The Atlantic Politics Daily: Just Keep Swimming

Some presidential candidates have decided, eh, this maybe isn’t going to work out. Others, despite zero to middling name recognition, are still at it—why?

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Today in Politics

Only one of these candidates remains in the Democratic presidential race. (The Atlantic)

Why aren’t the minnows getting winnowed?

The realization among some of the Democratic presidential candidates that eh, maybe this isn’t going to work out has led to a great winnowing in recent months (from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York to Washington Governor Jay Inslee to Representative Seth Moulton of Massachusetts, who may have gotten more coverage dropping out than he did entering the race.)

11 of the 20 Democratic candidates still running have qualified for next month’s debate, giving them ostensibly one big shot to make one last push. But for the more obscure minnows in the race, it’s hard not to ask, why do people with no shot keep on keeping on? It’s an evergreen question for every election cycle.

There’s Bill De Blasio, who’s polling at 0 percent, in the city he runs. There’s Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio, whose fundraising has all but dried up. And there’s the mayor of Miramar, Florida, Wayne Messam, who … who is that again?

Take the relatively recent entrant, Montana Governor Steve Bullock. His 2020 bid has stalled, so why is he still zig zagging across Iowa? My colleague Edward-Isaac Dovere writes that he’s getting reinforcement from the Clinton camp to keep going as a moderate in a party zooming to the left.

And Michael Bennet? The Colorado senator isn’t known for being a rabble-rouser (one pitch he’s made to voters: “If you elect me president, I promise you won’t have to think about me for two weeks at a time”). Of late, he’s pivoted to a mad-as-hell insurgent, promising to fight on in spite of the odds.

Maybe these candidates also just have the money and time. The former Maryland congressman John Delaney announced his presidential run six months after Trump’s inauguration, has visited all 99 of Iowa’s counties, and has poured millions of his own wealth to prop up his campaign. Yet he’s still something of an afterthought in most polls.

For other long-shot candidates, the end game may not even be the presidency, but a stepping stone to a cushy Cabinet position or higher office than the one they currently hold.

Still, there’s sliver of solace to be found for the Democratic candidates if they’re looking: Some red states are cancelling their Republican primaries altogether, giving the Republicans mounting primary challenges against President Trump an even smaller shot to present themselves to voters.

—Saahil Desai

What Else We’re Watching

(Mike Blake / Reuters)

The California emissions fight: The EPA’s move to revoke California’s authority to set stricter car-emission standards than the federal government fits a pattern for Trump, Ron Brownstein writes: The president seems to be out to punish states that voted against him in 2016.

On whistleblowers: David Frum contextualizes the latest scandal to hit Capitol Hill: A whistleblower report filed with the intelligence community’s inspector general, alleging that President Trump made an improper “promise” to a foreign leader.

Trump’s foreign policy may be unthinkable for the GOP four years ago. On a whole host of international quagmires, from protests in Hong Kong to Russian meddling in U.S. elections, Trump has bent and broken the GOP’s foreign policy dogma, Uri Friedman writes. But his lax approach to Iran, which allegedly attacked Saudi oil facilities over the weekend, might end up being the last straw for GOP hawks.

Here’s what biology class American schools where evolution isn’t part of the curriculum. Not all schools teach this evolutionary history, Olga Khazan writes, including the high school she went to 20 years ago, adding that her “experience was far from unusual.”

Our Reporters Are Also Reading

Kamala Harris bets it all on Iowa to break freefall (Politico)

Is Tucker Carlson the Most Important Pundit in America? (New York Magazine) (Paywall)

Some LGBTQ Advocates Want More From Pete Buttigieg (BuzzFeed News)

About us: The Atlantic’s politics newsletter is a daily effort from our politics desk. It’s written by our associate politics editor, Saahil Desai, and our politics fellow, Christian Paz. It was edited by Shan Wang.

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