As it became increasingly clear Clinton would lose on Tuesday night, names began to bubble up as potential 2020 Democratic candidates. Michelle Obama, who has never held or run for office, was the name I heard most. Kamala Harris, the Californian who won a Senate seat last night(!), was also mentioned. So, too, was Cory Booker, who's been in the Senate for just three years. The other names -- Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota -- are intriguing candidates, but they almost entirely unknown nationally, even among Democrats.[...][I]n the wake of [Clinton's] stunning loss Tuesday night, there's a remarkable paucity of obvious 2020 candidates waiting on the Democratic bench.
There's something to be said for resiliency. When your team loses the big game, there's value in saying, "There's always next year." When you experience a tough break-up, it's good to declare, "There are other fish in the sea."And when the wrong candidate wins the White House and threatens both the future of your democracy and stability throughout the Western world, it's only natural to wonder aloud, "So who's going to run in four years?"I promise it'll be a long while before I start covering the 2020 presidential campaign -- or even the 2018 midterms -- but given the stunning significance of Donald Trump's victory, there's necessarily nothing wrong with reports about Democrats planning ahead and taking a look at their bench. The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza noted yesterday that the party appears to have a serious problem.
That seems like a fair assessment. I'm probably not the only left-of-center observer who heard from friends and family members yesterday, asking for thoughts on credible Dems who might vie for the nomination in four years. I'll tell you what I told them: I haven't the foggiest idea. Assorted names come to mind, but I haven't a clue whether they're interested, whether they could earn the nomination, whether they could win a general election, etc.That said, it's easy for political observers to forget sometimes how quickly the winds of change can shift direction. The fact that no one can point to a Democratic contender, waiting in the wings, doesn't mean much.The day after President Obama won re-election four years ago, no sane person could've predicted a bigoted reality-show personality, who boasted about sexually assaulting women and who received the KKK's backing, would win the Republican nomination and the presidency.The day after President Obama's first victory, it seemed very likely that Democrats would hold Congress for at least four years, and no one had heard the term "Tea Partier."The day after President George W. Bush's re-election in 2004, a variety of names were in the mix for the 2008 Democratic nomination -- the conventional wisdom at the time was that Dems needed a red-state moderate -- but a skinny guy from Chicago with a funny name didn't make any of the lists.The day after President George W. Bush's 2000 win, the top Democratic contenders for 2004 were Joe Lieberman and Tom Daschle. No one gave a moment's thought to Howard Dean and John Edwards, both of whom turned out to be strong contenders.The point is, there's so much we don't know about the near future that it's folly to even guess. Up until recently, all of the scuttlebutt regarding 2020 was about the Republicans gearing up for a campaign in anticipation of Trump's inevitable defeat (Tom Cotton didn't spend time in Iowa recently because he fell in love with Des Moines).A lot is going to happen that we can't see in our crystal balls. Will Trump run for re-election in four years? Will he face a primary challenger? Will Dems turn to a senator, governor, or someone outside elected office?Four years before he became president, no one saw Obama coming. Four years before his victory, no one saw Trump coming. There's nothing wrong with looking ahead, but expect the unexpected.