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WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Joe Biden is going to look a lot like a presidential candidate this year
He plans to raise money for Senate Democratic incumbents, campaign for Democratic challengers in Republican-held House districts that Hillary Clinton won in 2016, and engage in state-level races where the pickup of a couple of seats could flip control of a legislative chamber.
“You’re going to see him all over the place,” said Greg Schultz, executive director of Biden’s American Possibilities PAC.
Biden won’t be alone. Nearly one year into Donald Trump’s presidency — with the president’s approval rating hovering around 40 percent — Biden is one of roughly two dozen Democrats who are considering a bid for the White House in 2020. The list includes governors, senators, House members, mayors and even celebrities such as former professional wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
The invisible primary is already under way, and the jockeying is about to get intense.
Many of the would-be contenders, like the 75-year-old Biden, will spend this year traveling the country on behalf of other candidates, a time-tested way for presidential hopefuls to introduce — or, as in Biden’s case, reintroduce — themselves to voters, hone their message on the stump, build goodwill within the party and enhance their donor networks.
A handful of hopefuls have already visited Iowa and New Hampshire, the first-in-the-nation caucus and primary states, and those trips will increase in frequency as the year unfolds. And some have long since hired presidential campaign veterans onto their staffs.
Many Democrats and some Republicans predict there’s a chance Trump may not be on the ballot in 2020 for any number of reasons: He resigns; gets removed from office; chooses not to seek re-election; or loses in a GOP primary.
But Trump, who filed the paperwork for re-election the day he took office, is already testing out campaign themes on the trail. Speaking at a rally in Pensacola, Florida, last month, Trump said the next election will boil down to the performance of the stock market.
“I think it’s going to be very hard for somebody to beat us in a few years, can you imagine?” Trump said. “All you have to say is, with us it goes up, with them it goes down — and that’s the end of the election, right?”
And, he’s using his just-passed tax cut as a contrast with Democrats, who griped about its tilt of benefits to the wealthy but offered no alternative.
“Unfortunately, the Democrats don’t like to see tax cutting,” Trump said. “They like to see tax increases.”
There’s been a lot of chatter in political circles about Trump facing a primary challenger — perhaps Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska or retiring Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a vocal critic of the president. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, who campaigned for Clinton in 2016, has said that if he runs for president, he will probably do so as a Republican.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., a former Republican National Committee chief of staff, said there’s no reason to think Trump won’t be on the ballot again — and every reason to believe he would defeat a primary challenger.
“Like most presidents, he’s inclined to run for re-election. His record this year merits that,” Cole told NBC News. “Beating Republican presidents in Republican primaries is a pretty tough thing to do. I think if he wants to be the nominee, he clearly will be the nominee. And anyone who runs against him is on a fool’s errand.”
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