The current top contenders for 2020 Democratic presidential candidates include Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Rourke.
By S.T. Patrick
The Democratic Party has caught “Betomania,” and it’s spreading all the way to a potential 2020 nomination for president. One prominent Democrat has yet to purchase his own ticket for the Beto bandwagon. Outgoing Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is hesitant about the early hype of Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas). The former chief of staff to President Barack Obama questioned the wisdom of getting behind O’Rourke, who just lost a surprisingly close Senate race to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
“If Beto O’Rourke wants to go and run for president, God bless him. He should put his hat in and make his case,” Emanuel recently told MSNBC. “But, he lost. You don’t usually promote a loser to the top of party.”
Emanuel, a power player in the Democratic Party, was on MSNBC to publicly support Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in her effort to once again become House speaker. “Nancy Pelosi led the Democratic Party for the last two years from a really bad election in 2016,” Emanuel said. “I’m from Chicago. Maybe I’m really old school, but to the victor go the spoils.”
When asked if a presidential run is possible, O’Rourke has responded that “anything is possible.” A “Draft Beto 2020 PAC” has already been formed by Lauren Pardi, Will Herberich, and Adam Webster, three Democratic strategists based in the Northeast.
“Make no mistake about it,” the strategists wrote, “Beto can win. A recent Politico poll showed that among the field of potential Democratic candidates, Beto was third—behind only Vice President Joe Biden and [Vermont] Sen. Bernie Sanders. . . . Our goal is to show Beto that there is support for his candidacy, starting here in New England.”
In 2016, Emanuel supported Hillary Clinton over both Biden and Sanders. If Mrs. Clinton runs again, he may re-up his support or he may go another direction. It’s feasible that he could run, himself, though there are few Democratic strategists predicting an Emanuel campaign. The strategy at this point would be to appear cold and unimpressed by all potential candidates. In doing so, Emanuel’s support becomes more valuable and could earn him a better position within his chosen candidate’s administration. In politics, support is a commodity. The wise political move is to use it as such, especially when a candidate needs a boost among the party faithful in the primary polls.
While Obama has not yet endorsed even the possibility of an O’Rourke run—and did not officially endorse his Senate candidacy—the former president has recently made some glowing remarks about the Democratic Party’s favorite new hope.
“It felt as if he based his statements and his positions on what he believed,” Obama said. “And that, you’d like to think, is normally how things work. Sadly, it’s not.”
When O’Rourke was a city councilman in El Paso in 2008, he broke with his local party faithful and supported Obama over Mrs. Clinton in the primaries. Like Obama and Trump, he would hope to catch a sort of “rock star vibe” that pushes candidates through primaries in this new millennium. He has already embraced social media and eschewed consultants, preferring an online presence to a sizeable staff.
In a November poll of Democratic voters, O’Rourke ranked third among 21 other choices. Biden ranked first with Sanders coming in a strong second. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Corey Booker (D-N.J.), and former mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg were the only other candidates to receive over 1% in the poll. Whispers within the party are still discussing the remote possibility of a billionaire celebrity run by someone such as television production mogul Oprah Winfrey or Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
The Democratic Party may be in the midst of an identity crisis, still guessing what it will be in 2020. Will it be the blatantly Democratic Socialist party of Sanders and 28-year-old Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) or will it move toward a more popular centrism as it did in Pennsylvania when 34-year-old Rep. Conor Lamb (D-Penn.) flipped a long-held Republican seat in conservative southwestern Pennsylvania? Lamb, a former Marine and federal prosecutor, pushed his military service and moderate views on issues to a victory.
As the Democrats learned in November, they underestimate President Trump at their own expense. Chastising him has only strengthened his base. Antagonizing the base will only further the separation and drive moderates to the right. In a country rife with polarization, both parties will still have to seek those in the middle to win in 2020.
S.T. Patrick holds degrees in both journalism and social studies education. He spent 10 years as an educator and now hosts the “Midnight Writer News Show.” His email is [email protected]