On the trail: Sen. Michael Bennet joins crowded field of Dems vying for the White House

For the Monitor
Published: 5/2/2019 6:19:10 PM

The enormous roster of Democratic presidential candidates just got bigger.

One week after former vice president Joe Biden entered the race for the White House, two-term Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado declared his candidacy Thursday.

“We cannot be the first generation to leave less to our kids, not more. That’s why I’m running for President,” Bennet announced on Twitter. “Let’s build opportunity for every American and restore integrity to our government.”

That brings the number of Democrats to 21 gunning for their party’s 2020 presidential nomination. The mind-boggling number tops the 17 Republicans who made bids for the 2016 GOP nomination.

Bennet isn’t even the first candidate from Colorado in the race. Former two-term governor John Hickenlooper – who used to be Bennet’s boss – announced his bid in March.

Asked how he can stand out in such a large field, Bennet listed three things during a network television interview. He said that he has “a tendency to tell the truth,” he touted his bipartisan track record in Congress, and spotlighted that “I’ve won very tough races in a purple state, winning red counties in that state.”

Bennet said that the nation faces two enormous challenges, “a lack of economic mobility and opportunity for most Americans” and the “need to restore integrity to our government.”

He said that “if we continue to go down the path we’re going, we’re going to be the first generation of Americans to leave less opportunity, not more, to the next generation. I just need to do everything I can do so that we don’t do that.”

One thing that makes Bennet stand out is that he’s currently recovering from cancer. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer just over a month ago and underwent surgery. His Senate office announced on April 19 that Bennet had a clean bill of health.

Bennet told the Monitor early last month – days before his surgery – that “I feel really lucky. It was caught early and this is a really treatable form of cancer and we have insurance. I think I’m going to be fine. I hope I will because I really want to have the opportunity to run in 2020.”

In that interview – during his most recent trip to the first-in-the-nation primary state – Bennet pointed to then-senator John Kerry of Massachusetts – the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee who had successful cancer surgery at the onset of his presidential campaign.

The 54-year-old Bennet pointed out that “John (Kerry) was 59 when he had the same operation. He had it and two weeks later he was in California, doing what he needed to do out there to campaign. So I take this seriously, but if all goes well, I don’t see this stopping me.”

On Thursday, as he announced his candidacy, Bennet said his cancer diagnosis “was very clarifying.”

Bennet also took aim at Republican President Donald Trump as he launched his campaign, saying Trump has “certainly made matters worse” in his more than two years in the Oval Office.

That’s in line with what Bennet told the Monitor last month, when he called Trump’s presidency “a sorry chapter.”

Bennet, who served as superintendent of the Denver public school system before first winning election to the U.S. Senate in 2010, highlighted in that interview his push to reform education.

He called for year-round school, saying it would narrow the achievement gap, explaining that “in the summertime, the more affluent kids gain proficiency, the less affluent kids lose proficiency.”

Biden’s wingman in N.H.

Biden heads to New Hampshire on May 13-14 for the first time as a 2020 contender. Now, Democratic sources say that Biden will be accompanied during much of his two-day campaign swing by former four-term governor John Lynch.

Last week, Lynch became the first high-profile Granite State politician to endorse the former vice president.

Poll position

Speaking of Biden, the latest live operator, public-opinion survey in the state had some good news for the Democratic front-runner.

But before we delve into the results, a reminder that it’s still very early in the 2020 election cycle (we still have more than nine months to go until the February primary). Granite Staters are traditionally late deciders, so expect these numbers to shift in the ensuing months.

Biden has the support of 20% of likely Democratic primary voters in New Hampshire, according to a Suffolk University poll for the Boston Globe released Tuesday. The survey was conducted after the former vice president’s launch last week of his 2020 campaign for the White House.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from neighboring Vermont, stood at just over 12% in the poll. Sanders, who’s running a second-straight time for the Democratic nomination, crushed eventual nominee Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire’s 2016 Democratic primary and sees the state as critical for his 2020 bid.

Pete Buttigieg, an Afghanistan War veteran and two-term mayor of South Bend, Ind., grabbed the support of just under 12% of those questioned in the poll. Taking into account the survey’s sampling error of plus or minus 4.7 percentage points, Sanders and Buttigieg were all knotted up.

Buttigieg, who would become the nation’s first openly gay president if he makes it to the White House, has soared in polling and media attention the past seven weeks.

“Buttigieg has become the new young force in the New Hampshire Democratic Primary as he positions himself in the top tier against better known Democrats like Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders,” Suffolk University Political Research Center director David Paleologos said.

“Buttigieg leads Biden, Sanders and every other Democrat among LGBTQ households – an important demographic for grassroots support and a network of generous and loyal donors,” the pollster said.

The poll also indicates it’s not just name recognition feeding Biden’s standing in the survey. Thirty-five percent of those questioned said the former vice president had the best chance of beating Trump in the 2020 general election. Sanders was a distant second at 13%.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts stood at 8% support in the poll, with Sen. Kamala Harris of California at 6%, and Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and former Congressman Beto O’Rourke of Texas at 3%. Everyone else registered at 1% or less in the survey, with nearly 27% undecided.

The survey’s results stand in contrast to a University of New Hampshire Granite State Poll released last week, ahead of Biden’s launch of his third White House bid.

Sanders stood at 30% among likely Democratic primary voters in the Granite State, with Biden at 18% and Buttigieg at 15%. A Saint Anselm College Survey Center poll released in early April put Biden on top at 23%, with Sanders at 16% and Buttigieg at 11%.

As we wrap things up, here’s another reminder to not put too much stock into these early surveys.

Four years ago, Clinton topped the polls in the Democratic primary race here, with former Florida governor Jeb Bush ahead of the field in the GOP primary battle. At the time, both Sanders and Trump – who ended up crushing the competition in the 2016 GOP primary in New Hampshire – were considered longshots.




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