ELECTIONS

Biden balks, Kirsten walks but 2020 Democratic field taking shape

Joseph Weber

Auditions for 2020 Democratic presidential candidates appear to be in full swing not four months into the Trump administration -- with the typical cast of governors and senators positioning themselves while party elders appear to step back.  

Among them, former Vice President Joe Biden has denied plans to run after giving mixed signals.  

“Guys, I am not running,” Biden said last weekend at a sold-out New Hampshire Democratic fundraiser.

The 74-year-old Biden -- who has a colorful history keeping his political story alive -- made the announcement after gleefully telling reporters days after Donald Trump’s stunning November 2016 win over Democrats: "I am going to run in 2020. … What the hell man."

Even the shortlist of Democratic senators potentially eyeing the job is long, with Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey, and Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota being mentioned.

Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, who ran for president last year as a Democrat, continues to stay on the national stage. But he would be 79 in 2020.

Warren and Franken, in particular, took advantage of the recently televised Senate confirmation hearings on Trump appointees to increase their national profile with tough-talking soundbites.

“It's going to be open season,” Douglas Smith, a managing partner at Kent Strategies who worked on campaigns for Al Gore and both Clintons, told Fox News on Tuesday. “Elizabeth Warren started running six weeks before Hillary Clinton lost.”

Another potential prospect, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, on Monday appeared to take herself out of the mix, telling cable Spectrum News: “I'm focused entirely on running for Senate, so yes, I'm ruling it out."

With real estate magnate and former reality TV host Trump winning as a first-time candidate, a few names from the entertainment and entrepreneurial worlds also have voiced interest.  

Among them are Kanye West, the rapper-producer who first announced his 2020 interests in a 2015 MTV awards show and more recently in an August 2016 BBC interview.

“When I've talked about the idea of being president, I'm not saying I have any political views,” he said in the interview. “I don't have views on politics. I just have a view on humanity, on people, on the truth.”

Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks and “Shark Tank” host, has become the face under the familiar headline, “Won’t rule out a presidential run.”

The 58-year-old Cuban has for years toyed with the idea, last month telling Five Thirty Eight’s Nate Silver, “I’ll get back to you on that,” then telling The Washington Post he had no interest “but at the same time, sometimes you got to do what you got to do.”

Cuban has hinted about running as either a Democrat or Republican, but campaigned with Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee, and has criticized former friend Trump and his policies.

“I know Mark Cuban well,” Trump responded once on Twitter. “He backed me big-time, but I wasn't interested in taking all of his calls. He's not smart enough to run for president!”

Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea, has also been briefly mentioned as a long-shot candidate.

David Payne, a Republican strategist and president of Codavate, told Fox News on Tuesday that voters in presidential elections historically vote to one extreme, then the other, with Trump in 2016 being the “year of the wildcard” or at least of the anti-establishment candidate.  

“In politics, the pendulum never stops in the middle,” he said. “Polls show those who voted for President Trump are largely happy with their pick, which might lead us to believe there are some more openings at least in 2018 in the House and Senate. But it’s too early to know about 2020.”

The potential field also includes a list of high-profile governors including Colorado’s John Hickenlooper, New York’s Andrew Cuomo and Virginia’s Terry McAuliffe, a former Democratic National Committee leader and prolific fundraiser whose trade mission this week to Mexico has renewed talk about a potential run.

“He has a record [of governing] and can raise lots of money,” Smith said. “But he’ll also have to run past being too tied to Clinton Inc.”