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Odds Stacked Against House Members Considering 2020 White House Bids

Griffin Connolly, Roll Call


As high-profile Democratic senators and governors steel themselves for a race to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020, at least six sitting House Democrats are rumored to be weighing runs.

They include Reps. Adam B. Schiff and Eric Swalwell of California, Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, Tim Ryan of Ohio and Beto O’Rourke of Texas.

Another, Maryland Rep. John Delaney, announced his presidential campaign way back in July 2017.

In a field potentially 30-deep and studded with one-name star power like Bernie and Biden and Booker and, yes, even Oprah, it begs the question: Why would a lowly House member get into the mix?

Historically, many factors have worked against them running for president. They have less time, less money, less name recognition and less faith that they can actually defeat seasoned political operatives in key primary states such as Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Just one sitting House member has been elected president: James Garfield.

In 1880.

But piecing together an admirable presidential campaign comes with a host of consolation prizes, multiple Republican and Democratic operatives told Roll Call.

For starters, a strong bid for president automatically puts a candidate on the short list for vice president and, if the eventual party nominee wins the general election, Cabinet positions.

“Some of the intelligent, well-spoken, photogenic House candidates, I think — whether it’s their stated goal or whether it’s a fallback goal — they could definitely stand to raise their profiles to put themselves in line for major Cabinet positions,” said Jesse Benton, who managed former Texas GOP Rep. Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign.

Just look at the Trump administration. Onetime 2016 candidate Ben Carson is Trump’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Rick Perry, another 2016 Republican hopeful, is his Energy secretary. Chris Christie was long rumored to be one of Trump’s top options for attorney general before he settled on Jeff Sessions.

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