U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) this morning ended his exploration of a 2020 presidential bid, saying he wanted to instead concentrate on seeking reelection to his Senate seat and fixing Congress.
"Today, I am announcing that I am not running for president," Merkley said in a video announcement. "I believe that there are Democrats now in the presidential race who are speaking to the importance of tackling the big challenges we face. But what I'm also sure of is that right now, the Senate is not prepared to be a full partner in this fight."
Merkley, 62, has for months been openly mulling an entry into a crowed Democratic field seeking to challenge President Donald J. Trump. No Oregonian has run for president since U.S. Sen. Wayne Morse (D-Oregon) in 1960.
Merkley, Oregon's junior senator, made a national splash last summer by drawing attention to Trump's family separation policy by showing up uninvited to a detainment center near the U.S. border with Mexico. His political theater—and anti-Trump fusilade on Twitter—led to widespread loathing of the White House policy, and increased chatter that Merkley would run for president.
Merkley was seen as one of the candidates who could carry the leftist economic populism that buoyed U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) in 2016. But Sanders last month announced his own bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination, narrowing Merkley's already slim chances.
As WW first reported, Merkley also faced an obstacle other Democratic presidential hopefuls did not: He was barred by Oregon law from running for his Senate seat and the presidency on the same ballot. Merkley quietly explored getting the Oregon Legislature to change that law, but found lawmakers weren't receptive.
Today, Merkley picked re-election.
"My best contribution is to run for reelection," he said, "and do all I can to help the Senate be a full partner in addressing the challenges before us."