With the entry of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee into the 2020 presidential race Friday, the number of Americans represented by a person who is seeking the Democratic nomination topped 80 million. As of writing — and, given the pace at which candidates are entering the field, this could change quickly — over a quarter of the country is represented by someone who wants to win that nomination.
It breaks down as follows (using data for the most recently available year, 2018):
About 12 percent of the total is thanks to the bid of Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), given that she represents the most populous state. The announcement by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) adds 6 percent of the country. Add Inslee (D) and Sens. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and you get another 9 percent.
Then there’s Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind. Together they represent about half a percent of the country.
Notice that we’re excluding former Maryland congressman John Delaney. He’s not representing anyone, so he doesn’t add to the total.
Now, this probably seems like a lot. But when you compare it with the Republican field in 2016, it looks less remarkable.
Sens. Ted Cruz (Tex.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and Rand Paul (Ky.) were joined by Govs. John Kasich of Ohio, Chris Christie of New Jersey, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
In total, they represented about 28 percent of the country, rounding up.
If we add the Democratic side, the total comes to . . . 28 percent, rounding up. The only in-office candidate for the Democratic nomination in 2016 was Sanders, who represented 0.19 percent of the country that year.
But the 2016 total represents substantially more than what was represented by the 2012 candidates. That year, only three candidates were actively representing constituencies: Gov. Rick Perry (R) of Texas and Reps. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) and Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.). Since Perry represented all the people in Paul’s district, the total was about 8.6 percent of the country.
But hold on. As we noted at the outset, the Democratic field is likely to grow. There are four candidates whose names come up a lot who would bring unrepresented populations to the table: Sens. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Michael F. Bennet (Colo.) and Jeff Merkley (Ore.); and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.
Add those four, and the total nears 35 percent — more than a third of the country.
The combination of Harris and Gillibrand alone makes this total hard to surpass. Even in the crowded 2008 field — on both sides — there weren’t a lot of sitting elected officials who represented many Americans.
The sitting president, of course, went from representing no Americans to representing all of them. So don’t consider this predictive.
correction: The graphs in this article originally excluded Booker. They have been corrected.