Beto O'Rourke Joins Crowded Democratic Presidential Candidate Field

March 15, 2019

This article originally appeared on BIPAC's blog. Written by BIPAC Political Analyst Jim Ellis.

Key Takeaways

  • President: former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D) in; Rep. Tim Ryan (D)--maybe
  • AZ-Sen: strong Phoenix Mayoral win of ex-wife likely means Rep. Ruben Gallego (D) runs
  • MT-Sen: Gov. Steve Bullock (D) out
  • GA-6: Ex-Rep. Karen Handel (R) may seek re-match against Rep. Lucy McBath (D)
  • IN-Gov: Ex-Sen. Joe Donnelly (D) accepts new position so run for Gov. in 2020 unlikely


Beto O'Rourke:  Yesterday, former Texas Congressman Beto O'Rourke became an official Democratic presidential candidate. His announcement was made in conjunction with a campaign trip to Iowa, site of the nation's first caucus vote.

Mr. O'Rourke became a political star despite losing his US Senate campaign to incumbent Ted Cruz (R) last November. Recently, however, he has dropped into single-digits in national presidential polling and is typically battling Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) for fourth place behind former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-D/VT) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA).

Though O'Rourke has potential to become a first-tier candidate, he will have to show momentum early. The Texas primary, coming on March 3rd of next year, with its 228 elected delegates (the second largest contingent from any state) will become critical in defining Mr. O'Rourke's chances for the nomination.

Rep. Tim Ryan:  Eastern Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan (D-Youngstown), who has been considered as an outlier presidential candidate, maintained again this week that he may enter the national race and will decide within the next several weeks.

Mr. Ryan has toyed before with running for Governor, Lt. Governor, and US Senate, without pulling the trigger. He did, however, challenge Rep. Nancy Pelosi for the Democratic Leader position in 2016 and lost badly, attracting just 1/3 support among his party colleagues. He has the advantage, under Ohio election law, of being able to run simultaneously for President and re-election to his House seat.

Minor Candidates:  The number 65,000 is becoming important in the 2020 political cycle because each debate-qualifying Democratic candidate needs to have this many individual donors and at least 200 in each of 20 states in order to earn a podium for the televised forums.

Entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who announced months ago and is running on the Universal Basic Income platform that would guarantee every American $1,000 per month, has already made the financial threshold.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is also on his way. Participating in a CNN Townhall event, Mr. Buttigieg attracted over 22,200 donations just in that one evening. The first debates will be held in June and July, with four more to follow before the end of 2019.

Monmouth National Poll:  Monmouth University just released their new national Democratic primary survey (3/1-4; 746 US registered voters; 310 Democratic likely primary voters). According to their results, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I/D-VT) are continuing to break away from the rest of the large field. Monmouth sees Mr. Biden attracting 27% as compared to Sen. Sanders' 25%. California Sen. Kamala Harris was third at 10%, while all others tracked in single-digits.

Iowa Poll:  The Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom (Selzer & Company; 3/3-6; 401 likely Democratic Caucus participants) released their new Iowa data, now 11 months before the first-in-the-nation caucus vote. The numbers almost perfectly mirror the latest Monmouth national poll. As in the Monmouth poll, Selzer & Company, polling for the three media entities, finds former Vice President Joe Biden leading Sen. Bernie Sanders by the same 27-25% margin.

Here, however, the third-place finisher, still well behind the leaders, is Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) with 9%. In the national poll, California Sen. Kamala Harris holds third with 10%. In Iowa, Sen. Harris drops to fourth with 7%. But, the statistical differences among those bunched together in these small sample surveys is insignificant.

Democratic National Convention:  The Democratic National Committee leadership has announced that Milwaukee, WI has been officially selected as the site of the party's national convention next year. The official dates encompass the period from July 13-16, 2020. Milwaukee was chosen over the two other finalist cities, Houston and Miami. The Republicans selected Charlotte, NC, for their presidential nominating convention to be held August 24-27, 2020.


Alabama:  WPA Intelligence conducted a new poll of Alabama Republicans (3/10-12; 501 AL Republican primary voters) to test how former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who lost the 2017 special election to Sen. Doug Jones (D), would fare against Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville). Mr. Moore defeated Rep. Brooks and eight other candidates including appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R) for the special GOP Senate nomination.

According to the WPA results, Mr. Brooks would cruise to the Senate nomination in a one-on-one battle with former Justice Moore. The numbers would break 52-32% in Brooks' favor. At this point, Mr. Brooks is saying he does not intend to run for the Senate. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) is in the race, but WPA numbers featuring him were not released. Mr. Moore says he is considering making another run even though his 2017 attempt ended in political disaster.

Arizona:  Rep. Ruben Gallego's (D-Phoenix) ex-wife, former City Councilwoman Kate Gallego, won the special Phoenix Mayoral election over fellow Democrat Daniel Valenzuela on Tuesday night. Her strong 58% victory makes it more likely that Rep. Gallego will soon announce his US Senate candidacy.

Though the two are divorced, the Gallegos' are still political allies, and the Congressman put his own statewide plans on hold until his ex-wife's race was complete. With a strong Gallego win, the Congressman's chances of competing against astronaut Mark Kelly for the Democratic Senatorial nomination appear to have improved. We can soon expect to see a Gallego for Senate campaign being formed. The eventual Democratic winner will face appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R) in the special general election to run concurrently with the 2020 election calendar.

Montana:  Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D), serving his second and final term as the state's chief executive, is in Iowa testing the presidential waters. Still, questions abound, however, as to whether he might turn away from his national ambition and instead challenge Sen. Steve Daines (R) next year.

Gov. Bullock has previously indicated his disinclination toward challenging the first-term Republican Senator, but he always seemed to leave the door to such a possibility open a crack. Yesterday, he closed off his Senate option, telling the news media that he has "ruled out" running against Sen. Daines next year. He is still a potential presidential candidate and appears leaning toward entering the national Democratic campaign.

New Hampshire:  A recent Emerson College New Hampshire poll (2/21-22; 910 NH registered voters) projected Gov. Chris Sununu (R) and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) to be locked in a 44% tie if the two were to oppose each other next year.

Previously, Gov. Sununu had shown no interest in a Senate race, but that may be changing. When asked about the possibility of challenging Sen. Shaheen instead of seeking a third term as Governor, Mr. Sununu simply indicated that he isn't "ruling anything out." Clearly, the Governor would be the GOP's top recruitment target to challenge the two-term Senator and former Governor. Ms. Shaheen has already announced that she will run for a third term next year.

Texas:  Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards (D) is the latest Democrat to state publicly that he or she is considering running for the party nomination to challenge Sen. John Cornyn (R) next year. Though Ms. Edwards is a local official, she has run at-large in the state's biggest city of Houston and would have name identification throughout Harris County. The latter entity houses 8% of the state's 15.8 million registered voters.

US Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) is considering a Senate candidacy. Former state Senator and 2014 gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis (D) says she would possibly enter the race if Rep. Castro decides not to run.


CA-49:  San Clemente City Councilman Steve Knoblock (R) has formed an FEC committee to begin testing the waters over challenging freshman Rep. Mike Levin (D-San Juan Capistrano). Previously, San Juan Capistrano Mayor and former congressional candidate Brian Maryott (R) said that he would again run for the seat next year. Though 2/3 of this district's constituency resides in San Diego County, all of the candidates, including Rep. Levin, are from Orange County. Though this district has been traditionally Republican, Rep. Levin will be favored to win his first re-election.

CA-50:  With several candidates already announcing against indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine), one major political figure just declared that he is not going to run. Former state Senator Joel Anderson (R), who was ineligible to seek a third term under California's term limits law, said yesterday that he will not run for Congress, and fully supports Rep. Hunter.

GA-6:  Former US Rep. Karen Handel (R-Roswell), who lost her seat in November to current Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Marietta) by a 50.5 – 49.5% margin, confirmed that she is considering running again in 2020. Ms. Handel, a former Secretary of State and gubernatorial and US Senate candidate, won the 6th District seat in the 2017 special election overcoming record spending by her opponent, Jon Ossoff. She failed, however, to hold the position in the regular election.

Earlier, state Sen. Brandon Beach (R-Alpharetta) announced his candidacy meaning that Ms. Handel will face significant primary opposition before obtaining her desired rematch with Ms. McBath.

GA-7:  The closeness of the 7th District race last November in the Atlanta suburbs has engendered much political change. The 419-vote difference race has led to Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Lawrenceville) already announcing his retirement, while four Democrats, including 2018 nominee Carolyn Bourdeaux, have already declared their candidacies.

Now, a fifth contender has emerged. Fulton County Commission chairman John Eaves (D) made his congressional announcement during the week. It is likely we will see additional individuals step forward in the lengthy remaining interval between now and Georgia's candidate filing exactly a year from now. Democratic State Reps. Brenda Lopez (D-Norcross), Pete Marin (Duluth), and Sam Park (D-Lawrenceville) have all signaled interest. Eight Republicans, mostly state legislators, also confirm they are at least considering entering the open congressional contest.

GA-13:  It appears that veteran Rep. David Scott (D-Atlanta) is drawing a 2020 primary re-match challenge. Claiming that the Congressman has cast too many votes with Republicans, outgoing Cobb County Democratic Party chairman Michael Owens is confirming that he will again attempt to deny Mr. Scott re-nomination. In 2014, the two tangled and Rep. Scott won easily in an 82-18% victory spread. Therefore, the chances of this race developing into a threatening challenge appear slim at least at the outset.

GA-13:  It appears that veteran Rep. David Scott (D-Atlanta) is drawing a 2020 primary re-match challenge. Claiming that the Congressman has cast too many votes with Republicans, outgoing Cobb County Democratic Party chairman Michael Owens is confirming that he will again attempt to deny Mr. Scott re-nomination. In 2014, the two tangled and Rep. Scott won easily in an 82-18% victory spread. Therefore, the chances of this race developing into a threatening challenge appear slim at least at the outset.

TX-24:  Eight-term Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Coppell), like many Texas Republican members, had a relatively close call in November. He defeated an under-funded opponent by only a 51-47% count. Now, it appears he will have a more substantial Democratic foe. Kim Olson (D), who held state Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller (R) to a 51-46% win in November, says she will enter the 24th District race next year. There was some speculation that Ms. Olson might enter the Senate race but has apparently settled for a battle against Rep. Marchant.


Indiana:  Former Sen. Joe Donnelly (D), who lost his seat to new Senator Mike Braun (R) in November, has made a decision about his professional future. While being recruited to challenge Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) next year, Mr. Donnelly instead announced that he is joining the Akin Gump law and legislative advocacy firm. Doing so virtually guarantees that he will not return to Indiana to run for Governor in 2020.