Kirsten Gillibrand forming exploratory committee for 2020 White House run

Image: Kirsten Gillibrand
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand attends an event in Hollywood on June 1, 2017. Copyright Jerod Harris Getty Images file
By Jane C. Timm with NBC News Politics
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The senator announced her all-but-certain entry into the Democratic presidential race on late-night television.


Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announced on Tuesday that she is forming an exploratory committee to consider a 2020 presidential bid.

The New York Democrat, 52, told late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert that she was filing the paperwork to explore a run "for president of the United States tonight!" A clip of her taped interview was released to the press ahead of "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," which airs on CBS.

"I know I have the compassion, the courage, and the fearless determination to get that done," she said.

Filing paperwork with the Federal Election Commission for an exploratory committee will allow the senator to raise and spend money like a presidential candidate, before officially entering the race. Candidates are supposed to take this step within 15 days of raising or spending more than $5,000 on a potential bid. Gillibrand has been hiring campaign staffers, renting out a campaign headquarters, and is reportedly planning a trip to Iowa this weekend, according to reports.

Gillibrand's campaign will focus on her as an advocate for families and the disadvantaged, a leader on transparency in politics, and a fierce opponent of President Donald Trump, a campaign official told NBC News on Tuesday. In particular, voters can expect to hear about the senator's efforts to reform the handling of sexual assault in the military, pass a 9/11 health bill to aid first responders, and her efforts to encourage transparency in politics. She has said she is the first member of Congress to release her official daily meetings, earmark requests and personal financial disclosures online.

The official also stressed the senator's electability and appeal to moderates. She was easily re-elected to the Senate last November, winning 18 counties that voted for Trump in 2016.

In 2006, Gillibrand ran and won a House seat in a deep-red upstate New York near where she grew up. She won re-election to the seat in 2008, but was a relatively unknown figure when she was appointed to fill Hillary Clinton's Senate seat in 2009. Since then, she's been re-elected three times and proven herself to be a prolific fundraiser. She's raised $56 million in her 13 years in politics, according to Open Secrets. According to the campaign official, she has $10.5 million in the bank following her 2018 re-election bid.

Nationally, Gillibrand has a lower profile than other potential 2020 Democrats: an early 2020 poll of likely Democratic caucus-goers in Iowa found that a majority — 55 percent — hadn't formed opinions on her, while 35 percent viewed her favorably and 10 percent viewed her negatively. Gillibrand's Senate colleague from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren, who announced her own 2020 exploratory committee on New Year's Eve, was viewed favorably by 64 percent of likely Democratic caucus-goers in the same poll.

While her announcement venue may seem unusual, Gillibrand is a late-night regular. She's appeared frequently on "The Daily Show" and first teased her 2020 interest on Colbert in November. For her time, Colbert gave Gillibrand a button that reads "I announced on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert."

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