In the state where presidential politics never ends, two potential 2020 Democratic contenders have scheduled Iowa visits in the coming months. Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar will speak at the Polk County Democrats Spring Dinner on May 7 in Des Moines. Senator Bernie Sanders plans on keynoting Citizens for Community Improvement’s annual convention on July 15, also in Des Moines.

Neither are sure bets to run for president in 2020, but what they say during their visits could shed some light into how seriously they’re considering it.

Klobuchar has often made road trips down to Iowa in past years, in particular to Democratic groups in Northern Iowa, so her visit in May isn’t necessarily out of the ordinary. While not as well-known nationally as some other possible 2020 candidates, Klobuchar’s proximity to the lead-off caucus state could give her a boost in seriously competing here. Were she to run, a strong showing in Iowa would be essential to her plans.

Sanders’ visit this summer is likely much more about issue organizing and helping old friends than it is any positioning for 2020. CCI’s political arm endorsed and organized for Sanders in the Iowa Caucus, and some of his former Iowa staff work there now. The event is focused on how to continue activists’ interest in progressive organizing and building on their revolution.

But if Sanders is pondering a second presidential run, he’ll need to tread carefully. The backlash to his comments on Jon Ossoff and subsequent campaign event for Heath Mello highlighted how many in the Democratic Party still distrust Sanders and his views on the party and progressivism. Were he to run again, he’d face much more early and vocal opposition than he did in 2016. To actually win a future primary, Sanders would need to win over some of the voters who backed Hillary Clinton last time, not simply consolidate the support he has on the party’s left. And after the debacle in Omaha, local candidates may not want the DNC road show to appear in their town.

All the controversy should give an opportunity for potential 2020 candidates who hope to appear as fresh faces to test the waters and build a little excitement by visiting Iowa.

The past contender most likely to run again – Martin O’Malley – has been a frequent guest in Iowa in recent months. O’Malley has visited Iowa three times since the November election, and ten times overall since the 2016 Iowa Caucus.

Now that the legislative session is done, and campaigns for 2018 gear up, there will be plenty of chances for national Democrats to come in and help local candidates. In past cycles, you could often tell how serious a likely presidential candidate was about organizing in Iowa by how much they assisted down-ballot Democrats, building up relationships and favors.

What will be most interesting to watch is how 2020 contenders approach the Iowa governor’s race, where there will be a crowded Democratic primary. Several Republican presidential hopefuls got involved in the 2014 senate primary. Only Marco Rubio made the correct pick with backing Joni Ernst. She didn’t end up returning the favor by endorsing Rubio in 2016, but some members of her political operation helped the Florida senator.

The most likely alliance would be between State Senator Nate Boulton – a leading soon-to-be gubernatorial candidate – and O’Malley. Boulton endorsed O’Malley during the Iowa Caucus, and their teams are close – a former O’Malley field organizer ran Boulton’s winning primary race in 2016. Given Boulton’s connections with Iowa labor unions, he might receive the most attention from 2020 contenders who want to develop friendships in advance of the Iowa Caucus.

 

by Pat Rynard
Posted 4/24/17

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