It seems every few weeks yet another pundit predicts who Democrats might field for president in 2020.

And in more and more cases, Hawaii’s Tulsi Gabbard makes the cut.

The latest prediction comes from Politico, which on Sunday named 20 possible contenders. 

Along with brief analysis on Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders (as well as lesser lights like Al Franken, Andrew Cuomo and John Hickenlooper), Politico has this to say about Hawaii’s 2nd Congressional District representative:

The Iraq War vet and first Hindu-American elected to Congress has angered many in the Democratic Party for meeting with Syrian President Bashar Assad and expressing skepticism he was behind the chemical weapons attack in the rebel-held province of Idlib. Some don’t consider her all that progressive, because she once opposed same-sex marriage and because she joined conservatives in criticizing Obama for not using the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism.” Yet her foreign policy audacity has only elevated her standing among those opposed to any military involvement in Syria, and who chafe at the Democratic Party’s hard turn against Russia.

It’s difficult for some like me to imagine Gabbard, who would be 39 should she be elected president in 2020, in the White House. Teddy Roosevelt was 42 (he succeeded the assassinated William McKinley) and John F. Kennedy was 43.

I can still remember when, as the youngest member of the state House of Representatives, Gabbard forcefully testified against civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. But that seems like a generation ago, and the definition of what constitutes “presidential” has changed considerably since the Narcissist-In-Chief was sent to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard at a town hall in Kailua April 16. Is she already eyeing higher office?

Anthony Quintano/Civil Beat

Politico points out that there is already a Run Tulsi Run website. It’s where Tulsi-ites can connect with Facebook supporters from Alabama to Wyoming, as well as purchase Tulsi 2020 T-shirts and bumperstickers, which are adorned with a red hibiscus.

(A very similar hibiscus can be found on the congresswoman’s official House website, although the flower’s pistil points to the left and not the right, as is the case with the hibiscus on the Run Tulsi Run site.)

Run Tulsi Run was launched on Feb. 28, 2016, after Gabbard resigned her post from the Democratic National Committee and threw her support to Bernie Sanders for president. Among the reasons for backing Gabbard, the website explains that supporters believe that she “is the most superior candidate because of her service to her country and her unquestionable reputation and integrity.”

There is no indication that Gabbard is involved with the website. But at least two images from Gabbard’s own campaign website appear to be used, in doctored form, on the Run Tulsi Run site.

There is other internet activity regarding Gabbard in 2020, including several Facebook pages such as Tulsi 2020 (it appears linked to Run Tulsi Run), Tulsi Gabbard 2020 (it says it’s unofficial) and Tulsi Gabbard for President 2020 (launched Nov. 7 and currently featuring Gabbard’s video explaining why she will no longer take PAC money — more on that later).

‘No More Idiots For President’

And then there is the petition that, as of Monday, was nearly halfway to gathering the 5,000 signatures needed to deliver the petition to Gabbard.

Tulsi Gabbard for President 2020 is led by an Anthony Dover of New Hampshire, who argues in part, “We believe that there is a substantial appetite in the country for a true progressive candidate, and that Tulsi Gabbard is the right person on which progressives should focus their efforts, attention and considerable enthusiasm.”

Signatories include the following:

Gabbard has a perfect record with every issue I’ve researched, managing to recognize ISIS as Islamic, see through western media lies about Syria, and saw Sanders as legit. She’s former military who served in Iraq and will likely pull independents and even republicans without even campaigning. She could win easily, and I’d trust her. —Eric Helm, Olympia, WA

She is the only politician since Obama in 2004 to get me excited about the possible direction our country could proceed in (well, including Bernie too). You will have my total support and probably some of my money if you choose to run. Aloha, Kimo. —Jim Wolfe, Kamuela, HI

No more idiots for presidents in the most powerful country in the world. —Jana Mazej, Ljubljana, Slovenia

The latest Tulsi-mania comes as Gabbard announced just last week that she will reject all political action committee donations to her campaign “moving forward.”

She explains why: “I believe in the power of the people and our ability to take action toward a brighter future. When we are informed, involved, and working together toward a common goal, we are more powerful than any special interest group. This is why we need to get corporate money and lobbyists out of politics and elevate the voices of the people of our country.”

Gabbard, who is in her third term in Congress, acknowledges that not all PACs or lobbyists “have nefarious purposes,” and the statement from her campaign acknowledges that many are “doing important work on behalf of women, the environment, labor, veterans, civil rights, and much more.”

An image from the Run Tulsi Run website, which is not officially sanctioned by Gabbard and yet appears to be a doctored photo from the congresswoman’s official campaign website, below..

runtulsirun.org

That was on Friday. The next day, her campaign sent out another email blast repeating the PAC rejection but this time asking for donations: “Please consider contributing $5/Max to Tulsi’s campaign if you support her courageous decisions.”

A PAC-less Gabbard will almost certainly not be damaged in her presumed 2018 re-election bid to the House. The congresswoman’s most recent filing with the Federal Election Commission, just last month, shows her sitting on a $2 million pile of cash.

But, as Civil Beat reported, it also shows Gabbard spending a lot of money on video and audio production, fundraising and political consultation. It includes dropping $12,000 in two month’s time on a Dallas-based consultant who has experience helping Sanders and other candidates in Iowa in 2016.

Gabbard has benefited big time from PAC money from groups such has EMILY’s List, VoteVets.org and Lockheed Martin, to name just three, as well as employees of local engineering firm Mitsunaga & Associates. But as a percentage of overall donations, Rep. Colleen Hanabusa and the late Rep. Mark Takai received far more in PAC money.

Instead, Gabbard excels in small contributions, the bulk of them coming from the mainland.

Open Secrets reports that, over her congressional career, Gabbard has received just over $1 million from the Honolulu area but also around $900,000 from metropolitan areas that include New York, Los Angeles, Boston, Houston, Chicago, San Jose and Washington, D.C.

By comparison, most money for Takai and Hanabusa came from home.

Gabbard may have been hurt in the PAC department when she backed Sanders over Hillary Clinton. As Wikileaks documents revealed, at least two Clinton supporters told Gabbard that they would no longer raise money for her.

On the other hand, that independence might well help Gabbard, given the general disgust with the influence of money in politics.

Rep. Gabbard explains why she is rejecting PAC money:

Syria, Syria, Syria

Gabbard’s campaign did not return an inquiry Monday asking about the candidate’s political intentions. I assume, then, that she’s looking to stay in the House, unless some other opportunity appears.

The congresswoman continues her work, which recently include a well-received series of town halls around the state, denouncing the U.S. arms sale to Saudi Arabia and sponsoring a bill to permanently end warrantless collection of Americans’ emails.

Should Gabbard indeed start paying visits to Iowa and New Hampshire, national media scrutiny is sure to intensify. Her past views opposing same-sex marriage and her religious affiliation may turn off some voters. Her defense of the leader of Syria has also upset many, even as it pleased many others.

As for primary challengers for her House seat, she has so far slayed every candidate who has dared run against her.

Gabbard v. Trump in ’20 seems like a stretch to me. But then, after the 2016 election, I wouldn’t bet against anything.

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