It is a well established fact that America can never be out of election season. As the midterms come to an end, so it must be that thoughts turn towards 2020 and the presidency. Some figures from Tuesday may prove to be repeat features in the political battles to come. Here are the ones to watch.
Andrew Gillum couldn’t have had a worse night. Despite Democratic gains elsewhere, Gillum lost the race in Florida, a bellwether purple state. Not only does this all but dash chances of a run in 2020, but it doesn’t bode well for the progressive agenda generally among Democrats. Seen as a symbol of new progressive Democrats, fighting against Trump mini-me Ron De Sancits, his loss in a battleground state bodes badly for a national progressive campaign. It certainly gives the Democratic Leadership food for thought.
Elizabeth Warren & Bernie Sanders have been regulars in discussion of presidential bids. Both comfortably won their Senate seats in Massachusetts and Vermont respectively and run on an anti-Trump platform. It seems these two names aren’t going anywhere. Given Senator Warren recently published a genetic report proving her, however slight, Native American ancestry many think she is days away from announcing a presidential bid.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez represents the young face of this progressive wing, now sitting as Representative for New York’s 14th District. A working class hispanic woman with a background in grassroots politics, and now the youngest woman elected to congress, she ticks a lot of the boxes democratic campaigners look for in the new progressive wave. Given a lack of political experience in House or Senate and her lack of widespread fame however, chances of substantive involvement in a 2020 bid even as a running mate are very slim if not impossible. Her time may come, but not just yet.
Joe Manchin & Jon Tester represent the antithesis of this. Pro-gun, pro-life and often bipartisan, these Democratic senators frequently clash with the party hierarchy. They occupy the enigmatic ground of the anti-establishment soft left. With a general global trend toward outsiders, and a specific toxicity in America to establishment Democrats like Nancy Pelosi, these men could be integral if the Democratic party decides it wants to distance itself from the image of being “coastal elites”. These two may become household names if the Democratic party decides to take the approach of appealing to the Trump voter, at the expense of their own base. Such a tactic may be misguided however, given how close their races were, and given other senators from their ideological ilk, like Claire McCaskill and Heidi Heitkamp, lost their Senate seats this election in Missouri and North Dakota respectively.
Beto O’Rourke is the name that has been on the mouths of Democrats since the beginning of the midterm campaign. Despite losing the race to Ted Cruz, he has become the poster boy for Democratic party, having raised $70 million in contributions from across the country. A little too much has been made of his charisma and“youthfulness however; pundits love to point to his skateboarding as if to imply it actually suggests he is “down with the kids”. However his fund-raising broke Senate race records and reflects a capacity to excite the Democratic base, a trait beloved by party strategists. Whether all this makes him some sort of future presidential candidate as many Democratic strategists, like Matt Angle, have suggested is still up in the air however.
Drawing any absolute conclusions from a night that displayed results such disparate results is hard to do. Harder still is to predict even two years from now how American politics will actually look. Even Nostradamus would probably have been wearing a “I’m With Her” badge back in 2016. That having been said, midterms historically have a tendency to shape the political landscape that follows them. In short, it’s undoubted that you will be hearing from some of these figures again. In what form however remains to be seen.
Andrew Kersley is Coeditor of Warwick Globalist’s Politics and Economics Section and is a third year History student. He can be found on Twitter @AndrewKersley