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In Case of Emergency: 20 Democrats Who Could Step in and Upend the Race

August 2, 2019
In Case of Emergency: 20 Democrats Who Could Step in and Upend the Race
Jason Kander, Stacey Abrams, Mark Cuban (GettyImages)

If any or all of the Democratic presidential candidates on the debate stage this week stall, who will jump into the primary next? Here are another twenty candidates who could.

1) Howard Schultz: The Starbucks CEO paused his prospective independent bid amidst back surgery and Biden’s entry. Have the tacks of ex-CEO and Maryland Congressman John Delaney, former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, and Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan re-created space within the Democratic Party for Schultz?

2 and 3) Eric Holder or Deval Patrick: Obama confidants would pick up the mantle if he picked up the phone. Former Attorney General Holder has visited New Hampshire and other early primary states this cycle, most recently for his (and the 44th president’s) redistricting advocacy organization. The former two-term Massachusetts governor (and Chicago native) Patrick is working for a Mitt Romney-founded company, which could be a deal-breaker to the Left. Put him down on another list—prospective Supreme Court nominees in the next administration outside the box of appellate judges (a list that would also include Janet Napolitano, Amy Klobuchar, Jennifer Granholm).

4 and 5) Stacey Abrams or Andrew Gillam: Their close-call losses for governors of Georgia and Florida, respectively, in 2018 earned activist and media respect much like Beto O’Rourke’s U.S. Senate loss in Texas and subsequent presidential candidacy.

6 and 7) Al Gore or John Kerry: Two previous nominees. Gore’s a godfather of climate change advocacy and a national popular vote winner. Kerry showed some interest to international audiences and took to the Boston Globe to vouch for former staffer and AOC “Squad” member U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley.

810) Stanley McChrystal, Mike Mullen, or Wesley Clarke: Several of the most prominent Democratic military leaders. General McCrystal actually endorsed announced candidate U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts this summer. Former NATO (an alliance questioned by Trump) Commander Clarke was a late entrant from the Clinton orbit in the 2004 cycle.

11) Jason Kander: Before Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s ascension, Secretary Kander (former Missouri Secretary of State, that is) was well received as a precocious talent notwithstanding relatively limited electoral success. Kander was organizing on the ground and feted to large party audiences before pivoting to a Kansas City mayoral run and time for PTSD treatment. It’s a matter of when, not if, he reemerges.

12) Gavin Newsom: Gov. Newsom and Sen. Kamala Harris have been the two most ambitious California politicians of their generation. He, not Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (who passed on a presidential bid and has been sidetracked by a homelessness crisis), is next in line for national attention from the most populous Democratic state.

13 and 14) Hakeem Jeffries or Connor Lamb: Candidates seeking the presidency directly from the U.S. House have been met with eye-rolls from impatient press (noting that no one since Garfield made it all the way)…up until recently. Jeffries’s future is probably in House leadership post-Pelosi. Lamb had a moment after winning a special election in Trump-country Pennsylvania, a must-win for Democrats in the 2020 general.

15 and 16) Mitch Landrieu or Terry McAuliffe: The two most talented political minds not running.

17) Michelle Obama: Overnight sensation.

18) Mike Bloomberg: He was going to run to champion climate change (well covered already by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and most recent entrant Tom Steyer) and gun control (the #1 priority of already-out Congressman Eric Swalwell).

19) Mark Cuban: He has the prerequisite ego. He’s toyed with the idea before and has a history of playing with speculation, most recently saying “We’ll see what happens” in March of 2019. Will he go for it?  His cat-and-mouse deliberation is reminiscent of another off-the-cuff TV business executive.

20) Oprah Winfrey: The most commonly volunteered celebrity as well as universally liked. 

Also contending for the Democratic nomination and not mentioned above are former Pennsylvania congressman, Senate candidate, and Navy officer Joe Sestak and the mayor of a large Miami suburb, Wayne Messam. At least hundreds more will file with the FEC and appear on ballots. If you’ve read this far, it’s time to re-watch “West Wing” Season 6, Episode 22, for the brokered Convention you know you want.