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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

6 hours ago - Health

FDA advisory panel recommends Pfizer boosters for those 65 and older

A healthcare worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Key Biscayne Community Center on Aug. 24, 2021. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A key Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Friday overwhelmingly voted against recommending Pfizer vaccine booster shots for younger Americans, but unanimously recommended approving the third shots for individuals 65 and older, as well as those at high-risk of severe COVID-19.

Why it matters: While the votes are non-binding, and the FDA must still make a final decision, Friday's move pours cold water on the Biden administration's plan to begin administering boosters to most individuals who received the Pfizer vaccine later this month.

6 hours ago - World

France recalls ambassadors from U.S. and Australia over submarine deal

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L), French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (C), and French ambassador to the U.S. Philippe Etienne. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

France has taken the extraordinary step of recalling its ambassadors to the U.S. and Australia after both countries blindsided their French allies with a new military pact and submarine contract, the French Foreign Ministry announced on Friday.

The backstory: While sealing an agreement with the U.S. and U.K. to acquire nuclear submarines, Australia ripped up an existing $90 billion submarine deal with France. That led senior French officials to accuse the U.S. of a "stab in the back."

Updated 6 hours ago - World

In reversal, Pentagon now says drone strike killed 10 Afghan civilians

Caskets for the dead are carried towards the gravesite as relatives and friends attend a mass funeral for members of a family that is said to have been killed in a U.S. drone airstrike, in Kabul on Aug. 30. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A U.S. drone strike launched on Aug. 29 killed 10 civilians in Afghanistan, including seven children, rather than the Islamic State extremists the Biden administration claimed it targeted, the Pentagon said Friday.

Why it matters: U.S. Central Command said at the time that officials "know" the drone strike "disrupted an imminent ISIS-K threat" to Kabul's airport, and that they were "confident we successfully hit the target."

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