure building on Pelosi over articles of impeachment 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 SchumerCollins walks impeachment tightrope 'Emotion' from Trump's legal team wins presidential plaudits Biden says he would not engage in witness swap in impeachment trial 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 FeinsteinCalifornia Democrat Christy Smith launches first TV ad in bid for Katie Hill's former House seat Biden wins endorsement of Sacramento mayor Roberts under pressure from both sides in witness fight MORE (D-Calif.), Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayConservative groups aim to sink bipartisan fix to 'surprise' medical bills Democrats request briefing on intel behind Trump's embassy threat claim Democrats ask if US citizens were detained at border checkpoints due to Iranian national origin MORE (D-Wash.), Schumer and Gillibrand, as well as now-former Democratic Sens. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerFormer Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer joins DC lobbying firm Hillicon Valley: Ocasio-Cortez clashes with former Dem senator over gig worker bill | Software engineer indicted over Capital One breach | Lawmakers push Amazon to remove unsafe products Ocasio-Cortez blasts former Dem senator for helping Lyft fight gig worker bill 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 ObamaObama marks MLK Day by honoring King for his 'poetic brilliance' and 'moral clarity' Biden breaks away from 2020 pack in South Carolina National Archives says it altered Trump signs, other messages in Women's March photo 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 - House prosecutes Trump as 'lawless,' 'corrupt' What to watch for on Day 3 of Senate impeachment trial Sanders wants one-on-one fight with Biden 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 CarperDemocrats ask if US citizens were detained at border checkpoints due to Iranian national origin Democrats, greens blast Trump rollback of major environmental law EPA employees push 'bill of rights' to protect scientific integrity MORE (Del.) and Christopher CoonsChristopher (Chris) Andrew CoonsDemocrats shoot down talk of Bolton, Hunter Biden witness swap What to watch for on Day 2 of Senate impeachment trial Broad, bipartisan rebuke for proposal to pull troops from Africa 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.”