Here’s a look at the 5 big story lines to watch in the 2020 campaign this week.
1. What does Week 2 of Beto look like?
There’s no candidate about whom there is more interest — and hot takes — than O’Rourke. The first few days of his candidacy were VERY uneven — he drew tons of media attention and crowds but also made some dumb statements (about his marriage and family, about how he was “born” to run for president) that suggest both a lack of discipline and a maybe-not-totally-ready-for-primetime-ness. (His supporters will, of course, write off these early hiccups to his authenticity; his opponents will be less charitable.)
O’Rourke will be very busy this week — with stops in Wisconsin (Sunday), Michigan (Monday), Ohio (Monday), Pennsylvania (Tuesday), New Hampshire and, this coming weekend, South Carolina.
Judging from his performance in the first few days of his 2020 candidacy, Beto can use the reps he will get with that busy schedule. But, it also speaks to one of his advantages in this field: He doesn’t have a day job, so he can campaign full time, all the time.
2. Does Biden’s bonhomie sell?
The debate over whether the former veep is running or not is over. He is — and all indications suggest he’ll make it official next month. The real question is whether the decision Biden has clearly made — to run as a sort of throwback to a time when politics were less nasty — will actually work.
Does Biden stay the course with his not-all-Republicans-are-bad approach? And how do his soon-to-be opponents react?
3. Stacey Abrams for president???
Everyone had assumed that Abrams, the former Georgia state legislator who very nearly became the first black female governor in the country last November, was being heavily recruited to run against Sen. David Perdue (R) in 2020.
“To win in 2020, a Democrat has to talk relentlessly about voter suppression because when Republicans talk about vote fraud they are telling a lie, and they’re repeating that lie so much that it sounds like the truth,” Abrams said.
The truth is that if Beto can lose a Senate race and run for president, there’s no reason Abrams can’t lose a governor’s race and do the same. And as a young — she’s 45 — black woman with a national following, she could cut a very interesting figure in the contest.
4. Gillibrand’s officially in. Now what?
To date, her candidacy — or, I guess, her exploratory phase — has been something of a disappointment. It’s been far from clear how Gillibrand, who took Hillary Clinton’s seat in the Senate, is planning to distinguish herself. She’s not the most charismatic candidate in the field. Or the best known. Or the most liberal — or moderate.
It’s still early, but Gillibrand needs to find a way to build some momentum. And soon.
5. Mayor Pete has momentum
Buttigieg is the youngest candidate in the field, one of the most charismatic and, most importantly, one of the few politicians running for president who talks like a regular-ish person. He also has zero expectations hovering over him, meaning he can play fast and loose in a way that many of he candidates above him can’t.
He’s starting to look like the dark horse — or a dark horse — in the field.