2020. Already?

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

At the Capitol Weekly post-mortem on the 2018 election, discussion of the 2020 election broke out. Apparently, it’s never too early to talk about a coming election, especially one that concerns the presidency.

Paul Mitchell, the stats guru at Political Data, noted that it was only 14 months and 23 days until mail-in ballots for California’s March primary go out. 

Both a lifetime and a small window in political terms.

How can it be both? Politics can change very quickly depending on events. The idea of an “October Surprise” right before an election arose because a late event before an election can alter the course of political campaigns. So 14 plus months is a lifetime to consider any events, political or otherwise, that could change the dynamics of a political campaign.

On the other hand if presidential candidates don’t gear up for the California primary they will be lost, according to premier Democratic political consultant, Ace Smith. Because the California primary comes early in the primary cycle, candidates will have to become known in this state of millions of voters. Door-to-door New Hampshire type retail politics doesn’t work here. Smith said the campaigns have to be on the ground and maybe up in the media in 2019. 

In that scenario, it is a small window for candidates to make the big decision whether to run for the presidency. They’ll have to throw their hats in the ring soon.

Because of California’s mail-in balloting that will only become greater in scale in 2020, Political Data’s Mitchell said candidates will have to campaign in California even before the voting is conducted on election day in the traditional early caucus and primary states.

There was also a discussion if an independent candidate can mount a credible campaign in 2020. Republican consultant Rob Stutzman said ballot access would be a challenge for any independent candidate. One possible candidate who has the resources to make it happen is former New York City mayor, Michael Bloomberg. Political strategist Katie Merrill pointed out the Bloomberg ads in which he said he had been both a Democrat and Republican, possibly setting himself up for a drive down the middle.

But former Barbara Boxer advisor Rose Kapolczynski asked where an independent candidate would find the voters in the current extremely partisan political environment.

A California based candidate might have a leg up on other potential candidates in the California, but only if they are known statewide. Some of those considering a run such as members of Congress may be known in their region of the state.

There is another issue California candidates might have to overcome in the March 2020 Democratic primary. What if there are many candidates that hail from the Golden State in that early primary. Already mentioned in the Democratic presidential sweepstakes are U.S. Senator Kamala Harris, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Congress members Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell, billionaire activist Tom Steyer, and maybe even newly elected governor Gavin Newsom. Consider this a partial list. If a number of California candidates are in the primary they could split the vote enough that a non-Californian could capture the most votes.

I won’t even get into the discussion at the Capitol Weekly post-mortem event about potential 2020 initiatives for the next statewide ballot. We’ll save that for another time.

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