Former VP Joe Biden is leading the pack of 2020 Dems by a wide margin. What does the former VP think of the field of Democrats.?
ELKHART, Indiana â€” The head of the county Democratic party was pleased that Sen. Elizabeth Warren wanted to be here.
Democratic voters in this deep red part of the stateÂ typically receive little attention from White House hopefuls, so Warrenâ€™s decision to hold a town hall meeting here earlier this weekÂ came as a bit of a surprise.
â€œThis was really good. We are usually treated as a flyover state,â€ said Elkhart County chairman Chad Crabtree as Warren posed for photos and chatted with voters after delivering her speech and doing a QA session. â€œOur primary isnâ€™t until MayÂ and in past election cycles the party has often decided on the nominee by then, so candidates donâ€™t give us a whole lot of attention.â€
Like every election cycle of the past several decades, voters in early contests such as Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada are still getting the bulk of attention from the more than 20 Democratic candidates vying to take on President Trump. In fact, this weekend 19 candidates will head to Iowa to campaign at IowaÂ Democratâ€™s annual Hall of Fame dinner.
But the unwieldy field of White House hopefuls in the early going of the 2020 campaign has shown a willingness to take some detours on their way to spaghetti dinners, house parties and meet-and-greets in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Democratic candidates already have made campaign appearances in two-thirds of the states. AndÂ the top eight candidates in national polls have made more than 150 campaign appearances outside of the first four earlyÂ states thus far , according to a USA TODAY review of candidateâ€™s campaign public schedules.
A week outside of the first four
The last week offers a sense of how candidates are looking for opportunitiesÂ to meet voters beyond the early states.
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Sen. Kamala Harris madeÂ her first appearance in AlabamaÂ Friday night at an event where she spoke aboutÂ Alabamaâ€™s controversial new abortion law. Sheâ€™s scheduled to hold a second event in Alabama Saturday, where she’ll address Alabamaâ€™s largest African American political organization.
With a hybrid process of awarding its more than 50 delegates by congressional district and statewide total, the Harris campaign sees strategic value to touch base early with black voters and women in the state.
Warren stumped in Elkhart Wednesday before taking part in a MSNBC town hall in Fort Wayne. Sheâ€™s starting to make habit of campaigning off the beaten path, having already made stops in UtahÂ and West Virginia.
â€œIâ€™m out here with you,â€ Warren told voters at the town hall. â€œI think Indiana is my 20th state plus Puerto Rico. Get out, be there with people â€¦ because I believe we have to build a grassroots movement.â€
Sen. Bernie Sanders stopped in Arkansas Tuesday for a Walmart shareholders meeting to push the retail giant to raise its minimum wage to $15 per hour. The meeting, which he was invited to speak as a proxy for a workersâ€™ group, allowed the Vermont senator to make national headlines and bolster his brand as a champion for American workers.
And four candidates â€” former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Cory Booker, South Bend, Ind., Mayor PeteÂ Buttigieg, and former Rep. Beto Oâ€™Rourke â€” travelled to Atlanta Thursday for the DNC’sÂ African American Leadership CouncilÂ Summit and I Will Vote Gala.
Democrats see Georgia as a potential pickup in 2020, an enthusiasm fueled largely by Democrat Stacey Abrams narrow defeat by Republican Brian Kemp in the governorâ€™s race. The four White House hopefuls comments in Atlanta largely looked past Georgiaâ€™s primary and to the potential for Democrats in the general election.
â€œThis is a blue state,â€ Booker said of Georgia, which last voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in 1996 and where every statewide office is held by a Republican. â€œWhat that means is we need to go back to organizing and build a 50-state party.â€
Iowa and New Hampshire have long played outsized roles in the presidential nomination contests because of their first-in-the-nation status.
A strong-showing in either state can create momentum; a poor performance â€” or even failure to meet polling expectations set going into the voting â€” can sink a campaign. As a result, candidates have poured disproportionate amounts of time and money into winning over voters in these states.
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The dynamic can leave outsider voters, particularly those in late-voting primaries, feeling irrelevant.
â€œIt is easy here to feel discounted and invisible,â€ said Jessie Hubble, 35, who attended Warrenâ€™s Elkhart event. She is considering voting for either Warren, Buttigieg orÂ Biden. â€œItâ€™s really important for candidates to reach out, so people who need to hear their messages can feel close.â€
Expanding the map
Multiple factors appear to be pushing candidates to take a broader approach to their strategy early in the election cycle, said Karen KedrowskiÂ , Â director for theÂ Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University.
Kedrowski noted that in two of the last three election cycles the nominee didnâ€™t lock his or her nomination until deep into the nominating contests, a fact that could be pushing candidates to think earlier about the long game. Barack Obama in 2008 and Hillary Clinton in 2016 didnâ€™t become the presumptive nominees until June. On the Republican side, Trump won enough delegates to secure the nomination in late May.
But perhaps an even more important factor is that California, the biggest and most delegate-rich state, has moved up its primary to March 3 â€” the Super Tuesday election day when 12 other states and voters living abroadÂ will cast their ballot â€” from its early June date of recent election cycles.
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The top eight candidates in national polling already have made at least 41 campaign-related appearances in the state, excluding fundraisers.
California, with about 40 million residents and three top 20 television markets,Â is a pricey state for candidates to compete in.Â With 495 delegates distributed proportionately, it could be a game changer for whomever wins the state.Â
â€œI think what weâ€™re seeing is a California phenomenon,â€ Kedrowski said.
Other states are also getting early attention from Democratic presidential candidates.
Top tier candidates have made 13 campaign appearances at campaign events in Texas, which also will vote on Super Tuesday.
Former Rep. Beto Oâ€™Rourke visited Northeast Oklahoma on Sunday to meet with communities that have been impacted by severe flooding. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, of Minnesota, has made stops in Nebraska and North Dakota, where sheâ€™s highlighted her expertise on agriculture issues.
With Michigan’s presidential primary 10 months away, the state has been a magnet for White House hopefuls.
Five leading candidates have made stops in Michigan in addition to seven candidates struggling in the polls. The state had the closest vote margin in the 2016 election. Trump won the general election inÂ Michigan presidential by 10,704 votes, the first Republican to win the state since 1988.
Michigan was one of three Midwest states â€” Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are the others Â â€” to flip to the Republicans in 2016 by narrow margins. They providedÂ Trump enough to seal his electoral victory.
â€œItâ€™s probably good for the legitimacy of the process,â€ said Kedrowski, the Iowa State political scientist, of candidates campaigning further afield. â€œI can tell you sitting here in Iowa, weâ€™re not being neglected.â€