Tuesday, January 29, 2019

#InvisiblePrimary: Visible -- Howard Schultz, 2020 and Democratic Party Rules Changes

Thoughts on the invisible primary and links to the movements during the days that recently were...

A significant amount of chatter coming into the week on the heels of his 60 Minutes interview Sunday night was devoted to Howard Schultz potentially running for president. Not as a Democrat but as a centrist independent. And yes, that triggered a number of takes on the success of third party presidential bids and the potential impact of a center-left candidate on the 2020 general election race.

But rather than look forward and think about what may be (when there remains a great deal of uncertainty about whether a Schultz bid actually takes off in some meaningful way), let us look back and ask why or how it came to this. That, in and of itself, is a significant invisible primary story.

FHQ really is not compelled to think that Schultz started out here, thinking about an independent bid all along. Perhaps he did. However, it is more likely that he saw, felt or heard some hostility to a possible 2020 bid for the Democratic nomination. Sure, Schultz has added Bill Burton, formerly from the Obama orbit, to his team. But for every Burton addition that may signal some formal linkage to the party network, there are other signals -- potentially many other signals -- that that linkage was strained at best. There have not been any Schultz trips to typical early state haunts that mark the movements of the prospective candidates. There has not been any reporting of Schultz sending out feelers to the early states or actors within the broader Democratic Party network. And if there were it is entirely possible Schultz was rebuffed, signaling, if not hostility, then indifference to a run.

Those are all valuable signals, ones Schultz may have gotten.

But maybe the better signal came from the Democratic National Committee Rules and Bylaws Committee this past summer. The rules adopted for the 2020 process last August included a formal codification of the basic agreement Bernie Sanders had with the DNC for the 2016 cycle: an affirmation that he [Sanders] would behave as a Democrat. That is the truncated version of that rule (Rule 13.K.1). And while much of the initial reaction to the Rules and Bylaws Committee deliberations about the change was about the potentially injurious effect it would have on Sanders for 2020, the true intent was less about Sanders and more about President Trump, or a Trump-like candidate on the Democratic side. What the party sought to avoid was either a Trump-like nominee or a sore loser who, having not secured the nomination, would support someone other than the Democratic nominee. This change was aimed at possible Bloomberg or Schultz candidacies.

No, FHQ is not suggesting that this change was precisely what drove Schultz to possibly launching an independent bid for president, but rather that it demonstrated some tension toward a run for the Democratic nomination, tension that has only heighten in the backlash to Schultz floating the idea. That hostility was there before.

Elsewhere in the invisible primary...

1. There has been an uptick in Iowa hires. Booker, Gillibrand and Harris have all added folks in the Hawkeye state.

2. The Post and Courier has a nice list of influential South Carolinians whose endorsements may matter in the Democratic nomination race.

3. The endorsement primary is underway. Harris pulled in a superdelegate endorsement from Rep. Ted Lieu and Delaney has added the support of a cadre of rural Iowa Democratic county chairs.

4. Meanwhile, other superdelegates are sitting on the sidelines and may remain there. Sen. Shaheen and the former Democratic presidents are waiting it out.

5. And they are not the only ones playing the waiting game. Big donors are continuing to be less than active so far.

6. Clinton has not closed the door on a 2020 run. Yes, that may be true, but it is also true that several of her former staffers from 2016 have already begun to populate the staffs of other campaigns for 2020.

7. Hickenlooper nixes a joint ticket with Kasich in Iowa.

8. And finally, Jeff Flake formally passes on a challenge to Trump for the Republican nomination.

Has FHQ missed something you feel should be included? Drop us a line or a comment and we'll make room for it.

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