bernie sanders
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Five ThirtyEight’s Perry Bacon Jr. has engaged in a fun exercise for us to consider as the workweek comes to an end. He’s created criteria that we can used to judge whether someone is serious about running for president in 2020. The metrics chosen make a lot of sense. Here’s the methodology: writing a book, having someone write a major magazine profile including an interview, campaigning on behalf of candidates running for election this year, visiting all three of the first primary and caucus states, and being included in a poll:

Visits to Iowa, South Carolina and New Hampshire include formal political events only, including scheduled visits that haven’t happened yet. Candidates count as having a book out if they have published a book or are scheduled to publish a book during the 2018 election cycle. For polls, we’re counting any national, nonpartisan primary surveys that include the potential candidate. A national profile is defined as a piece in The Atlantic, New York magazine, The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine or Time that is more than 1,000 words long and includes an interview with the potential candidate. Campaigning is defined as participating in an event for a gubernatorial or Senate candidate.

The only variable I don’t agree with is the poll, because you can be quite serious about running for president and still have pollsters not understand this when they put their survey in the field. In any case, Bernie Sanders has checked off every box and Joe Biden only needs to visit Iowa to complete his list.

The are some interesting things to note, like the candidates who have already made visits to Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina: Sen. Bernie Sanders, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, lawyer Michael Avenatti, Sen. Jeff Merkley, 2016 candidate Martin O’Malley, and Rep. Eric Swalwell.

More commonly mentioned candidates have some work to do in this area. Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Kamala Harris have not yet visited any of the early states and Sen. Cory Booker still hasn’t made a trip to New Hampshire or written a campaign book. Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro has not been in South Carolina and is still lacking a magazine profile.

It’s also notable that there isn’t much sign of life on the right. Ryan has visited early states in his capacity as Speaker; Sen. Jeff Flake and Ohio Governor John Kasich haven’t been in Iowa or South Carolina, and the only items Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse has checked off are a visit to neighboring Iowa and the book.

In any case, there are some names on the list that I didn’t expect and some activity I had not previously detected, so I found the article informative and interesting.

See anyone who is active that looks intriguing?

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Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at