- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden has faced scrutiny over his age and energy.

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernard Sanders have been billed as too radical, and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg has a black voter problem.

Less than three months out from the first votes being cast in the 2020 presidential race, a sense of unease has crept into the conversation and given way to reports that more high-profile candidates could be on the verge of diving into the race.

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Former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has dipped his toe in the water, and media outlets are reporting that former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. are putting out feelers.

Elaine C. Kamarck, a member of the Democratic National Committee and author of “Primary Politics: Everything You Need to Know About How America Nominates its Presidential Candidates,” said the buzz over the field expanding this late in the game is “obviously a sign of unhappiness with the field.”

“There is heightened anxiety because Democrats feel so fervently that they have to defeat Trump,” she said. “But there is always a point when people start campaigning that [voters] discover they have clay feet — everyone has something wrong with them and you don’t see that until they are in the race.

“When you are in this period of time, now we are looking at everything that wrong is with everybody,” Ms. Kamarck said. “So people start hoping there is a magic person out there who has nothing wrong with them, but frankly, everyone has something wrong with them.”

The performance of Mr. Biden, who entered the race as the consensus front-runner, has fallen flat, making it hard for him to energize grassroots activists and to keep up with the other top contenders in fundraising.

“He hasn’t raised the money people thought,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic strategist. “He hasn’t generated the excitement, and Donald Trump has been able to beat the devil out of him verbally in public and get away with it — those are all bad signs for someone [who] wants to compete against Donald Trump in a general election.”

Ms. Warren and Mr. Sanders are running on far-left visions that have inspired liberal voters but raised concerns over their electability, while Mr. Buttigieg has struggled to make inroads with black voters — triggering alarm bells that the 37-year-old isn’t quite ready to lead a party that touts its diversity as its strength.

The question marks are generating concern in the party and leaving voters to brainstorm possible alternatives — including the likes of former first lady Michelle Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who has teased the idea on tour for the book she co-authored with her daughter Chelsea, called “The Book of Gutsy Women.”

The former secretary of state told BBC Radio 5 Live on Tuesday that she has yet to close the door on a third White House run.

“I, as I say, never, never, never say ‘never,’” she said. “I will certainly tell you, I’m under enormous pressure from many, many, many people to think about it.”

She added, “But as of this moment, sitting here in this studio talking to you, that is absolutely not in my plans.”

Other potential candidates, however, appear to have found what they are looking for in the mirror.

Mr. Bloomberg on Tuesday filed paperwork for the Democratic primary in Arkansas after doing so in Alabama last week — putting him a step closer to formally swooping into the race and sending a signal that he has not been impressed by the options out there.

“Discounting Mike Bloomberg right now is an attempt by the deep-pocket[ed] left to ensure that he can’t get there, [because] they’re afraid of him,” Mr. Sheinkopf said. “Who wouldn’t be afraid of a man who could spend billions of dollars” on a campaign?

The New York Times, meanwhile, reported that Mr. Patrick, who opted against getting into the race earlier this year, is reconsidering and reaching out to his political allies to get feedback, and Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson said he was told Mr. Holder is talking with strategists about running.

“The timing now, I think, is curious given the way that the campaign has unfolded — the whole framework of ‘Medicare for All,’ anti-Wall Street, the traction [from] the progressive candidates in the Democratic primary field,” said Scott Ferson, a Massachusetts-based Democratic strategist. “Not to be cynical but it makes me think that Wall Street ain’t happy, with the coincidental emerging of both Bloomberg and Patrick.

“This notion that the candidates who are in and have been working are not up to snuff is absurd,” he said.

Adam Green, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, said Wall Street and corporate America are hoping more candidates get into the race because they are scared of Ms. Warren.

“They are fearful she CAN defeat Trump and we will actually have big structural change that results in the 1% paying their fair share,” Mr. Green tweeted.

Late entrants into the race are running out of time to meet filing deadlines to appear on the ballot in key states, including the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire, where the paperwork must be submitted by Friday.

Ms. Kamarck said history suggests candidates will have a tough time gaining traction if they are not competitive in the opening primary states.

“Skipping the early states never works,” she said. “It hasn’t worked in the past and probably won’t work now.”

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