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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.

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Go deeper

Home confinees face imminent return to prison

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Thousands of prisoners who've been in home confinement for as long as a year because of the pandemic face returning to prison when it's over — unless President Biden rescinds a last-minute Trump Justice Department memo.

Why it matters: Most prisoners were told they would not have to come back as they were released early with ankle bracelets. Now, their lives are on hold while they wait to see whether or when they may be forced back behind bars. Advocates say about 4,500 people are affected.

The "essential" committee that still doesn't exist

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

Nearly five months after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the creation of the bipartisan Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth, it's not been formed much less met.

Why it matters: Select committees are designed to address urgent matters, but the 117th Congress is now nearly one-quarter complete without this panel assembling. When she announced this committee, Pelosi described it as an "essential force" to "combat the crisis of income and wealth disparity in America."

Biden's ethics end-around for labor

President Biden surveys a water treatment plant during a visit to New Orleans today. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration is excusing top officials from ethics rules that would otherwise restrict their work with large labor unions that previously employed them, federal records show.

Why it matters: Labor's sizable personnel presence in the administration is driving policy, and the president's appointment of top union officials to senior posts gives those unions powerful voices in the federal bureaucracy — even at the cost of strictly adhering to his own stringent ethics standards.