Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The rising Democratic enthusiasm for big government liberalism is forcing a trio of leading 2020 contenders to rethink jumping in, several sources tell Axios.

What's happening: Michael Bloomberg and former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, each of whom were virtual locks to run, are having serious second thoughts after watching Democrats embrace "Medicare for All," big tax increases and the Green New Deal. Joe Biden, who still wants to run, is being advised to delay any plans to see how this lurch to the left plays out. If Biden runs, look for Bloomberg and McAuliffe to bow out, the sources tell us. 

  • The Democratic attacks on Howard Schultz, after he said he was considering an independent bid, reflect the current party's limited appetite for moderation.
    • In "Schultz Derangement Syndrome," conservative N.Y. Times columnist Bret Stephens wrote: "[T]he neuralgic reaction to his bid says something about the ideological drift of the Democratic Party."

Iowa polling by a prominent 2020 hopeful found that the Democratic electorate has moved sharply left.

  • For instance, the polling found that "socialism" had a net positive rating, while "capitalism" had a net negative rating.

Bloomberg is going ahead with expensive preparations for a campaign: He directed his staff to prepare a launch plan for him, after he received an encouraging response from a business audience in Northern Virginia 10 days ago.

  • Kevin Sheekey, his close adviser, was spotted in Washington yesterday on a recruitment mission for campaign talent.
  • If Bloomberg ran, he would argue that no candidate in the race has done more to save the environment and support gun control.

Be smart: The decision on whether to enter the crowded 2020 field is becoming a math problem. Just one moderate candidate could have an advantage, with a bunch of progressives splitting the liberal vote. But multiple moderates could be splitting too small a slice.

Subscribe to Axios AM/PM for a daily rundown of what's new and why it matters, directly from Mike Allen.
Please enter a valid email.
Please enter a valid email.
Server error. Please try a different email.
Subscribed! Look for Axios AM and PM in your inbox tomorrow or read the latest Axios AM now.

Go deeper

Pundits react to a chaotic debate: “What a dark event we just witnessed”

The first presidential debate between President Trump and Joe Biden in Cleveland on Tuesday night was a shouting match, punctuated by interruptions and hallmarked by name-calling.

Why it matters: If Trump aimed to make the debate as chaotic as possible with a torrent of disruptions, he succeeded. Pundits struggled to make sense of what they saw, and it's tough to imagine that the American people were able to either.

Trump to far-right Proud Boys: "Stand back and stand by"

Asked to condemn white supremacist violence at the first presidential debate on Tuesday, President Trump said the far-right Proud Boys group should "stand back and stand by," before immediately arguing that violence in the U.S. "is not a right-wing problem. This is a left-wing problem."

Why it matters: Trump has repeatedly been accused of failing to condemn white nationalism and right-wing violence, despite the FBI's assessment that it's the most significant domestic terrorism threat that the country faces. The president has frequently associated antifa and the left-wing violence that has afflicted some U.S. cities with Biden, despite his condemnation of violent protests.

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

The first Trump v. Biden presidential debate was a hot mess

Photos: Jim Watson and Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

This debate was like the country: Everybody’s talking. Nobody’s listening. Nothing is learned. It’s a mess.

  • We were told President Trump would be savage. Turned out, that was a gross understatement. Even the moderator, Fox News' Chris Wallace, got bulldozed.

Why it matters: Honestly, who the hell knows?