A look at what prospective Democratic presidential candidates are up to:
- Former Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Ohio at the end of June for fundraising events in Cincinatti for Richard Cordray, the Democratic candidate in the Ohio governor’s race; and another event in Cleveland for Democratic senator Sherrod Brown.
- Biden also endorsed Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams in her campaign to become the first Democratic governor of Georgia in 15 years, and the first African American woman to ever be elected governor. Abrams has also been endorsed by other 2020 contenders Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris.
- Biden also endorsed Jena Griswold, the Democratic nominee running for Colorado Secretary of State.
- Governor Jay Inslee traveled to Iowa in his capacity as chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, where he joined the Iowa Democratic ticket Fred Hubbell and Rita Hart at a campaign event. He recorded an interview with Iowa Public Television in which he praised Hubbell as “the perfect candidate.” He will also be the featured speaker at the Iowa Democratic Party Hall of Fame Celebration in Des Moines on Saturday night. He will also be meeting with Democratic activists in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.
- Senator Jeff Merkley did not rule out a possible presidential run during an interview with The New Yorker’s Susan Glasser: “I’m exploring the possibility.”
- Senator Cory Booker was the headliner at the Blue Commonwealth Gala in Richmond, Virginia, an annual event organized by the Democratic Party of Virginia. In addition to Booker, all Virginia Democratic statewide elected officials and former governor Terry McAuliffe – another possible 2020 contender – spoke at the event.
- Senator Kamala Harris sent out a fundraising email on behalf of Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, according to Kansas City Star reporter Lindsay Wise. Harris also praised McCaskill during her keynote address before the St. Louis County NAACP, which both senators attended. McCaskill is considered one of the most endangered Democratic senators of the current election cycle.
After months of flirting with the idea, Rep. Tim Ryan told Ohio Democrats he would not be entering the race to succeed term-limited Governor John Kasich:
CLEVELAND, Ohio — Tim Ryan, whose national profile has risen in recent months, announced Tuesday that he will not be a candidate for Ohio governor in 2018.
The eight-term congressman wrestled with a run for months, weighing the risk of jumping into a potentially crowded and unpredictable primary against sticking with a safe House seat.
“Constituents in my district are at the forefront of an economic transformation that has hollowed out our nation’s middle class,” Ryan said in a statement emailed after word about his decision first trickled out to cleveland.com. “As I’ve considered how best to address these challenges, the more I’ve appreciated how much they are national issues that require national solutions.
“That is why, while I have been truly humbled by the encouragement I’ve received to run for Governor of Ohio, I believe the best way to serve my community, my state and my country is to remain in the United States Congress.
Ryan’s decision was made easier by the plum committee assignments he maintained despite his unsuccessful bid to unseat Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi last fall. In his Tuesday statement, he asserted that spots on the Appropriations Committee and Defense Subcommittee will help him “fight back against wrong-headed policies and champion the kinds of solutions that would have a real impact for American families.”
With Ryan’s decision to not enter the race, the Democratic field is wide open. According to cleveland.com’s Henry Gomez, the potential field of candidates includes:
- Ohio Senate minority leader Joe Schiavoni
- Former Rep. Betty Sutton
- Former Rep. Connie Pillich
- Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley
- Former Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams
- Former Sen. Nina Turner
- Former Rep. Dennis Kucinich
- CFPB Director Richard Cordray
While the race for an open governor’s mansion in Columbus is ongoing, at the same time Sen. Sherrod Brown will be running for reelection in the same cycle. Depending on the political climate in 18 months from now, that could be a boost for Democrats up and down the Ohio ballot.
Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel announced he will be running to unseat Democratic senator Sherrod Brown in 2018, a potential rematch of their 2012 contest which Brown won by 5 points. Mandel has been using Trump rhetoric in public campaign events as well as his campaign announcement video. Also interested in a possible run is Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio), a more moderate Republican more aligned with Governor John Kasich who refused to endorse Donald Trump during the presidential election.
Brown was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 and re-elected in 2012 – both very favorable cycles for Democrats. Donald Trump won Ohio by 8 points in the last election. Historically, the party that controls the White House tends to lose seats during midterm elections, though the Senate Republicans have a very favorable calendar for 2018. The question is what will the national and local dynamics be after two years of Trump as president. If times are good and he retains the popularity that got him elected, then odds are Sherrod Brown will be in for a tough race. If the economy is bad or Trump is mired by unpopularity, having such a close association with him could be a negative for a candidate like Mandel.
These are the senators up for re-election in 2018 – in the case of many Democrats, they are the ones who got elected by riding Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election coattails.
- Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
- John Barrasso (R-WY)
- Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
- Ben Cardin (D-MD)
- Tom Carper (D-DE)
- Maria Cantwell (D-WA)
- Bob Casey (D-PA)
- Bob Corker (R-TN)
- Ted Cruz (R-TX)
- Joe Donnelly (D-IN)
- Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)
- Deb Fischer (R-NE)
- Jeff Flake (R-AZ)
- Kristin Gillibrand (D-NY)
- Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
- Dean Heller (R-NV)
- Martin Heinrich (D-NM)
- Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND)
- Mazie Hirono (D-HI)
- Tim Kaine (D-VA)
- Angus King (I-ME)
- Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)
- Joe Manchin (D-WV)
- Claire McCaskill (D-MO)
- Robert Menendez (D-NJ)
- Chris Murphy (D-CT)
- Bill Nelson (D-FL)
- Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
- Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)
- Jon Tester (D-MT)
- Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)
- Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)
- Roger Wicker (R-MS)
Most of these seats are generally safe for the incumbent or the incumbent party. The problem for Democrats is they will be defending more seats this cycle (23, and two independents in Maine and Vermont) than the Republicans (8). Republicans will likely have a 52-48 majority in the Senate for the next two years (pending on the outcome of the Louisiana Senate runoff election scheduled for December). If Democrats are to retake the Senate, they need a net gain of 3 seats. This is going to be very difficult because many of them represent states won by Donald Trump (red is solid Republican, purple is swing state, blue is solid Democrat):
Heitkamp, Manchin, McCaskill and Tester are particularly vulnerable because of the states they represent, so out of self-preservation they may vote for Trump nominees and legislation to save face back home. The other states are traditionally Democratic, but given that Trump won them in 2016 and that Democrats tend to have less reliable turnout for midterm elections, they can’t take anything for granted.
On the other hand, the Democrats’ best opportunities for a pickup are in purple or purple-leaning states:
Arizona has historically been a safely Republican state, but Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton here 49-45, probably a closer margin than state Republicans would like. Nevada Democrats – led by the Harry Reid political machine – ran the table and won every race in the state. If Democrats recruit a solid candidate and the Reid machine can put together another performance like they did in 2016, Heller could be their biggest chance for a pickup opportunity.
A lot can happen in two years. The political dynamics, such as the state of the economy, will determine which party benefits. Historically, the party in the White House tends to lose congressional seats during the midterm elections. But right now, two years out, it’s looking difficult for Senate Democrats.