It's easy to laugh at Congressman John Delaney of Maryland, the little-known House Democrat who announced, to the opposite of fanfare, that he intends to run for his party's presidential nomination in 2020. FiveThirtyEight, a site for political junkies, joked that they couldn't remember his name and concluded, "This whole thing is a little nuts." Politico greeted him with the headline, "What is John Delaney thinking?" The Republican research firm America Rising offered a one-word statement in response: "Who?"
But Democrats should feel unnerved by the fact that no one around Delaney can persuade him that this is a bad idea. The party is full of better-known, semi-known, and even comparatively little-known figures who might think they can do themselves or their career some good by announcing a presidential campaign. And it's not hard to imagine the bunch of them taking the plunge, creating another unruly stampede of candidates drowning one another out, and leaving the most outlandish candidate standing at the end.
Democrats should prepare for the double-decker debate stage that Republicans endured in 2016. Start with the well-known, instantly serious candidates. Former vice president Joe Biden (1) told the Washington Post this spring, "Do I regret not being president? Yes." Vermont senator Bernie Sanders (2) may or may not want to run again, but he would begin with 13 million Democrats who voted for him last time, and he has to at least pretend to be interested in order to avoid the political equivalent of being put out to pasture. Massachusetts senator Elizabeth Warren (3) has been the Democrats' presidential candidate of the future since 2011.
More from National Review:
Anti-gun activists lead a couple to ruin
The rising tide of vulgarity
Helping Venezuela: Sanctions are only a start
It's not true that every Democratic senator and governor is being mentioned as a potential candidate; it just feels that way. California senator Kamala Harris (4), formerly her state's attorney general, is getting a lot of attention; Democratic donors tell The Hill she's "absolutely going to run." New Jersey senator Cory Booker (5) spent much of his early career setting up Silicon Valley–focused centrist cred, but he's veered to the left since Trump took office. Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar (6) visited Iowa.
Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe (7) says he might run for president. Former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley (8), whose campaign went nowhere in 2016, is polling Iowa caucusgoers for 2020. Montana governor Steve Bullock (9) is giving his party advice and is one of the few names on this list who can boast of winning a "red state." Quite a few Democrats think New York governor Andrew Cuomo's ambitions will drive him to run (10). California governor Jerry Brown (11) will be 82 and doesn't sound likely, but he says he's not ruling out a presidential run.
Politico reports that former president Barack Obama wants former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick (12) to run.
Over in the House, Chris Matthews asserts that Representative Adam Schiff (13) of California, the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, will run for president. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts (14) is getting a lot of buzz, considering his low name ID. Back in December, the New Yorker declared that Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii should run for president (15). Oh, and then there's Delaney (16).
Buzz about a presidential bid surrounds two mayors, Eric Garcetti (17) of Los Angeles and Mitch Landrieu (18) of New Orleans.
We're up to 18 candidates, and that's not counting the celebrities and media figures who might think Trump demonstrated that political experience is not only no longer required, but a liability: Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah, Mark Cuban, and so on. Quite a few Democrats see Trump's victory in 2016 as a fluke, a historical accident, a twist of fate that can be explained only by Russian mischief. If President Trump's job approval remains low, a lot of Democrats will conclude that the 2020 race will be the easiest path to the presidency in their lifetime.