There’s no Ready for Elizabeth super PAC. Nor is there a Prepping for Kamala, Begging for Booker or Salivating for Sanders.
Unlike the run-up to the 2016 campaign, when the Ready for Hillary super PAC served to stoke Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE’s entry into the Democratic presidential race, there are no candidate-specific PACs forming this time around to either lay the groundwork for a campaign or to create a sense of anticipation.
Is this a problem? That depends on which Democrat you ask.
Some Democrats are surprised and worry it could be a signal the party isn’t completely prepared to do what it takes to defeat President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE in his reelection bid.
Others say it’s just a manifestation of what many believe will be a much more wide-open race than was seen in 2016.
It’s possible that dozens of candidates could enter the 2020 race on the Democratic side.
Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Milley apologizes for church photo-op Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness MORE (I-Vt.) and former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Trump finalizing executive order calling on police to use ‘force with compassion’ The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook MORE are already hinting that they’re considering a run, and Rep. John DelaneyJohn DelaneyThe Hill’s Coronavirus Report: Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas says country needs to rethink what ‘policing’ means; US cases surpass 2 million with no end to pandemic in sight Minnesota AG Keith Ellison says racism is a bigger problem than police behavior; 21 states see uptick in cases amid efforts to reopen The Hill’s Coronavirus Report: Singapore Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan says there will be consequences from fraying US-China relations; WHO walks back claims on asymptomatic spread of virus MORE (D-Md.) is already a confirmed candidate.
Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Joint Chiefs chairman says he regrets participating in Trump photo-op | GOP senators back Joint Chiefs chairman who voiced regret over Trump photo-op | Senate panel approves 0B defense policy bill Trump on collision course with Congress over bases with Confederate names MORE (D-Mass.), Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerRand Paul introduces bill to end no-knock warrants Black lawmakers unveil bill to remove Confederate statues from Capitol Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE (D-N.J.), Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisRand Paul introduces bill to end no-knock warrants The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook McEnany says Juneteenth is a very ‘meaningful’ day to Trump MORE (D-Calif.), Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandWarren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Warren, Pressley introduce bill to make it a crime for police officers to deny medical care to people in custody Senate Dems press DOJ over coronavirus safety precautions in juvenile detention centers MORE (D-N.Y.) and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Democrats demand Republican leaders examine election challenges after Georgia voting chaos Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE (D-Minn.) are among the other possible candidates in the Senate.
Then there’s former Gov. Deval Patrick (D-Mass.), former Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderTrump official criticizes ex-Clinton spokesman over defunding police tweet Obama to speak about George Floyd in virtual town hall GOP group launches redistricting site MORE, former Gov. Terry McAulffe (D-Va.) and billionaire donor Tom Steyer.
Candidates from the business world, like retiring Starbucks executive Howard Schultz, and celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey may also end up in the mix.
That’s a much different landscape than in 2016, when Democrats, as early as 2014, expected Clinton to enter the race and began to coalesce around her.
“This time four years ago, there was a consensus among millions of Democrats who supported Hillary, and we sought to organize them through Ready for Hillary,” said Seth Bringman, who served as a spokesman for the group. “The lack of similar groups today is a reflection of the wide-openness of the 2020 field as well as a laser focus on the midterms and resisting Donald Trump.”
“It’s almost blasphemy for a Democrat to talk about 2020 today when there’s so much at stake this year, but I have a feeling that will change the day after the midterms,” he added.
Cal Jillson, a professor of political science at Southern Methodist University, said the biggest factor is the “lack of an heir apparent.”
Jillson also said Democrats are more focused on 2018 than 2020 for the time being.
“I do think there’s a lot of excitement on the Democratic side, but it’s focused on the midterms,” he said.
Midterms aside, Democrats say they have a lot on their plate right now: Along with trying to win back the House and Senate in November, they’re rebuilding a party left in tatters after the stunning 2016 election and they’re focusing on rebutting Trump in a seemingly never-ending news cycle.
The main difference from 2016, Democrats say, is the lack of a dominant candidate — and the lack of opposition to a dominant candidate.
“The star power is much lower and there aren’t the obvious choices to get behind,” said Grant Reeher, the director of the Campbell School of Public Affairs at Syracuse University. “There isn’t that equivalent of Hillary Clinton who is being bandied about.”
Adam Parkhomenko, who co-founded Ready for Hillary in 2013, two years before Clinton would announce her candidacy, said he also doesn’t see one particular front-runner.
“There just isn’t the energy and excitement out there for one person,” he said.
Parkhomenko pointed out that there are groups such as Swing Left and Indivisible that are building excitement on the left. But those groups aren’t focused on one candidate.
“They’re targeting Trump and winning in the midterms,” he said.
Some Republicans see this as a weakness.
Alexandra Smith, the executive director for the America Rising super PAC, said she’s “not that surprised by the lack of grass-roots support groups for potential 2020 contenders.”
“The Democrats’ existential crisis is definitely on full display here,” she said. “When you don’t know if you’re fighting for impeachment or single-payer health care, it’s difficult enough to coalesce around a single figure, let alone create a corresponding grass-roots organization.”
Democrats disagree, and aren’t particularly lacking for confidence in 2020.
“We’re up against Donald Trump, and I think there are a number of potential candidates who will be able to take him out,” Parkhomenko said. “We just need to hit the ground running as soon as the midterms are over.”