A column by David Leonhardt in the New York Times on Sunday raises a provocative question with its headline: "Did Joe Biden Scare Off Our Next President?" The thinking is this: Biden's entry into the race as an instant front-runner kept promising moderates such as Mitch Landrieu on the sidelines. Others, including Deval Patrick and Michael Bloomberg, entered later than they might have. Leonhardt writes that something similar happened in 2016 when Elizabeth Warren opted not to run against Hillary Clinton, a decision that led to the rise of Bernie Sanders. Would Warren be the 2020 front-runner had she taken the risk? "By now, the lesson from this history should be plain," Leonhardt writes. "If you want to be president of the United States and have an opportunity to run, you should not let another candidate keep you from running in the primaries."
He notes that Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, Donald Trump, and Ronald Reagan all started as long shots, too. Leonhardt also applies the lesson to Cory Booker and Kamala Harris in regard to their decisions to drop out early. They could have instead followed the blueprint of John McCain in 2008, who struggled early, too, but bet on the uncertain nature of American politics and won the nomination. The problem here lies in "the way other Democrats overreacted" to Biden, writes Leonhardt. "They committed a classic error of presidential politics, believing that campaigns were more predictable than they are." The 2020 race would surely look much different right now had they not done so. (Read his full column.)