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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 TrumpVenezuela judge orders prison time for 6 American oil executives Trump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation 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 KaineDemocrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Rick Scott tests positive for coronavirus Grassley tests positive for coronavirus 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 MurphyDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks Biden decides on pick for secretary of State Overnight Defense: Formal negotiations inch forward on defense bill with Confederate base name language | Senators look to block B UAE arms sales | Trump administration imposes Iran sanctions over human rights abuses 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 Democrats reelect Schumer as leader by acclamation  Next Congress expected to have record diversity Infrastructure, energy investments urgently needed to create U.S. jobs MORE (D-Wis.), whose home state is hosting the party’s 2020 convention; Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleySupreme Court declines to hear case challenging unlimited super PAC fundraising Trump supporters demonstrate across the country following Biden-Harris win Merkley wins reelection in Oregon Senate race MORE (D-Ore.), the only senator to endorse Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation Clyburn: Biden falling short on naming Black figures to top posts Prepare for buyers' remorse when Biden/Harris nationalize health care MORE (I-Vt.) in 2016; and Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOn The Money: Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed | Trump administration proposal takes aim at bank pledges to avoid fossil fuel financing | JPMorgan: Economy will shrink in first quarter due to COVID-19 spike Democrats accuse Mnuchin of sabotaging economy in dispute with Fed McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol 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 BennetDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Hickenlooper ousts Gardner in Colorado, handing Democrats vital pickup Lobbying world MORE (Colo.), Cory BookerCory BookerSenate Democrats reelect Schumer as leader by acclamation  Hill associations push for more diversity in lawmakers' staffs Sanders celebrates Biden-Harris victory: 'Thank God democracy won out' MORE (N.J.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Social media responds to Harris making history: 'I feel like our ancestors are rejoicing' Ocasio-Cortez says she doesn't plan on 'staying in the House forever' MORE (N.Y.), Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisThe Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation Biden can rebuild trust in our justice system by prioritizing prosecutorial reform Harris says she has 'not yet' spoken to Pence MORE (Calif.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: YouTube suspends OANN amid lawmaker pressure | Dems probe Facebook, Twitter over Georgia runoff | FCC reaffirms ZTE's national security risk Democrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff YouTube temporarily suspends OANN account after spreading coronavirus misinformation MORE (Minn.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenThe Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation Disney laying off 32,000 workers as coronavirus batters theme parks Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams among nominees for Time magazine's 2020 Person of the Year 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) MenendezDemocrats urge YouTube to remove election misinformation, step up efforts ahead of Georgia runoff Democratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Trump appointee sparks bipartisan furor for politicizing media agency MORE (D-N.J.) became the first senator to endorse a colleague in February when he backed Booker. Sens. Tina SmithTina Flint SmithSenate majority battle snags Biden Cabinet hopefuls Smith wins reelection in Minnesota Democrats expand Senate map, putting GOP on defense MORE (D-Minn.), Ed MarkeyEd MarkeyUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden eyes new leadership at troubled public lands agency | House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally | Trump administration pushes for rollback of Arctic offshore drilling regulations House progressives tout their growing numbers in the chamber at climate rally MORE (D-Mass.) and Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump OKs transition; Biden taps Treasury, State experience Durbin seeks to become top-ranking Democrat on Judiciary panel Feinstein to step down as top Democrat on Judiciary Committee MORE (D-Vt.) followed suit by backing Klobuchar, Warren and Sanders, respectively.

Sen. Ben CardinBenjamin (Ben) Louis CardinDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry On The Money: Biden, Democratic leaders push for lame-duck coronavirus deal | Business groups shudder at Sanders as Labor secretary | Congress could pass retirement bill as soon as this year Top Democrat: Congress could pass retirement bill as soon as this year 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 SchumerChuck SchumerUS national security policy in the 117th Congress and a new administration Voters say Biden should make coronavirus vaccine a priority: poll New York City subway service could be slashed 40 percent, officials warn 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 FeinsteinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - COVID-19 fears surround Thanksgiving holiday Feinstein departure from top post sets stage for Judiciary fight Whitehouse says Democratic caucus will decide future of Judiciary Committee MORE (D-Calif.), Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayNational reading, math tests postponed to 2022 amid coronavirus surge Democratic anger rises over Trump obstacles to Biden transition DOJ investigation into Epstein deal ends without recommended action MORE (D-Wash.), Schumer and Gillibrand, as well as now-former Democratic Sens. Barbara BoxerBarbara Levy BoxerBiden plays it cool as Trump refuses to concede The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden, Harris launch Trump offensive in first joint appearance Bottom line 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: Republican Party members believe 'white males are victims' Texas warehouse where migrants housed in 'cages' closed for humane renovation North Carolina — still purple but up for grabs MORE (D-Ill.). They were also running at the time against then-Sens. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) and Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump says he'll leave White House if Biden declared winner of Electoral College The Memo: Biden faces tough road on pledge to heal nation US records 2,300 COVID-19 deaths as pandemic rises with holidays 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 MikulskiForeign policy congressional committees need to call more women experts Lobbying World Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates 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 CarperOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Kerry says Paris climate deal alone 'is not enough' | EPA halts planned Taiwan trip for Wheeler| EPA sued over rule extending life of toxic coal ash ponds Overnight Energy: Biden names John Kerry as 'climate czar' | GM reverses on Trump, exits suit challenging California's tougher emissions standards | United Nations agency says greenhouse gas emissions accumulating despite lockdown decline GSA transition delay 'poses serious risk' to Native Americans, Udall says MORE (Del.) and Christopher CoonsChris Andrew CoonsDemocrats face increasing pressure to back smaller COVID-19 stimulus Biden rolls out national security team Democrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks 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.”