The field has solidified. It should be done growing.
With two more entrances this week, the record-setting field of Democratic presidential candidates grew to 23 or 24, depending on whether one counts one particular candidate’s disruption campaign.
Either way, that’s a lot of candidates. There are as many Democratic presidential candidates as there are hours in a day, or carats in pure gold.
That should be the end of the seemingly endless line of candidates, although it seems dangerous to say so conclusively. Let’s leave just the tiniest bit of wiggle room for, “You never know,” and hope it doesn’t come to that.
Meantime, let’s break down the field into more easily digestible portions as we try to get a handle on this thing.
There’s Joe Biden, the expansive field’s leader in early polling and a former vice president and U.S. senator.
There are seven current U.S. senators: Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand and Michael Bennet.
There are seven current and former U.S. House members: John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Seth Moulton, Tim Ryan, Eric Swalwell, Beto O’Rourke and Julian Castro.
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There are three current or recently former governors: Steve Bullock, John Hickenlooper and Jay Inslee.
There are three mayors: Pete Buttigieg, Bill de Blasio and Wayne Messam.
There is businessman Andrew Yang and author Marianne Williamson.
And then there’s the final candidate, Mike Gravel, a former U.S. senator who said when he got into the race his only goal was to qualify for and make noise in the debates. (For this reason, some media outlets do not count Gravel as an official candidate, even though he has filed the official paperwork and in his effort to qualify for the debates has surpassed some of the other, more “serious” candidates in fundraising efforts.)
We recall with longing the 2016 election cycle, which despite featuring no incumbent at the end of President Barack Obama’s second term was essentially a two-candidate race for the Democratic nomination between Sanders and Hillary Clinton, the eventual nominee.
That’s right, last cycle there were essentially two Democratic candidates; this cycle there are two dozen.
Experts say the field has exploded largely because there is no clear national leader for the Democratic Party and because there is an incumbent Republican president in Donald Trump who has stoked Democrats’ passion and has weak national job approval ratings.
Early polling on the race favors Biden, but time will tell whether that’s entrenched support or more a product of strong name recognition for a former vice president.
Sanders, who has his own strong name recognition after his 2016 primary run, is second in most polls.
From there, the field tightens and there is a pack of candidates averaging in the high single digits.
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The Iowa caucuses are still roughly nine months away. There still is more than enough time for the field to change, perhaps even dramatically. Iowa Democrats have a big decision to make, and a deep field of candidates from which to choose. Likely, many of those Democrats will use most of these nine months to make their decision.
Meantime, those two dozen or so candidates will continue to frequent Iowa coffee shops, event centers the state fair and everywhere else in between.
Raygun, the Iowa T-shirt store known for its quirky sense of humor, has a shirt that says “Hi, do you live here or are you running for president?”
Brother, if that isn’t the truth.
At the end of the day, let us all cheer the true heroes of this story: Michael Bloomberg, Sherrod Brown, Eric Holder, Terry McAuliffe and Jeff Merkley. To you fine gentlemen who considered presidential runs but ultimately made the rare decision to stay out of the race, we salute you.
And we thank you.
Because, jeez, Iowa will find a way to manage these 24 candidates. But 29 would just be too many.
Erin Murphy covers Iowa politics and government.. His email address is email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ErinDMurphy.