I know it's only 2017, but the testing of the waters has begun in Iowa and New Hampshire. Progress Iowa, at its annual corn feed event, hosted Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend. Did Martin O'Malley ever leave Iowa? Bernie has been to Iowa twice in the last month and a half and spent Labor Day in New Hampshire. Representative Tim Ryan -- yes, the one who challenged Nancy Pelosi for leadership in the House -- will be in Iowa in a couple of weeks. I am also hearing that Representative Tulsi Gabbard is coming to Iowa next month.
It's just the beginning. We know that Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, and the most speculated non-candidate of 2016, Senator Elizabeth Warren, may be sticking their toes in the water soon. And when since 1988 has former vice president Joe Biden not been rumored as a possibility?
I hope Bernie signals his intentions early, so candidates like Merkley, Warren, and Gabbard avoid splitting the progressive vote. As for the rest? The more, the merrier. Harris, Ryan, Booker, Biden, and whoever else wants to can run to split the beauty contest vote. You know the voters who vote based on the package.
I have to admit that before I heard him, I thought Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend was the ultimate, perfectly packaged candidate who I was afraid would be an empty suit. When he ran for Democratic Party Chair, I heard all of the rising star praise and became skeptical.
He would be the first openly gay president, which would be a good thing.
His speech Sunday hit all the right notes, and he impressed me with his ability to articulate a vision, something our last nominee struggled to do. I will take a closer look at him if he decides to run.
The senator from Oregon was the one I went to see. Senator Jeff Merkley was the only senator to endorse Bernie Sanders in 2016. During a meeting with Sanders supporters on Sunday evening, Merkley said there was fear then among many of his colleagues that if they didn't back Hillary Clinton, there would be years of retribution. The senator said he doesn't play that game, and he endorsed Bernie. So right away I applaud Jeff Merkley's independence.