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Political Prognosticator Sees 34 Democrats, Including Beto O'Rourke, in 2020 Presidential Mix

Dallas Morning News

By Jenny Manrique

A leading political prognosticator predicted Tuesday that 34 Democrats and six Republicans may test the presidential primary waters.

“A lot of them will be eliminated quickly and debates will be impossible to hold, but Democrats will have a record number of candidates in 2020,” said Larry Sabato, professor of politics at the University of Virginia and author of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a political newsletter that predicts election outcomes.

“There is not an obvious front-runner and the problem is going to be that, getting these people back together, we will see a lot of competitiveness”, he said during at a Dallas luncheon at the Renaissance Hotel hosted by the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI), a public policy think tank based in Irving.

Sabato discussed the 2018 midterm elections and their potential impact on the 2020 elections before an audience full of members of the Dallas County Republican Party.

His list of Democratic hopefuls includes El Paso congressman Beto O'Rourke, who last week lost to incumbent Ted Cruz in the U.S. Senate race. Also on the list is former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California. Among the celebrities he predicts are Oprah Winfrey and Michael Avenatti, lawyer for adult film star Stormy Daniels.

He doesn’t believe Hillary Clinton will run again despite recent stories that she's considering it. He said Terry McAuliffe, the former Virginia governor who is Clinton’s best friend, assured him she “never wants to run again." Sabato said chances are poor Clinton would win the nomination for 2020.

“In 2016, I was amazed at how disliked she was, even among persuadables,” Sabato said.

The political analyst recently published a book titled TRUMPED: The 2016 Election That Broke All the Rules. Sabato said that he and other predictors had “a very bad year,” but that his “analytical model” bounced back during the midterms.

He recalled that although there was national attention on the Cruz-O’Rourke race, it was clear that it leaned Republican throughout.

“We never had it likely, or lean Democrat. The answer was pretty obvious as to who will win. It was the margin that was a surprise, but you have your own little blue wave in Texas,” he said.

Sabato voiced surprise over the voter turnout in Texas, which he said was almost unheard of and must have been due to excitement about O'Rourke.

Breaking down the demographics in the midterm exit polls, Sabato noted that the most disturbing trend for the GOP was the age breakdown. Republicans won the vote among voters ages 45-64, while Democrats won among young people and all minorities.

Sabato said that among Republican presidential hopefuls, it is not that clear that President Donald Trump will run and that Vice President Mike Pence would be the “logical nominee” if the economy sours or Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation entangles the president.

Newly elected Utah Sen. Mitt Romney is likely to run because he has “a bad case of presidentialitis,” Sabato said. He also expects Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Bob Corker of Tennessee and Ohio Gov. John Kasich to compete in the GOP primaries — although he predicted “they won’t last very long.”