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Meet the Democrats who are totally just thinking about running for president

The list of "who's out" is shorter than the list of "who's maybe thinking about being in."

by Rex Santus
Dec 4 2018, 7:03pm

In the wake of a recent domestic violence arrest and a public feud with his most famous client, celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti has ended speculation that he will run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.

“I do not make this decision lightly,” Avenatti said in a statement released Tuesday. “I make it out of respect for my family. But for their concerns, I would run.”

That makes one less contender. Although Avenatti may have dropped his plans for a 2020 bid for the presidency, the crowd of prospective candidates for the Democratic ticket is already oversaturated. Let’s start with the much-shorter list of who’s not running for president.

Democratic rising star Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, 29, has about six more years to wait until she’s eligible for a White House bid, and Michelle Obama has said she has no desire to be president (“Just because [Barack] likes it doesn’t mean that I like it!”). But pretty much every other major name who's old enough has at least hinted at running.

Nobody, of course, has actually confirmed a 2020 presidential run. They’re just thinking about it, nothing to see here. But as we head into 2019 and get closer to 2020, the winking hints of “I’m running!” will turn into dozens of campaign slogans and trips to Iowa and Ohio. Here’s a running list of people who definitely are only mulling the idea of a presidential bid.

Joe Biden

Former Vice President Joe Biden has repeatedly expressed desire to be president of the U.S. — he's already run twice — and he’s once again playing coy about a possible bid for the White House.

"I'll be as straight with you as I can. I think I'm the most qualified person in the country to be president," Biden said to applause at the University of Montana on Monday night during a stop on his book tour. "The issues that we face as a country today are the issues that have been in my wheelhouse, that I've worked on my whole life."

Definitively saying “I’m running for president” seems straighter than “I’m qualified,” but we’ll just have to wait and see if Biden runs for a third time.

Bernie Sanders

The progressive insurgent in the 2016 presidential election, who is among the most popular politicians in the country, seems poised to run — if there aren’t any better options, that is.

"If there’s somebody else who appears who can, for whatever reason, do a better job than me, I’ll work my ass off to elect him or her," Sanders said in a recent New York Magazine profile. "If it turns out that I am the best candidate to beat Donald Trump, then I will probably run.”

Read: "Never Pelosi" Democrats are learning why she was speaker in the first place

Elizabeth Warren

Another progressive senator who seems destined for a presidential run — especially after a controversial decision to release “proof” of her Native American ancestry — has not confirmed that she’ll challenge President Donald Trump, who has labeled her as one of his arch-nemeses. She has said it’s time for a woman to be “at the top” of the U.S. government.

“It’s time for women to go to Washington and fix our broken government, and that includes a woman at the top.” Warren said back in September at a town hall.

But which woman? Who knows! Maybe she was talking about Kamala Harris, or maybe she's going to jump in.

“Here’s what I promise: After Nov. 6, I will take a hard look at running for president.”

Kamala Harris

Sen. Kamala Harris of California, elected on the night Trump won the White House, hasn’t said she’s running for president in 2020, but you can pre-order her book (free shipping) that’s coming out in January.

Plus, Kamala has said, like many other candidates, that she’ll spend the holidays thinking about a presidential run. Just in time for that book to come out!

Beto O’Rourke

Will Betomania make its way to the White House? O’Rourke, who put up a surprisingly strong fight against Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas, was initially adamant that he would not run. But cooking and skating videos apparently aren’t enough to occupy the defeated senatorial candidate, who has since backtracked to say he isn’t not running for president.

“I haven’t made any decisions about anything,” he told TMZ last month.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton keeps emerging from the woods to stir rumors that she’s going to run for president for a third time.

About a month ago, on a tour with her husband, former President Bill Clinton, Hillary said should would “like to be president,” even though her own former aides think yet another run is probably a bad idea.

Sherrod Brown

Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, who performs reliably well in Trump-voting Ohio with his "dignity of work" message, has said he never wanted to be president. But that apparently doesn't mean he wouldn’t be president.

“I didn't dream all my life to be president,” Brown said on CNN this week. “I wanted to play center field for the Cleveland Indians."

This doesn’t sound like a denial, Sherrod!

John Kerry

Failed presidential candidates are champing at the bit to say maybe they are running for president, maybe they aren’t.

“I’m not taking anything off the table,” the former Secretary of State and defeated 2004 Democratic nominee said late last month about a possible presidential bid.

Michael Bloomberg

Billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who has said he just might run for the Democratic ticket in 2020, is now moonlighting as a columnist for the Des Moines Register. Maybe that’s a totally normal thing for the man who owns his own media empire to do, and there isn’t an ulterior motive to build a base in one of the most important electoral states in the country. Who knows?

Kirsten Gillibrand

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was just re-elected senator in New York, and she has said she wants to serve all six years of her term. Let’s hope the presidency doesn’t get in the way, because Gillibrand has said, among numerous other winking hints and after writing a children’s book, that she is thinking “long and hard” about a possible White House run.

Eric Holder

Obama-era Attorney General Eric Holder, who returned to a private legal practice known for representing large banks after he left office, has said several times that maybe he is the guy to take on Donald Trump.

“I’m thinking about it and what I’ve said is that I’d make a determination sometime early next year,” Holder said to Stephen Colbert this summer.

Tom Steyer

Billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer, who was targeted by an ardent Trump supporter who sent bomb packages to numerous prominent critics of the president, is thinking about using all that money to challenge President Donald Trump. Steyer, despite his wealth, is trying to paint himself as the worker’s alternative to Trump’s right-wing demagoguery. He’s shown he’s ready to spend a big chunk of money on ad buys, and he will be holding town halls across the country.

“Tom Steyer saw firsthand how our economic system failed working people while helping only those at the top,” reads a section on Steyer’s website, which looks an awful lot like a campaign website. “He stepped down as CEO of his investment firm in 2012 to dedicate his time to philanthropy, political action, and making America prosperous for everyone.”

Julián Castro

President Obama’s Housing and Urban Development Secretary and now Congressman from Texas Julián Castro said he would make a decision about running for president “after November.” Well, it’s Dec. 4, Julián, and we’re still wondering!

Cory Booker

Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey told PIX 11 News this month that he would be spending the holidays thinking about what’s best for the country — which apparently just might be him!

"This holiday season will be a great time for me to sit down ... bring together folks and make a decision," Booker said. "Not about what's best for me but really with what I believe in my heart is best for the country."

Amy Klobuchar

Yet another Democratic senator, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, is stumping about how a lot of people are asking her to run for president. She’s not making any announcements, though, so back off!

"Obviously people have been talking to me about this, including down here, but I don't have any announcements to make today," Klobuchar said during a visit to Iowa this month.

Bob Casey

Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey had this to say in late November about a possible 2020 bid: “We’ll see what happens.”

We certainly will, Bob.

Oscar De La Hoya

Oscar De La Hoya — yes, the boxer — said in Las Vegas in September that he just might be thinking about getting into politics. After all, a few other celebrities have had some success doing so.

“If Arnold can be governor, if Trump can be president, then why can’t a Mexican-American who won an Olympic gold medal, who’s over 35 and a U.S. citizen run for president?"

Good question!

Tulsi Gabbard

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is thinking about trading in the beaches of Hawaii for a more permanent residence in Washington, D.C. The ardent 2016 Bernie Sanders supporter hasn’t taken a 2020 run off the table.

“I’m seriously thinking of how I can best be of service to our country,” the Hawaii Democrat said this month.

Michael Bennett

Although anonymous sources say that Sen. Michael Bennett of Colorado is likely running for president, the senator himself is playing coy.

“I don’t have anything to say about that today,” he said in a November interview with Colorado Public Radio.

John Hickenlooper

The outgoing Democratic governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, seems keen on running for president, just let him talk to 16 more people first.

“The response in Colorado has been generally not snarky and, ‘Who do you think you are?’ but really, ‘Thank you for all the hard work and, you know, I hope you go for it,’” Hickenlooper said in September. “I’ve still got a list of 16 people, I think, that I am eager to hear their sentiments and their advice.”

Eric Swalwell

Ever heard of Eric Swalwell? He’s a Democratic representative from a blue California district near San Francisco, and he’s keeping an “open mind” about running for president in 2020.

Martin O’Malley

It’s hard to remember that there was a third Democratic candidate in 2016, but like Hillary and Bernie, the onetime Maryland governor isn't ruling out another attempt, and like his 2016 supporter Eric Swalwell, he’s keeping an “open mind.”

O’Malley said it was tough to get his message heard in a contest between Hillary and Bernie, but in case you haven’t forgotten him, he said way back in April that a run was on the table.

Cover: Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks to supporters of Senator Claire McCaskill at a "get out the vote" rally on October 31, 2018, in Bridgeton, Missouri. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)