But he was barely mentioned by Elizabeth Warren when she kicked off her presidential exploration in Iowa.
“I think that what our 2020 issue will be is how we talk about what we stand for, our affirmative vision of how we build a country that reflects our best values, and that’s what I try to talk about every chance I get,” Warren said Sunday in Ankeny, a Des Moines suburb, when reporters asked why she stopped bringing up her favored foil.
It makes sense from one perspective this early in the primary season; Democrats aren’t really trying to distinguish themselves from the Trump — that’s easy. For Warren, and other 2020 Democrats trying to rise to the top of what’s sure to be a very crowded primary field, the challenge will likely be distinguishing themselves from each other.
Democratic strategist Rebecca Katz agreed, arguing that the news media is likely to focus on what a candidate says about Trump before other parts of their message.
“No matter how substantive an HRC speech would be in 2016, if there was one line on Trump, that’s what would be the one that was on the news,” she said on Twitter.
Warren isn’t the only potential 2020 candidate not directly mentioning Trump.
Former HUD Secretary and San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro announced his exploration of a bid in December with a video that didn’t directly mention Trump, although his priorities are certainly opposed to the President.
Sen. Kamala Harris is also toying with a bid. She’s released a new memoir and appeared on Good Morning America.
Harris did not shy away from talking about Trump when George Stephanopoulos asked her about the partial government shutdown and a border wall, but she also did not mention Trump when Stephanopoulos asked her why she’d be ready to be president today.
Democrats who aren’t running for president are also steering clear of a focus on Trump when they can.
Nancy Pelosi’s main job for the next two years will be as the public face of Democratic opposition to Trump. She’s the most powerful Democrat in the country. But she didn’t mention him directly or by name in her speech when she became speaker of the House, even though she got the gavel in large part thanks to backlash against the President. Democrats sought on the midterm campaign trail in 2018, by the way, to harness their message around health care and not directly the President.
In that 2018 election, more than half, 54% of voters disapproved of Trump’s job as President, 46% even said they “strongly disapprove” in exit polls. But a lot fewer — 38% — said their vote was directly to oppose Trump. Twenty-six percent said they voted to support him and a third, 33%, said he did not factor in their vote. Democrats got 44% of the voters who said he wasn’t a factor.
When she said the President lies about immigrants, Cooper pointed out it was a rare mention of Trump by her.
“You don’t talk about President Trump very much,” he said, and she agreed.
“Because I think he’s a symptom of a problem,” she said, explaining. “The President certainly didn’t invent racism. But he’s certainly given a voice to it and expanded it and created a platform for those things.”
All of this is not to say that Democrats won’t be talking about Trump. They will. A lot. He takes up almost all of the political oxygen in the country.
So it’s notable that when they can, some top Democrats avoid mentioning him.