Steve Bullock is not John Hickenlooper, and John Hickenlooper is not Jay Inslee, but they do blend seamlessly into a haze of slight jowls and ruddy whiteness, such that if you puree their chromosomes in a laboratory, you might get Michael Bennet, who is also running for president, even though you can’t remember who he is or what he looks like. It is also important to note that Seth Moulton is not Tim Ryan, and Tim Ryan is not Eric Swalwell — but they might as well be, because each of them is an avatar of ish-ness: young-ish, handsome-ish and nonexistent-ish, with each polling close to zero in the 2020 Democratic presidential race, which feels like it started a generation ago and will probably continue until your uncle declares, too, sometime during Thanksgiving dinner later this year.
Now add Bill de Blasio to the mix, because Bill de Blasio added himself to the mix Thursday, because what we need right now is Bill de Blasio in the mix, running for president.
Said a New Yorker last week, when asked by MSNBC about de Blasio’s announcement: “He needs help.”
Don’t we all.
The Earth still has about 258 revolutions to make before the Iowa caucuses, and there are now 20-plus major and minor Democratic challengers who’ve declared their intention to unseat President Trump.
“The Dems are getting another beauty to join their group,” Trump tweeted about de Blasio. He added: “He is a JOKE, but if you like high taxes & crime, he’s your man. NYC HATES HIM!”
De Blasio’s approval rating in New York is in the low 40s, according to a Quinnipiac University Poll. Three out of 4 New Yorkers wish that de Blasio wouldn’t run for president. There is a Jebness about de Blasio. Maybe it’s his height, his lumberingness, the “please clap” of it all. And we know how it ended for Jeb Bush, whose last name was known to Iowans.
“I’m in downtown Des Moines and stopping people on the street to ask them about Mayor de Blasio,” Grace Rauh, a reporter for NY1, tweeted within hours of his announcement. “So far I haven’t found anyone who seems to know who he is.”
This increasingly doesn’t matter. In 2008, eight Democrats and around 12 Republicans ran for their party’s nomination. About 13 people ran for the Republican nomination in 2012, and 16 ran four years later. Now we’re passing 23 for the current Democratic nomination.
How did we get here.
When does it stop.
Coalitions in major parties are fracturing and money is leaking in from everywhere. Social media has collapsed the traditional structures of power and short-circuited conduits of communication. This is why we have so many presidential candidates right now, says Hans J.G. Hassell, assistant professor of political science at Florida State University.
There are four current or former governors running — including Republican Bill Weld — and eight current or former senators.
“When you get to the Senate, half the people around you are running for president,” Sen. Paul Tsongas (D-Mass.) once said, according to the book “Senators on the Campaign Trail” by Richard F. Fenno Jr. “You see them and you think you are just as good as they are. It’s almost like a dare. So you start to think about running yourself.”
There are only six women (only six!) running, so they are easier to keep track of than the boys, but the name Marianne Williamson might give you pause. Country singer? Self-help guru? Both? Neither? Regardless, she’s running for president.
“There has not been enough love,” she said during her CNN town hall.
Just after Groundhog Day, the field was mostly female and nearly half nonwhite. Starting in March, 11 white men declared, one after the other. Some confusion has resulted, sometimes on purpose.
On Thursday a person named Derek tweeted a photo of Seth Moulton and joked, “I think I’ve found my 2020 candidate and it’s Congressman Tim Ryan.” Moulton cheekily replied, “No Derek, this is New York Mayor Eric Swalwell,” which was doubly incorrect. Derek then replied with a photo of Steve Bullock and wrote, “This is Seth Moulton.”
“I don’t know who he is,” said Whoopi Goldberg about yet another candidate, John Delaney, on “The View” last week.
John Delaney is neither Moulton nor Ryan nor Swalwell, and he is not John Hickenlooper or Jay Inslee or Steve Bullock or Michael Bennet.
Delaney, a former congressman from Maryland, was the first major-league candidate to declare, in July 2017, which means he’s coming up on two years of not really being recognized.
“Just today I walked by the TV and they had a picture of all the candidates,” Delaney says by phone Friday, “and every time I walk by, everyone’s picture gets a little smaller, as they try to squeeze everyone on. Eventually we’ll just be little dots.”
Still, the former Maryland congressman has more campaign cash on hand than any candidate except for Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Trump himself. He’s been focusing on Iowa and New Hampshire. A strong showing there could make his dot a little bigger, big enough that it resembles a face — one that you and Whoopi might begin to recognize.
Maybe it will have been him all along. Maybe the joke’s on the other guys. A man can dream.
Speaking of dreamers: These two dozen candidates are only the ones that are being taken semi-seriously by the media. The two major parties actually have more than 200 declared candidates for president, according to the FEC, though only about 46 have cash on hand — including a gentleman named Willie Felix Carter, who has $43.68.
Carter’s website says that he is a 75-year-old Air Force veteran who serves as a deacon at a church in Los Angeles; in 1983 he was commanded by the Lord to run for president after being shown a vision of “the complete destruction of our nation by fire” — which is something many people would like to avoid. He says that he’s been a candidate for president every cycle since 1988, which makes this his ninth presidential campaign.
Why keep running, if most people don’t know who you are?
“The greatest reason is my love for God,” Carter says by phone. “I’m so honored that of all the people He could’ve chosen, He chose me. The main thing is: God is my friend, and I’m not going to let Him down.”