Why we like candidates who are clear about their election plans—and don’t care about formal kickoffs

CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 26: U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) attends a press conference to announce the use of a mobile ballistics lab being operated by the Bureau of Alcohol Tabaco and Firearms (ATF) in Chicago to help process ballistic evidence at crime scenes on June 26, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. The city of Chicago typically leads the nations in shooting and gun related homicides. This year the city has had about 300 people killed and more than 1700 wounded by gunfire. On June 1, a task force was formed by the Chicago police, Illinois state police and the ATF to combat the gun violence in the city. ATF has formed similar task forces on a temporary basis to fight regional spikes in gun violence. Chicago's task force is the only one in the nation formed with the idea to be permanent. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin

In an appearance on CNN on Thursday morning, Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois confirmed he’d run for a fifth term in 2020, but his exchange with news anchor John Berman is instructive for a couple of reasons:

BERMAN: Are you running for re-election?

DURBIN: I am. […] But I haven’t made a formal announcement, John. Don’t take that as a formal announcement.

BERMAN: You just announced it. You just said you’re running. That’s a formal announcement. Whether you like it or not, you just announced you’re running for re-election formally.

DURBIN: Well, let me tell you, what I’ve said is, and I’m raising money and trying to lose a few pounds, and that’s a good indicator that I’m looking forward to 2020.

Of prime importance is Durbin’s simple and direct answer to Berman’s question. He didn’t hedge by saying “I’m planning to” or “I anticipate running”—he made it plain that he is indeed seeking re-election. That’s a crucial distinction in our book: Durbin is now a confirmed “yes,” and we’ll mark him down as such. Had he fudged at all, we’d still have to regard him as considering retirement.

But then there’s the “formal announcement” charade, which Berman rightly pushed back against. So what’s Durbin on about there? In all likelihood, he’s got some kind of splashy kickoff event planned for later this year, complete with balloons, music, and cheering supporters—and, he’d very much like, some news cameras in the back of the room taking it all in. These kinds of launches are good for some favorable media coverage and Durbin, we’d guess, just wanted to remind Berman (and his audience) that his is yet to come.

At Daily Kos Elections, though, we don’t care one bit. We’re with Berman on this one: Once a candidate says they’re running, that’s all we need. If later there’s some formal, stage-managed affair at a campaign HQ or union hall or public park, that’s just pageantry. That’s not to say that that pageantry is unimportant (to the campaign in question, at least), but when you’re tracking hundreds of races across the country, as we are, then the candidate’s say-so is the only thing that matters.

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