Tulsi Gabbard Enters The Race For President

Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard is the latest Democrat to throw their hat into the Presidential ring.

Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has announced her candidacy for the Democratic Presidential nomination:

Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii said Friday that she would run for president, joining what is expected to be a crowded field of Democrats seeking to challenge President Trump in 2020.

Ms. Gabbard announced her decision to CNN in an interview with the political commentator Van Jones that is scheduled to air on Saturday. “I have decided to run,” she said in a short clip posted Friday, “and will be making a formal announcement within the next week.”

Ms. Gabbard, 37, is one of the lesser known of the possible candidates. An Army National Guard veteran who deployed twice to the Middle East, she was first elected to the House in 2012, a decade after she became the youngest person elected to the Hawaii State Legislature. She was the first Hindu and the first American Samoan elected to Congress.

Since then, she has earned a reputation for her opposition to American military intervention and “regime change” efforts abroad — and for sometimes breaking from the Democratic Party line. In 2015, she voted with Republicans to increase screening of Syrian refugees. Shortly thereafter, she startled the Democratic National Committee by calling for more presidential debates than the party wanted to hold.

And just this week, she wrote an op-ed accusing fellow Democrats of “religious bigotry” for sharply questioning a judicial nominee, Brian Buescher, on his membership in the Knights of Columbus. (Though she did not name names, her targets were clear: Senator Kamala Harris of California, another likely presidential candidate, and Senator Mazie Hirono, who also represents Hawaii.)

Ms. Gabbard also endorsed Senator Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primaries — resigning as vice chairwoman of the D.N.C. to do so — when most party officials were circling the wagons around Hillary Clinton. That creates an interesting dynamic for the 2020 race because Mr. Sanders may run again.

Gabbard is an Iraq War veteran who has represented Hawaii in Congress since being 2012. Before that, she served as a member of the Honolulu City Council and the Hawaii House of Representatives. It was not until the 2016 Presidential election cycle, though, that Gabbard achieved national prominence when she resigned her position as a Vice Chair of the Democratic National Committee over objections to a primary debate that schedule she and others deemed to be too preferential to Hillary Clinton. Not long thereafter, she became one of the first Members of Congress to endorse Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders in the fight for the 2016 Democratic Presidential nomination. She has also been the source of controversy in recent years for actions such as meeting with Syrian leader Bashar Assad last year, after which she urged caution in the use of military force. She also raised concerns among some of her progressive supporters by meeting with Donald Trump during the transition period between Election Day 2016 and Inauguration Day.

Realistically speaking, it’s hard to see Gabbard as a top contender for the nomination. Partly this is because she represents Hawaii, which means that she’s not exactly well know by the average voter or even with the rank-and-file of her own party, although her role in the 2016 election has made her better known than she otherwise might be. It’s also worth noting that Gabbard would be only 39 on Inauguration Day 2021. This would make her the youngest person ever elected President. Only two Presidents, who ascended to the Presidency upon the assassination of William McKinley, and John F. Kennedy, have become President before reached the age of 45. Gabbard would also be running against the fact that, generally speaking, sitting members of the House of Representatives have not been successful in bids for the Presidency. Americans have only elected such a person President once since 1789, and that happened in 1880 when James Garfield, who also happened to be a Civil War hero, was elected President with barely a 2,000 vote advantage in the popular vote. Even leaving aside this history, it’s hard to see how Gabbard would differentiate herself from other progressive candidates who are either in the race for the White House or seriously considering a bid for the Presidency, including Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Kamala Harris. Finally, Gabbard has polled in the single digits in recent polls of the prospective Democratic field, although a good part of that may be due to the fact that she is relatively unknown. While it seems unlikely, it’s possible that she could become more of a contender as time goes on, or that she could end up being among those considered as a potential running mate for whoever does win the nomination.

FILED UNDER: 2020 Election, Middle East, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Gustopher says:

    Hopefully this raises her profile enough that someone primaries her out of office at the next opportunity.

  2. Stormy Dragon says:

    Tulsi Gabbard Enters The Race For President

    Of the US or of Syria?

  3. Teve says:

    This candidate is going absolutely nowhere.

  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Sure. Not.

  5. Kathy says:

    She may be running to achieve higher prominence nationally, or a cabinet post in the next Democratic adminsitration, or a Senate run later on, etc.

    On other news, Andrew Yang is also running for president.

  6. Ben Wolf says:

    There’s no chance a woman with her history of hostility to LGBTQ+ and flirtation with religious extremists will get far in a Democratic presidential primary. She’s after another prize.

  7. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    Based on what I’m seeing and reading in the comments, she sounds like the sort of “principled contrarian” that Pearce should be supporting. Yet, he made her the butt of a joke last week. Hmmmm…

  8. Lit3Bolt says:

    Traitor says what?

  9. JohnMcC says:

    I had heard very little other than her veteran-status and her maverick, Bernie-bro attitude in ’16. Upon poking around a bit – I decided that I endorse the attitude of most of those who got here ahead of me; she’s an interesting addition to the big tent but not a person Dem’s are going to rally around.

  10. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Rep. Tulsi Gabbard in the early 2000s touted working for her father’s anti-gay organization, which mobilized to pass a measure against same-sex marriage in Hawaii and promoted controversial conversion therapy.

    ( source )

    Yep. Prolly won’t fly in the new Dem party.

  11. Monala says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: yeah, he claims to be more liberal than most Democrats, but so far Nikki Haley is his top choice. Funny that.

  12. MarkedMan says:

    I don’t know much about Gabbard beyond a blurb at TPM about her past, so this question is somewhat theoretical: given that she has repudiated her past positions, why the hostility?

  13. Catchling says:

    given that she has repudiated her past positions, why the hostility?

    Aside from the question of whether her repudiation has been adequate versus too-little-too-late (I have no knowledge to form an opinion there), there’s a major question mark regarding the Syrian government and whether or not it has influence over her, akin to that of the Kremlin over Trump.

  14. MarkedMan says:

    @Catchling: Interesting. I found this article that gives some background. I wonder why she’s a Democrat? Is Hawaii like Chicago (Dem or go home)?

  15. Ben Wolf says:

    @MarkedMan: There’s no reason for a person of the Left to vote for a candidate who offers no critique of capitalism.

  16. Grewgills says:

    Hawai’i, is pretty much Democrat or nothing for any statewide office and most others. The legislative battles in Hawai’i are mostly development/labor dems vs environmental dems, with labor/development winning the lion’s share.
    With the rise of Trump and republicans embracing him that has increased beyond the already large democratic margins it had before. At least one female state rep was castigated by the state republican party for speaking at one of the women’s marches and has since left the republican party. The more that leave, the more strident and less relevant those that stay become.

  17. Lit3Bolt says:

    Putin’s Democrat says what?