Hi. Welcome to On Politics, your guide to the day in national politics. I’m Lisa Lerer, your host.
Sometimes, in politics, it’s better to have run and lost than never to have run at all.
That’s important to remember when you start reading all the will-they-won’t-they coverage of the 2020 race. There are lots of reasons to run for president. Not all of them involve actually becoming president.
Candidates run to stay relevant, to build their brands, to get an instant megaphone for pet issues, and to be in the running for other positions — like vice president, or even a cabinet post, should their party win the general election.
Think about where the 2016 Republican primary field ended up. Ben Carson and Rick Perry sit on President Trump’s cabinet. Senators Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio are influential voices in the chamber. Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum got cable news contracts.
That political power dynamic will be particularly striking in the Senate this year, where nearly a dozen Democrats have already expressed some degree of interest in a presidential run. In practical terms, it means that next year, in order to get attention, an individual Democratic Senator will either need to be in leadership, willing to cross party lines on key issues, or running for president.
Add to those incentives a lingering case of D.P.R.S. (Democratic Primary Regret Syndrome) from 2016 — there are a number of politicians who believe that if they had challenged Hillary Clinton, they could have won — and you begin to see why so many Democrats are flirting with a bid.
More than a handful of potential campaigns are quietly moving forward. Candidates are wooing staffers, particularly in the early states of Iowa and New Hampshire, where there’s a finite field of people with real expertise. They’re talking to donors, consulting lawyers and studying the primary map. Some are even at the stage of finalizing plans for splashy announcements, with at least a few on track to make their bids public as early as January.
The size of the field matters, in part, because it will set the tone for the entire primary to come. That’s why a number of possible candidates, like former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., are waiting to see how it shapes up.
Several tentative campaigns said they were waiting to see whether Beto O’Rourke, who assembled a deep bench of donors and volunteers in his run for Senate, enters the race.
Now, of course, there are plenty of reasons not to run. One high-profile moment can kill a candidacy (see: scream, Dean) or even a career. And not everyone wants to endure a deep dive into their family history, past misdeeds and personal finances.
The already underway “invisible” primary — basically the primary before the actual primary — got a touch more visible this week, when two possible Democratic presidential candidates announced their intentions to, well, not run for president.
“A 2020 campaign for president is not for me,” said Deval Patrick, the former governor of Massachusetts, citing “the cruelty of our elections process.”
Michael Avenatti, the liberal lawyer who rose to fame representing Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against Mr. Trump, also ruled out a run. “I do not make this decision lightly — I make it out of respect for my family,” he said. “But for their concerns, I would run.”
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A new election in North Carolina?
Mark Harris, Republican of North Carolina.CreditChuck Burton/Associated Press
In North Carolina, a House race is being investigated for potential voter fraud. Today, we called Alan Blinder, a Times national correspondent covering the story, while he was out interviewing voters in Elizabethtown, N.C.
Lisa: This has been a complicated story. What’s the latest?
Alan: The latest twist is that Republicans seem to be modifying their position a little bit. We’ve been hearing from Republicans for some time that they thought the state needed to certify the election immediately. And then, a little bit ago, Dallas Woodhouse told me the party would be open to a new election if there was a showing of fraud.
He told me he’d been watching TV and had thrown up watching one of the reports.
He threw up? Like, physically?
Yes, he physically threw up. He said he was watching TV on Wednesday night and became physically ill. So the Republicans are all standing by Mark Harris at this point, but they’re opening the door to the idea that there may have been some real trouble in the Ninth District.
That seems like a big development.
It shows the party is getting a sense of trouble here, that this is not going away. This is a state where Republicans have spent a lot of time and energy talking about how to erase voter fraud and election fraud, and now, in one of the highest-profile races in the year in North Carolina, a Republican is accused of being a beneficiary of fraud.
What are you hearing when you knock on doors?
To be honest with you, not a lot of doors open with a story like this. We’ve had some successes with finding people who will detail and talk about their experiences, but a lot of times people don’t want to talk. But we have heard some firsthand accounts of activities that really raise questions about what happened here.
A lot of people are trying to put the pieces together, but the state has not said they’ve found a smoking gun at this point.
Read Alan’s latest story: North Carolina Republican Leader Says He’s Open to New Election
What to read tonight
• “We are tired of the abuse, the insults, the way he talks about us when he knows that we are here helping him make money.” President Trump’s undocumented housekeepers risk deportation to share their stories.
• Dance, actors, dance! The New York Times Magazine produced a series of short dance films, created by the resident choreographer of the New York City Ballet, featuring some of the biggest actors from the past year.
• The former CBS News correspondent Julianna Goldman details the structural — and personal — challenges of being a mom and working in TV news.
The future is here, and it’s named Kale, Kiwi and Maple. The parenting site BabyCenter released their annual report on the most popular baby names this week. On the rise? Names from Fortnite, the Kardashians and healthy eating.
“As fast food and processed snacks lose ground to clean eating and Paleo diets, more Gen Z and millennial parents are choosing baby names that reflect their love of healthy foods,” BabyCenter explains in their news release.
Their data is based on a survey of their 742,000 members, so it’s neither comprehensive nor particularly scientific. But it’s fun!
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