Why are eight 2020 Democrats gathered at the same DC summit?

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Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) speaks during the “We the People” summit featuring 2020 presidential candidates. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Eight Democratic presidential candidates attended a Washington D.C. summit on Monday to push their 2020 agenda to potential supporters.

The We the People Membership Summit, supported by some of the largest and most influential groups in Democratic politics, gave 2020 hopefuls a chance to pitch themselves to progressive activists and groups that have large pull with left-leaning coalitions.

Sponsors of the summit have quite a bit of sway within Democratic politics. Together they contributed roughly $65 million to Democratic candidates and liberal groups in the 2018 election cycle.

The summit’s sponsors include “dark money” nonprofits such as Planned Parenthood Action and League of Conservation Voters (LCV) as well as influential unions including Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Communication Workers of America (CWA).

Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand, along with former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and former Obama administration Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, were slated to speak at the summit.

Nearly every 2020 hopeful has benefitted from the coalition of liberal groups hosting the summit. Klobuchar, who walked onto the stage with a “Planned Parenthood pink” jacket, was a top recipient of Planned Parenthood affiliates in 2018, receiving $17,700. Gillibrand took $17,438.

LCV shelled out than $1 million in independent expenditures supporting Warren’s 2012 Senate bid against incumbent Scott Brown. MoveOn and several unions make up Sanders’ list of top contributors.

These groups don’t typically put large resources toward supporting support safe incumbent senators, opting instead to spend big in contested elections. But in a presidential race, getting the support of these groups is a top priority.

Liberal groups were quick to back Hillary Clinton in 2016. LCV endorsed Clinton in November 2015 and she secured SEIU’s endorsement a few days later after already locking down support from major unions such as AFT and AFSCME.

Still, Clinton didn’t get all of the labor endorsements. CWA endorsed Sanders along with several local unions, upsetting Clinton’s hopes of cornering the working class coalition.

Things appear to be different this time around. Instead of favoring one candidate, major liberal groups are spending millions to mobilize voters in potential swing states, signaling that they aren’t as concerned with who faces Donald Trump as they are about beating him.

“Our No. 1 goal is to elect a President who reflects our values and that means beating Donald Trump in 2020,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a March release. “But to win our endorsement, candidates will have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.”

Major liberal groups so far have not made any endorsements and it doesn’t appear they will make a decision on their preferred candidate any time soon. But that’s not stopping Democratic candidates from trying. A series of endorsements from influential liberal groups could be the difference in a primary filled to the brim with candidates.

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