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Axios co-founder: Democrats in 2020 could turn to a presidential candidate with Clinton ties

  • Jim VandeHei, who also co-founded Politico, says he could see Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe as a Democratic presidential candidate.
  • McAuliffe could attract a lot of money "if he can figure out a way to distance himself from the Clintons," he says.
  • VandeHei says never discount a Trump re-election: "It's not inconceivable."

Under the caveat that anything can happen in politics nowadays, Axios CEO and co-founder Jim VandeHei said Friday he could see Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe as a Democratic presidential candidate in 2020.

"If I had to put money from my own pocket on a candidate right now, it would be on Terry McAuliffe of Virginia," said VandeHei who helped launch Axios in January after leaving Politico, which he also co-founded and turned into a political powerhouse. Axios has quickly gained a reputation as a place for Washington-related scoops.

As a former businessman and political fundraiser, McAuliffe could attract a lot of money "if he can figure out a way to distance himself from the Clintons," VandeHei told CNBC's "Squawk Box."

McAuliffe was the national co-chair of President Bill Clinton's 1996 re-election campaign. He also led Hillary Clinton's unsuccessful bid for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, which went to Barack Obama.

In between, McAuliffe was chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2001 to 2005. He also just finished serving as chairman of the National Governors Association.

VandeHei said McAuliffe would be the kind of candidate who would fare well in the new social media-era of politics ushered in by candidate Donald Trump, who used Twitter as a primary means of communicating directly to voters, a practice he's continued as president.

"[Nowadays] you have to be 100 percent comfortable in your own skin. And being a little bit outrageous helps. The guy [McAuliffe] is outrageous. He's 100 percent comfortable in his skin," VandeHei said.

On the Republican side, VandeHei made no predictions about 2020, but warned to never discount a Trump re-election. "It's so far off. It's not inconceivable. The working assumption is he could never win again. He certainly could."

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