WASHINGTON — Aides to Senator Kamala Harris of California say that her fund-raisers in Martha’s Vineyard and the Hamptons this summer have been all about helping Democrats in 2018. Former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s allies say his new political group is building an email list so he can communicate directly with his supporters about the future of the party and the country. And Representative Tim Ryan of Ohio says he has been traveling to Iowa and New Hampshire in part because “I like being out around the country.”
But the packed fund-raising calendars, brisk political spending and trips to early primary states suggest that in fact a shadow campaign for the party’s 2020 presidential nomination is already well underway.
In interviews, more than three dozen leading Democratic donors, fund-raisers and operatives agreed that it was the earliest start they had ever seen to the jockeying that typically precedes the official kickoff to the campaign for the party’s presidential nomination. It is a reflection of the deep antipathy toward President Trump among Democrats, and the widespread belief that the right candidate could defeat him, but also of the likelihood that the contest for the nomination could be the longest, most crowded and most expensive in history.
“They used to start coming to talk to you two years before the election. Now, it’s six months after the last presidential election,” said the Wall Street billionaire Marc Lasry, a major political donor who has met recently with several Democrats mentioned as prospective presidential candidates.
“It’s gotten ridiculous,” Mr. Lasry said. “Everybody believes they can be the person who will stack up great against Trump. I tell them all that it’s way too early, and that they need a clearer message about what they want to do, not just about opposing Trump.”