With the conclusion, regardless of the end result, of the 2018 midterm election, the race to unseat the president is all but officially underway. Trump never really halted his 2016 campaign and has been continuing his wild rallies around the country for months.
A potentially enormous field is materializing, with a solid chunk of that field coming from Mass—politicians who have cultivated long, impressive resumes, undoubtedly with at least a small, lingering notion that they could be president of the United States.
Here’s a quick look at some Bay State characters who could become key players in this sad saga unfolding before us.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Let’s get the obvious one right out of the way. For the last year or so, US Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s political presence has almost exclusively been viewed with the context of her being a White House hopeful. The Commonwealth’s senior senator even said last month that she’d consider a potential run after her reelection campaign against state Rep. Geoff Diehl wrapped up.
“It’s time for women to go to Washington and fix our broken government, and that includes a woman at the top,” Warren said at a town hall-style event in Holyoke. “So here’s what I promise: After Nov 6, I will take a hard look at running for president.”
A Warren campaign would make sense on several levels. Her progressive streak broadly aligns with the direction of the Democratic Party’s base following the 2016 primary, and her proximity to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and the Occupy movement could stand out in a field likely filled with centrists.
It should be noted that while Warren is coming off a convincing re-election effort, the results of her 2018 Senate race in Mass show some potential fault lines. She very narrowly ran behind Hillary Clinton’s 2016 numbers, but perhaps more significantly, GOP nominee Rep. Geoff Diehl ran ahead of Trump. Warren was one of a very small group of Democrats in Senate races who actually saw their electorate lose ground since the 2016 shocker. Regardless, she won the race in a landslide.
Some bitterness awaits a Warren campaign, too. Her decision not to endorse in the 2016 primary had many on the left feeling betrayed, and it’s yet to be seen if time can mend that divide.
“[Warren] is someone who people who were/are Bernie devotees feel defensive about because she did not back him in the primaries,” said Juliann Rubijono, a founding member of Boston For Bernie during the 2016 campaign. “I feel that was unfortunate and possibly even a critical error.”
In a general election, she’ll naturally be at a disadvantage given the inherent sexism of our political system, but Warren’s history and political positions make her a far more viable challenger to Trump than Hillary Clinton. The other areas where she promotes her progressive positions, like health care and the student debt crisis, are broadly popular across the political spectrum.
Primaries are fluky, biased, and extremely difficult to predict, but it would seem that the only thing that could hold Warren back from being a top-tier contender for the nomination is a Sanders run. If the 2016 runner-up decides to give it another go in 2020, Warren can kiss the votes on the left goodbye, and she’ll be forced to win with a constituency of voters picked off from both lanes. A strategy that is frequently attempted and almost always fails.
This one is a bit weird. Is there any possible way that this country, pathetically limping into the 2020s, is yearning for a former governor from Massachusetts whose claim to fame is implementing (not passing or signing) the prototype of “Obamacare”? And whose legacy is botching said implementation?
But apparently it’s serious. A longtime ally of Barack Obama (you know, the guy who oversaw the loss of 1,000 legislative seats over his two terms), Patrick has the strong backing of the former president’s inner circle. And he’s been open about his considering a run, coinciding with campaigning in key 2020 spots.
“I’ll make a decision when I feel like I have a decision to make,” Patrick told the Atlantic last month.
It’s tough to envision a successful run for president from Patrick. His would-have-been successor Martha Coakley was beat in a year Democrats convincingly won every other major office in the Commonwealth, and now Republican Charlie Baker, who ran against the troubles of the Patrick administration, is the most popular governor in America.
But things didn’t look good in his reelection fight in 2010, when he beat Baker, or in 2006, when he seemingly came out of nowhere to win his first term. Again, primaries can be tough to predict; maybe there’s something there.
Rep. Joe Kennedy III
It’s highly unlikely that Kennedy runs, but there’s a good chance he’s very involved in the upcoming election cycle. He’s too young to be painted as a long-time party loyalist, and too politically unoriginal to stand out on policy or vision.
But he is a Kennedy, and you can’t underestimate how much that still means to a lot of people.
Unless Sanders wins the nomination, look for Kennedy to be on the short list of potential vice president picks. If Warren wins the presidency, or is appointed to a cabinet position, don’t be shocked when Kennedy makes a run for her senate seat.
Rep. Seth Moulton
Moulton’s another one who almost certainly won’t run for president this time around, but that doesn’t mean that the Bay State’s youngest representative won’t play a big role in this election.
I closely covered Moulton’s first race in 2014, when he ran an extremely effective primary campaign to knock out incumbent Rep. John Tierney before going on to win in one of the Commonwealth’s most conservative districts. Moulton is well-liked and a very good campaigner, and he should not be underestimated as an inherently gifted politician. This just isn’t his year, for the same reasons as Kennedy, in all likelihood.
But like Kennedy, he could end up on some lists for vice president. You get one nationally televised debate as the VP nominee. Watching firsthand how brutally a young Moulton was able to dismantle a seasoned pol like Tierney, it might do the Dems good to bring him in to wipe the floor with Mike Pence. Otherwise expect Moulton to raise his profile in the House, maybe pushing for a leadership position with the new Congress.
That would be pretty funny. In reality, Kerry’s window probably closed 20 years ago, but his pronounced role as Obama’s Secretary of State has put him in the spotlight. His connection to the Iran Deal and the Paris Climate Agreement—international affairs decimated by Trump—has placed Kerry in a natural position against the president. He probably won’t run, but he hasn’t ruled it out either.
“I haven’t eliminated anything in my life, period, anything—except perhaps running a sub-four [minute] mile,” Kerry told Politico in October.
People tend to forget that the New York billionaire’s roots are in the Boston area. Most of that will be completely overshadowed by his problematic record as mayor of New York when he inevitably acts on his doomed presidential ambitions.
The former Massachusetts governor traveled the country with Gary Johnson last time around as the Libertarian Party’s VP pick. As far as third party campaigns go, they were quite successful, picking up almost 4.5 million votes. As far as actual elections go, they were demolished, finishing well short of the 5 percent needed to gain public funding.
Weld, who is little more than a decent-minded Massachusetts Republican, is probably hated by the Libertarians at this point for his support of things like public roads and drivers’ licenses.
But Weld seems eager to stay in politics, and it’s been reported that he is laying the groundwork for another run under their umbrella.
Stein is a great activist, and is very strong and well spoken on the issues, but one would think that if the Green Party had any interest in progressing as a political organization or movement, it would opt for a different candidate for president in 2020. The party barely got above 1 percent in a year where most Americans despised the major party candidates.
“Three times is a lot. It’s a lot for any one person and it’s a lot for a party,” Stein said at the party’s annual meeting in August. “I would be kind of shocked if it came to that.”
The Lexington resident has had better results in past years running for local office in the Bay State than in her bids for the presidency, so perhaps that’s the political path forward for Stein. But she has been campaigning around the country for the Greens, so you can’t rule out another go at the top of the ticket for Stein.