A weekly window on the American political scene hosted by the Monitor's politics editors.

And they're off: Democrats to watch in 2020 race

As the 2020 presidential race begins, we look at a short list of prospective Democratic candidates and their prospects.

Sait Serkan Gurbuz/AP
Sen. Kamala Harris, (D) of Calif., kicks off her book tour with an audience at George Washington University in Washington, Jan. 9, 2019. Senator Harris describes herself as a "progressive prosecutor" in her memoir.

Although the spotlight’s been on the midterms in recent months, under the radar the 2020 presidential race has been getting into gear. Which makes this as good a time as any for a quick look at what’s been happening with possible Democratic contenders – a list that seems to be growing longer by the day.

The midterms elevated (at least briefly) a few hopefuls. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, whose unflashy demeanor drew positive reviews during the Kavanaugh hearings, cruised handily to reelection and got the New York Times profile treatment. Likewise, rumpled liberal Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio was heralded after his easy victory as someone who’s cracked the code in a key Rust Belt state that looks increasingly challenging for Democrats.

Even some 2018 losers have seen their stock go up. Outgoing Rep. Beto O’Rourke, whose bid to unseat Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) ultimately failed but got surprisingly close, is now being coy about a possible presidential run.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren posted a convincing win (albeit in a solidly blue state), but her track record of endorsements in the general election was mixed – and she’s still working to recover from October’s embarrassing DNA episode. More than half the candidates endorsed by independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders – who has been publicly musing about another run for the White House while promoting a new book – also wound up losing their bids in the general election this cycle. And Republican gains in the Senate could lead to California Sen. Kamala Harris losing her seat on the Judiciary Committee (and the spotlight that goes with it) due to lack of seniority. 

The midterms also brought some elder statesmen back onto the campaign trail – like former Vice President Joe Biden, whose perpetual not-ruling-it-out stance was recently dubbed "Hamlet meets Groundhog Day" by The Atlantic’s Dick Polman. Former Secretary of State John Kerry is also reportedly not ruling it out (though it should be noted he is also promoting a book). And of course, Hillary Clinton is currently on a 13-city speaking tour with her husband, former President Bill Clinton. Asked in Toronto if she was getting ready to run again, she joked: “Actually, I’m thinking of standing for Parliament here in Canada.”

This is only the tip of the iceberg – other possible contenders include New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and many, many more (don’t forget about Oprah!).

Here’s a dark horse to watch: former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who drew national attention last year for a well-received speech on confederate monuments. He was a guest at last year’s Gridiron dinner and, as this audience member can attest, was seriously funny. Humor can go a long way in this business.

Let us know what you’re thinking at csmpolitics@csmonitor.com.

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