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Why Democratic 2020 Hopefuls Are So Invested In Stacey Abrams


Many of the Democrats thinking about running for president in 2020, like Joe Biden, are currently running around the country.


JOE BIDEN: I've been into 109 races this time around, this cycle.

MARTIN: They're spending the run-up to the election traveling around, trying to gin up support for other Democrats. There's one state that all the possible contenders make sure to visit, Georgia. NPR's Scott Detrow explains why 2020 hopefuls are so invested in the Democrat running for governor there, Stacey Abrams.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: On a quiet Saturday morning, California Senator Kamala Harris is standing in a community center south of Atlanta talking to a crowd of several-dozen Democrats.

KAMALA HARRIS: Have a seat. Have a seat. We've got a lot to talk about. We've got a lot to talk about. We've got to talk about Stacey Abrams, right?

DETROW: It's a mostly black crowd, and in the middle of a race that's focused so much on questions about voter suppression, Aretha Ensley (ph) is pretty energized to see a black woman running for governor campaigning alongside a black woman who may run for president.

ARETHA ENSLEY: To see two black women? Powerful. It's powerful. I mean, it's almost like, fight back the tears because it's so incredible that I'm living through this.

DETROW: Harris calls Abrams a fighter and pivots to the stump speech she's been using all over the country this month.

HARRIS: There is a fight that we are in right now.


HARRIS: And there is so much at stake.

DETROW: This scene, a possible White House contender standing alongside Abrams, has repeated itself over and over lately. Whether it's a big rally with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren...


ELIZABETH WARREN: Stacey has stepped up, and now Stacey needs you to step up. She's doing all she can. She's - boy, she's out there.

DETROW: ...Or New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand motivating campaign volunteers.


KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND: We're going to do some phone banking after this, and I'm going to help. When you touch a voter and say why you think Sarah should be elected or why Stacey should be elected, you speak from your heart about why it matters.

JAMIE HARRISON: It doesn't surprise me at all.

DETROW: Jamie Harrison is the associate chair of the Democratic National Committee. Driving between campaign stops in Kansas, the South Carolina political operative says Abrams is one of the most compelling Democrats running this year. On top of that, he says, there is some self-interest here for the possible presidential candidates.

HARRISON: I think she has come up with a recipe for success and a model that many other Southern states can replicate and follow going forward. And I think, in that, it puts Georgia squarely in the column of a battleground state for the 2020 presidential election.

DETROW: The formula? Engaging and motivating minority voters and rebuilding party infrastructure in places it's been ignored. The state hasn't gone for a Democratic presidential candidate since Bill Clinton carried it. But Abrams says she gets the interest.

STACEY ABRAMS: As we move towards 2020, they understand the relevance of a rapidly diversifying state that is changing not only who's going to be the governor but how we run elections.

DETROW: But if these possible candidates are also hoping to leave a lasting impression with new voters, they may be disappointed. The most memorable surrogate, according to Abrams supporters Jenny Boone (ph) and Tracy Boswell (ph)?

JENNY BOONE: I noticed Will Ferrell was here yesterday.

TRACY BOSWELL: Will Ferrell. (Laughter).

DETROW: Ferrell probably won't claim that top spot much longer. Oprah is scheduled to campaign with Abrams later today, and tomorrow, former President Barack Obama will be in Georgia. Scott Detrow, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.