August 20, 2019

How the Democratic Field Will Shrink

“The incredibly useful website Ballotpedia reports that as of May 27, 738 candidates had filed to run for president in 2020—252 as Democrats, 94 Republicans, and 29 for the Libertarian nomination. Who knew? Depending upon who is counted, there are either 23 or 24 “real” contenders for the Democratic nomination, the largest field at least since 1924.

A commonly used metaphor in recent years is that a presidential campaign is more of a marathon than a sprint. (Perhaps the first use of the term in this context was from veteran political reporter Jules Witcover in his terrific book, Marathon: The Pursuit of the Presidency 1972-76, published in 1977.) But this year, given the two dozen or so credible Democrats contending for the nomination, it might be more apt to say that this is a Darwinian struggle, in which only the strong survive.

This point is reinforced by the Democratic National Committee’s announcement this week of the third debate among its presidential contenders, scheduled for Sept. 12 and 13 on ABC and Univision. If the field is still large, half of the candidates will debate on the first night, the other half on the second, just as in the party’s first two rounds of debates in June and July. The DNC has put a cap of 20 on the number of candidates in debates.”

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