N.H. Dems looking for 2020 nominee to be someone under 55

  • Jason Kander, former Missouri secretary of state, and Ray Buckley, New Hampshire Democratic Party chairman, appeared together at Saturday night’s McIntyre-Shaheen dinner, the party’s major spring fundraising event that was televised nationally on C-SPAN. Paul Steinhauser / For the Monitor

For the Monitor
Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Sorry Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

The Democratic Party chairman in the state that holds the first primary on the road to the White House predicts that his party’s 2020 presidential nominee will be someone under 55 years of age.

And he’s not alone when it comes to that belief of a generational shift.

“I really think it’s important that we do what we can to bring up the next generation of leaders and showcase them,” longtime New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley told the Monitor.

“I think our next president is going to be somebody that’s under 55 and I think we need to start getting to know them,” he added.

Buckley was interviewed moments after the conclusion of Saturday night’s McIntyre-Shaheen dinner, the party’s major spring fundraising event that was televised nationally on C-SPAN. In recent years Biden, Sanders, Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi have headlined the dinner.

But this year, Buckley turned to 36-year-old Jason Kander.

He’s the former Missouri secretary of state who came close to knocking off Republican incumbent Sen. Roy Blunt in 2016 in a statement that Donald Trump won by double digits. Last year, Kander, an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan, founded the pro-voting rights group Let America Vote.

Kander has made 10 trips to New Hampshire over the past year, pushing back against election law legislation championed by Granite State Republicans and decried as voter suppression by Democrats.

Kander and his organization have also weighed in with funding and grass-roots organizing in several state legislative special elections and municipal elections over the past year.

In his energetic address that was well-received by the sold-out crowd of 600 party movers and shakers, Kander didn’t ignore his age.

“I served my country in Afghanistan. I am the first millennial in the country ever elected to a statewide office and now I am fighting an un-American attack on our democracy,” he said. “I am proud to do it here in New Hampshire and across the country.”

While Kander is making friends in the first-in-the-nation primary state, he has yet to find widespread name recognition.

That’s not a problem for Biden, Sanders or Warren, who has said she’s not planning on a 2020 White House run and insists she’ll serve out her full six-year Senate term if she’s re-elected in November.

But age may not be on their side: Sanders is 76 years years old. Biden’s 75 and Warren’s 68.

Normally that would be a political liability. But with 71-year-old Donald Trump in the White House, age may not be the obstacle it once was.

Regardless, many Democratic leaders in New Hampshire told the Monitor they are looking for a younger nominee in 2020.

“The field for the presidential primary is wide open since it’s still a long ways off,” said Lucas Meyer, the head of the New Hampshire Young Democrats. “But if you look at the possible candidates that have been coming through the state, one thing is clear: They’re young, hungry to lead and aren’t afraid to run on the core issues that matter most to our generation,”

You might expect that from Meyer.

But you might not expect to hear the same kind of talk from Terry Shumaker, a former ambassador to Trinidad and longtime Granite State attorney who was a top backer, adviser and state co-chair for Bill Clinton’s 1992 White House campaign and Hillary Clinton’s 2008 and 2016 presidential bids.

“I certainly wouldn’t bet against the next nominee being under 55 and being somebody that we’re not even talking about right now,” Shumaker said.

To make his point, Shumaker pointed back to the 1992 presidential campaign.

“In 1989 and even 1990, nobody had a clue, first of all, that George H.W. Bush would not get re-elected or who the Democratic nominee would be. Everybody was talking about (Mario) Cuomo and (Bill) Bradley and (Al) Gore and Biden,” he said. “And we ended up, of course, with a practically unknown governor from Arkansas, who went on to defeat the president, and nobody predicted that.”

“I think we’re in a similar situation right now,” Shumaker added.

Another veteran Democratic consultant in the Granite State agreed.

“It appears the Democrats may have at least a dozen very strong qualified candidates running for president in 2020, and the nomination process is likely to pit some younger candidates against some who have been around for many years,” Democratic consultant Jim Demers said.

The former state representative, who served as New Hampshire co-chair for Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, predicted that “2020 will be a lot like 2008, when Democrats nominated a young new person named Barack Obama.”

“There is no doubt in my mind: The next presidential campaign will focus on who best represents the future and change,” he said.

Demers, who said Cory Booker is at the top of his 2020 list, put in a plug for the senator from New Jersey.

“Booker has what it takes to win the nomination and bring about the kind of change that is needed,” he said.

But the dean of the state Senate isn’t sold on the likelihood of a generational shift at the top of the 2020 ticket.

“I don’t think we’re talking about age,” longtime state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro said.

“The next Democratic presidential nominee is going to be somebody that we can trust. Somebody that people believe in and someone who responds to the key message of ‘I’m for you.’ And I don’t want to put an age on that because we may want a situation like Dwight Eisenhower, when everybody thought we wanted a young guy but we wanted a father image and he came in and served as president of the United States,” he explained.

“I don’t think you put an age on it,” D’Allesandro said. “We’re looking for somebody we can trust and who can lead us. Period.”