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The cork was barely off the champagne on New Year’s Eve 2019 before a crowd of eager candidates began their 2020 presidential election stampede.

Among the most high-profile Trump challengers are Senator Elizabeth Warren, who announced that she had formally launched her presidential exploratory committee in a video to supporters released on December 31.

Mitt Romney waited until January 2, the day before his swearing-in as the new Republican Senator from Utah, to blast Donald Trump in a Washington Post op-ed widely seen as a move to position himself as the voice of anti-Trump Republicans and a potential challenger in the Republican presidential primary.

Another anti-Trumper, Ohio’s departing Republican Governor John Kasich, had already declared that he is “very seriously” considering a dark-horse primary challenge against Trump.


On the Democratic side, the field is getting crowded, with more than thirty candidates reportedly considering presidential bids. Among them: Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, Senator Kamala Harris of California, Senator Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, and departing U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke, who lost a close Senate race against Ted Cruz in Texas but became a national celebrity.

Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, and Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota are also considering runs. (More on their developing campaigns to come in future posts.)

From Sanders to Warren to Brown to O’Rourke, it’s a notably populist field.

One exception is Cory Booker, the only candidate so far to have a super PAC launched to support his 2020 presidential campaign. Booker, as mayor of Newark, accepted $100 million from Mark Zuckerberg to “fix” the Newark public schools, and supported a disastrous plan to close schools, hand the district over to charter-school operators, disempower teachers unions and the local school board, all without improving outcomes for children.

As the starting gate opens, Elizabeth Warren has leapt forward to position herself as the progressive champion. In her campaign-launch video, Warren declares: “America’s middle-class is under attack. How did we get here? Billionaires and big corporations decided they wanted more of the pie, and they enlisted politicians to cut them a fatter slice. They crippled unions, so no one could stop them, dismantled the financial rules meant to protect us after the Great Depression, and cut their own taxes so they paid less than their secretaries and janitors.”

It’s a pretty good summary of the economic-populist case that drove grassroots enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders in 2016.

And while some people think Warren missed her moment when she let down the supporters who urged her to join the 2016 field, she has spent her time in the Senate accumulating more credibility as a defender of ordinary citizens against Wall Street predators. This included defending her brainchild, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and grilling titans like Wells Fargo CEO Timothy Sloan, who, she pointed out, got rich screwing low-level employees and consumers.

Warren, like Trump, is a lightning rod. Hated by conservatives and bankers, adored by her base, she has already gotten down in the mud with Trump, who nicknamed her “Pocahontas” and baited her into taking an ill-advised DNA test to prove she had Native American blood, which infuriated her allies and fueled her detractors.

Warren, like Trump, is a lightning rod.

Still, if the U.S. economy goes into a steep decline—a distinct possibility in 2019—Warren’s message will seem more relevant than ever.

Certainly, her voice seems more relevant than Mr. 47 percent, Mitt Romney, who, in a leaked video of a 2012 speech to wealthy campaign donors, denounced nearly half of Americans, who, he said, are “dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing . . . .”

Here’s a prediction: Political leaders who believe people are entitled to health care, food, and housing will see their stock rise in the coming year.

In his recent Washington Post oped, Romney denounced Trump’s character, but praised his policy decisions, including cutting corporate taxes, getting rid of “excessive regulation,” and appointing conservative judges.

The battle lines are clear. On with the races.

 

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