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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Democratic hopefuls for 2020, who had been expected to wait until after midterms to begin overt campaigning, are jumping the gun and flooding into Iowa, New Hampshire and other early-voting states to begin building support.

What they're saying: Jeff Link, a top Iowa operative who has worked in Hawkeye State politics since he joined Joe Biden in 1987, said it's like a poker game: "No one wanted to jump in, but once [New Jersey Sen. Cory] Booker broke the seal (and had a good trip), it's forcing everyone else's hand."

The same phenomenon is happening in the other early states:

  • So you had Mike Bloomberg, newly registered as a Democrat, in New Hampshire this weekend, with an upcoming trip to South Carolina.
  • Candidates are pouring into South Carolina, with its first-in-the-South primary. The Palmetto State has already hosted Joe Biden, and Booker, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vermont) and Sen. Kamala Harris (California) all have visits scheduled before midterms.
  • And the WashPost reported today: "During the past six months, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has quietly built a shadow war room designed to elect Democrats across the country in the midterm elections, overtaking some of the traditional duties of Democratic Party campaign committees and further positioning herself for an all-but-certain 2020 presidential bid."

One reason that operatives in the early states had expected more reticence is that donors don’t want Democrats eyeing 2020 to distract from Nov. 6.

  • But the presidential field is likely to be so crowded and brutal that no one wants to wait. 
  • Aides to 2020 hopefuls said everyone's trying to increase name I.D. to try to move into the first or second tier.
  • And at this point, travel is the biggest proxy in the Invisible Primary. No one is hiring yet because all the talent is tied up on midterms races.
  • Andy Brack, editor and publisher of StatehouseReport.com in South Carolina, said: "While the midterms are less than a month away, they're quite aware that the 2020 presidential primary in South Carolina is just over 15 months away."

Be smart: The test-the-waters crowd has some cover, because those states all have white-hot races. But veterans of past presidential campaigns say the 2020 groundwork is much more flagrant than is traditional or was expected.

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Go deeper

Rep. Rice demands Cuomo resign after third woman accuses him of misconduct

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a February news conference in New York City. Photo: Seth Wenig/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) on Monday evening called for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to resign, after a third woman accused him of inappropriate behavior.

Driving the news: Anna Ruch told the New York Times Monday that Cuomo asked to kiss her at a New York City wedding reception in September 2019.

Scoop: Inside the GOP's plan to retake the House

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House Republicans will reclaim their majority in 2022 by offering candidates who are women, minorities or veterans, a memo obtained by Axios says.

Why it matters: The document, drafted by a super PAC blessed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, names top Democrats to target — Jared Golden of Maine, Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania and Ron Kind of Wisconsin — and the type of Republican candidates to beat them.

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Scoop: Trump talked out of early Ohio endorsement

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Donald Trump had to be talked out of making an early endorsement in Ohio's 2022 U.S. Senate race, a sign of his eagerness to reengage politically, people familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

What we're hearing: The former president discussed endorsing former state GOP chair Jane Timken last week during a meeting at Mar-a-Lago with RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, but top advisers — including Donald Trump Jr. — urged him to wait.

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