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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee jumped into the 2020 White House race Friday — and his longshot candidacy will test a big question: whether there's a political opening for someone who puts climate change at the heart of their campaign.

Why it matters: Global warming has long been a second-tier topic in national elections, but Inslee's candidacy could change that if he somehow gains traction in the crowded Democratic field or pushes higher-profile candidates to emphasize climate topics even more.

  • "We’re the first generation to feel the sting of climate change. And we’re the last who can do something about it," Inslee said in a launch video this morning that emphasizes jobs and his decades of work on the topic.
"He is going to put climate as the clear number one issue. No major party candidate in American history has done that. The times demand that climate is the top priority because if it’s not, it’s not going to get done."
— Jared Leopold, a senior campaign adviser to Inslee

Details: Inslee hasn't announced a lot of policy specifics yet, though one noteworthy thing is that he wants to kill the Senate filibuster. According to his campaign, Inslee's "climate mission" will rest on 4 big themes:

  • Accelerate a transition to "100% clean energy" and net-zero emissions with plans targeting electricity, transportation, buildings, industry and agriculture.
  • Creating "millions of good-paying jobs over the next 10 years" via investments in modern infrastructure and much more.
  • "Fighting for environmental justice and economic inclusion," including work with low-income, indigenous and communities of color.
  • "Ending fossil fuel giveaways" and moving away from fossil fuels while "protecting workers and diversifying the local economies that depend on them today."

The state of play: The case for Inslee's climate-focused candidacy is stronger than ever in some ways.

  • That's partly thanks to a spate of recent reports — notably a major UN scientific study last fall — on the risks of global warming, and partly because of aggressive White House efforts to dismantle federal climate policies.
  • Also, other than perhaps Bernie Sanders, none of the candidates has made global warming and clean energy a focus of their careers like Inslee, who served in the House from the 1990s until running for governor in 2012.

Yes, but: Democratic strategist Adrienne Elrod said a campaign built around climate change may not create a wide enough "lane" and constituency.

  • "That’s not necessarily a reliable enough path because every Democratic candidate who is seriously running and is a top-tier contender is going to address climate change," said Elrod, who headed strategic communications for Hillary Clinton's 2016 run.
  • Several high-profile candidates have been talking about the issue on the stump amid energy on the left around the Green New Deal, which is already backed by a half-dozen candidates.
  • "The urgency of the moment and banging on that drum I think is critically important right now," Elizabeth Warren recently told the popular liberal podcast Pod Save America.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - Health

California surpasses 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

A man prepares a funeral arrangement in in Los Angeles, California, Feb. 12. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

California's death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 50,000 on Wednesday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: It's the first state to record more than 50,000 deaths from the coronavirus.

4 hours ago - Technology

Facebook bans Myanmar military

A protester holds a placard with a three-finger salute in front of a military tank parked aside the street in front of the Central Bank building during a demonstration in Yangon, Myanmar. Photo by Aung Kyaw Htet/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook said on Wednesday it would ban the rest of the Myanmar military from its platform.

The big picture: It comes some three weeks after the military overthrew the civilian government in a coup and detained leader Aung San Suu Kyi, causing massive protests to erupt throughout the country. Military leaders have been using internet blackouts to try to maintain power in light of the coup.

It's harder to fill the Cabinet

Data: Chamberlain, 2020, "United States of America Cabinet Appointments Dataset" Chart: Will Chase/Axios

It's harder now for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their Cabinet picks, an Axios data analysis of votes for and against nominees found.

Why it matters: It's not just Neera Tanden. The trend is a product of growing polarization, rougher political discourse and slimming Senate majorities, experts say. It means some of the nation's most vital federal agencies go without a leader and the legislative authority that comes with one.