Democrats in early primary states agree: The 2020 field is wide open
Posted February 14, 2019 8:00 p.m. EST
CNN — As the 2020 Democratic field continues to expand, Democratic Party officials in key early-voting states say the field is open -- and so are the minds of voters.
"Right now, from what I'm seeing out there, nearly everyone is taking a whole wait-and-see approach to the whole field," Iowa state Democratic Party Chairman Troy Price told CNN at the Democratic National Committee's Winter Meeting in Washington.
RELATED: CNN to host one of the first two 2020 Democratic primary debates
Price said Iowans were welcoming all the Democratic candidates who'd made trips to the state known for its first-in-the-nation caucuses.
The primary field, which already features more female and minority candidates than ever before, is shaping up to be big, with nearly a dozen candidates already and another dozen or so considering running.
"I've been surprised; everyone has had a great response," Price said. "I've not heard any bad, any negative things from Iowans. Everyone is just really excited to get a chance to talk to these candidates and get to know them."
"Everyone who's come through, I think, has really hit what they've wanted to do," Price added. "It seems like everyone has had a really good rollout in the state."
He noted the "tremendous crowds" for Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, and the recent rural swing through the state of Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio.
One name did come up as a potential x-factor: former Vice President Joe Biden.
"Joe Biden is beloved," Jaime Harrison, associate chairman of the DNC and a former chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, told CNN when asked how Biden would fare in South Carolina. "He spent a lot of time in South Carolina, so he has a lot of long relationships there, and so he will be well received."
But he cautioned that voters in the first-in-the-South primary state will demand personal attention from all the candidates.
"If you're coming to South Carolina, you can't mail it in," Harrison said. "Regardless of who you are, and what your background is and what your history is, you're going to have to go talk to the voters. You're going to have to build an operation that is a South Carolina operation, not a cookie cutter operation that you take off the shelf."
On Thursday, the party announced details of the first two debates of the primary season, making changes to the traditional setup to accommodate the ever-growing field of candidates. Each debate will be held over two consecutive nights with space for up to 20 total candidates. To get a place on the stage, each candidate will have to meet polling and fundraising thresholds.
"We think it is important to reward candidates who have done an effective job across the country in raising small-dollar donations," DNC Chairman Tom Perez told a group of party members before the debate announcement. "And so that's never been done before. And I'm excited about it."
Perez said the party was committed to allowing candidates to talk about the issues, celebrating the record diversity in the 2020 Democratic field.
"Needless to say, we have a large field. I welcome that," Perez said. "Nobody should be concerned about that. It is a first-class problem to have. We've got a deep field of folks."