Presidential candidates routinely claim they have experienced the hardships facing ordinary Americans. What makes Eric Swalwell — the visual and dispositional archetype of every golden-haired, strong-jawed, preternaturally confident oldest son of White suburban parents — different is that he is still experiencing those hardships, as he tells it.
You have student debt? So does this 38-year-old University of Maryland law grad, who informs voters that his family still has close to $100,000 to pay off. Apparently, congressional health care isn’t such a boondoggle after all, because the California Democrat is still on his Ritz-Carlton sales director wife’s plan. Struggling with the shuffle of raising young kids? With a son and a daughter both under age 2, Swalwell stumps with stories about getting Tamiflu for his sick newborn and searching for baby-changing stations for dads at the Capitol.
“If you are interviewing a conventiongoer in July 2020, whether they are from Iowa, New Hampshire, wherever, and ask them, ‘Man, how did he get on the stage as a nominee?’ I hope they would say, ‘He gets me. He’s connected to who I am,’” Swalwell says.
This is the pitch Swalwell is relying on as he considers a long-shot bid for the White House, which he is expected to announce by April. (He has already begun interviewing staffers in the early primary states.) The odds are stacked against him: Despite reportedly having visited Iowa at least 14 times before January and contributing $115,000 to Iowa Democrats through his millennial-focused New Energy political action committee and other funds, he was one of a dozen contenders who polled at 1 percent or less, according to a Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa poll in December. Swalwell wasn’t even included on a University of New Hampshire poll listing 14 possible candidates in February.
“He’s done a great job on our Intelligence Committee, and he does a really good job on television,” says U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, a New Hampshire Democrat. But, Kuster adds, “I don’t know how somebody goes from little-to-zero name recognition to winning the primary. That’s a tough sled.”