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Dems’ Two Options for 2020: Geriatrics or Free-For-All

If three septuagenarian party leaders pass on presidential bids, the Democratic primary could be a royal rumble-style melee.

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren

Despite being years away, Democrats may find themselves between a rock and a hard place when it comes to fielding a viable challenger to President Trump in 2020. New York Magazine breaks down the two most likely scenarios.

Scenario 1: One of the Ancients Runs

The theory goes that if either Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), or former Vice President Joe Biden decide to run, Democrats will have a “front runner” who could keep closed the floodgates of every Democrat with a hint of ambition from running. The only problem? By the time the campaign kicks off, they will all be over 70 years old:

There are questions as to whether any or all of them are too old, particularly for a party looking to show it’s shed the barnacles exposed by the 2016 Clinton campaign. Sanders will be 78 when the 2020 Iowa Caucuses are held; Biden will be 77, and Warren will be 71 (for that matter, Donald Trump will be 73). But none of them has any particular reason to diminish their influence by declining interest in 2020. Their long shadows will make it harder for little-known alternatives to emerge.

Scenario 2: The Ancients Opt Out and Everyone Else Opts In

As New York Magazine notes, retirement or illness leaves open the possibility that the party elders decide not to run, meaning that dozens of Democrats could throw their hats in the ring. Ironically, the reporter notes that it’s Trump’s success in 2016 that will motivate so many “long shot” candidates to give it a go in 2020:

There is no Donald Trump analogue gearing up for a presidential run on the Democratic side in 2020, so far as we know. But if one emerges, she or he will be helped enormously if there is a large field against which to pose as Gulliver among the Lilliputians. … Indeed, the Trump precedent has made the narcissism of long shots seem a lot more reasonable.

It’s too early to know what will happen, but it’s safe to say one of these two outcomes will develop in the next few years.