Press: Which way do Dems go in 2020?

Press: Which way do Dems go in 2020?
© iStock, The Hill illustration

It’s started way, way too early, but there’s nothing we can do about it. The 2020 presidential campaign is well underway. And, of course, with no serious Republican having the guts to challenge President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats' CNN town halls exposed an extreme agenda Buttigieg says he doubts Sanders can win general election Post-Mueller, Trump has a good story to tell for 2020 MORE – Where are you, Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakePollster says Trump unlikely to face 'significant' primary challenge Trump gives nod to vulnerable GOP Sen. McSally with bill signing Flake opens up about threats against him and his family MORE, when the country needs you? — all the excitement is on the Democratic side.

For Democrats, there are two big questions: Who’s running? And what’s the Democratic message? Or: Will the Democratic Party blow it by veering too far left?

The list of Democratic candidates changes almost daily, as new contenders jump in and some anticipated contenders opt out. Just last week, four potential candidates announced their decision not to run: Former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDavis: The shocking fact that Mueller never would have accused Trump of a crime Trump says he would challenge impeachment in Supreme Court The Hill's Morning Report - Will Joe Biden's unifying strategy work? MORE, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderDems plot next move in Trump tax-return battle Former Bush assistant: Mueller report makes Obama look 'just plain bad' Holder: Any 'competent' prosecutor could win obstruction case against Trump MORE, and Ohio Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownOn The Money: Treasury misses second Dem deadline on Trump tax returns | Waters renews calls for impeachment | Dem wants Fed pick to apologize for calling Ohio cities 'armpits of America' | Stocks reach record high after long recovery Sherrod Brown asks Trump Fed pick why he referred to Cleveland, Cincinnati as 'armpits of America' Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates MORE. Still waiting in the wings are Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Colorado Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetMichael Bennet declared cancer-free, paving way for possible 2020 run License to discriminate: Religious exemption laws are trampling rights in rural America Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates MORE, and former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenButtigieg says he doubts Sanders can win general election This is the Joe Biden you rarely see Minorities, older adults push Biden to top of 2020 poll MORE.

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But that still leaves, as of this writing, 14 announced candidates off and running. Granted, this early in the game it’s impossible to predict who will end up on top. But we can break the list of those already announced into three categories. Immediately serious candidates: Sens. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersDemocrats' CNN town halls exposed an extreme agenda Buttigieg says he doubts Sanders can win general election Meghan McCain: Bernie Sanders supporting prisoners being able to vote 'bats**t insane' MORE (I-Vt.), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenDemocrats' CNN town halls exposed an extreme agenda Minorities, older adults push Biden to top of 2020 poll The difference between good and bad tax reform MORE (Mass.), and Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisDemocrats' CNN town halls exposed an extreme agenda The Hill's Morning Report - Will Joe Biden's unifying strategy work? K Street support to test Buttigieg MORE (Calif.). Potentially serious candidates: Sens. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharDemocrats' CNN town halls exposed an extreme agenda Spicer: 'Near impossible' for 2020 Democrats to refuse Fox News debate James Comey, wife donated ,400 to Klobuchar's presidential campaign MORE (Minn.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerK Street support to test Buttigieg We should welcome workers' 'powerful victory' in the Stop & Shop strike Harris adds another to her list of endorsements in South Carolina MORE (N.J.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandThe Hill's Morning Report - Will Joe Biden's unifying strategy work? K Street support to test Buttigieg Kamala Harris backs putting third gender option on federal ID MORE (N.Y.), former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. Not a prayer: Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, former Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin Delaney2020 Dems rebuke Trump on Iran, say they'd put US back in nuclear deal Where 2020 Democratic candidates stand on impeachment Several 2020 Dems say they're ready to face Fox News town hall MORE (Md.), Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardGabbard: Trump, Pence 'try to hide the truth' of Saudi-inspired terrorist attacks from Christian supporters 2020 Dems rebuke Trump on Iran, say they'd put US back in nuclear deal New 2020 candidate Moulton on hypothetical Mars invasion: 'I would not build a wall' MORE (Hawaii), author Marianne Williamson and entrepreneur Andrew Yang. 

Which raises the second question, with which both The Washington Post and The New York Times seem obsessed: Will the Democratic Party tilt so far left it will lose its appeal to Middle American swing voters? To which, I believe, the answer is a resounding no!

First, don’t forget, the party rejected the populist message of Sanders in 2016 in favor of the centrist message of Clinton. How’d that work out? By running to the mushy middle, do they really want to make the same mistake again? Second, in 2018, Democratic candidates nationwide ran on a strong progressive platform — and won 40 seats in the House in both reliably blue and swing districts. Why run away from what’s proven to work?

One other important consideration. As Sanders delights in pointing out on the campaign trail, three years ago everybody said his ideas were too extreme. No longer. Today, they’re mainstream and, with some variations on a theme, proposed by all Democratic candidates: “Medicare for all,” lower prescription drug prices, $15 minimum wage, universal child care, action on climate change, higher tax rate for the wealthiest Americans, sensible gun safety legislation.

Socialist? Hardly. Too far left? That’s not what the majority of Americans say. Most of those so-called extreme policies are, in fact, “extremely” popular. As reaffirmed in a recent Politico/Morning Consult poll, 90 percent of Americans support background checks on all gun sales. According to Reuters, 70 percent of voters now back Medicare for all and a majority support free college tuition. Even a Fox News poll found 70 percent of overall voters — 85 percent of Democrats, 54 percent of Republicans — are in favor of higher taxes on the wealthy.   

Final reason not to worry: That’s what primaries are all about. It’s up to voters to decide which big ideas are best and which candidate is best equipped to deliver them. And in making that decision, Democratic primary voters will be driven by one consideration above all others: Not by which candidate is far-left, mid-left, or center left, but by who’s the strongest candidate against Trump. Period.

Press is host of “The Bill Press Show” on Free Speech TV and author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”