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We are about to cross into a new zone in presidential politicking, moving from “it’s too early” to “it all matters” in the Democratic nomination fight. This threshold has a name: September.
The PBS NewsHour looked at the past six presidential races and found some patterns in the Septembers before an election year.
Major candidates fall.
The ninth month regularly brings some shakeups in the pack. Often a candidate at or near the top of polls watches their numbers go south. Some, like Hillary Clinton in 2016 or Mitt Romney in 2012, survive. Others, like Scott Walker in 2016 or Elizabeth Dole in 1999, end their campaigns quickly.
A surprising candidate rises — sometimes briefly.
In the fall before a presidential election year, party voters seem to have a taste for the new and unexpected. This is especially true for Republicans. In their primaries, we repeatedly see a sudden surge by an upstart. These usually do not last, but are impossible to ignore.
This September has its own factors.
Add to the historic data, some unique specifics for 2019.
The next debate. The third debate, scheduled for the second week in September, may be the first single-stage debate for Democrats. Ten candidates have qualified for the debate in Houston. The deadline for any others to make it is tomorrow, Aug. 28. If this number holds, it will be the first time that voters see all of the Democratic frontrunners on the same stage at the same time.
Congress. Congress could get quite hot this month, with House Democrats planning concentrated action on guns as well as their investigation of the president, which includes discussion of whether to pass Articles of Impeachment. Add to that, most federal spending is set to run out Sept. 30, allowing for another possible government shutdown. With nearly half of the Democratic field in Congress, this could be an opportunity to shine or sink for any of them.
Lisa Desjardins is a correspondent for PBS NewsHour, where she covers news from the U.S. Capitol while also traveling across the country to report on how decisions in Washington affect people where they live and work.
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