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Meet the potential 'Baskin-Robbins' Dem field for 2020

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

WASHINGTON — The 2020 Democratic presidential race really hasn’t begun — there’s just one notable announced candidate, and there are two who decided against bids last week (Michael Avenatti, Deval Patrick) — but it’s pretty clear that it will be the most wide-open Democratic presidential field since 1992.

And Democratic voters will have an array of flavors to choose from; call it the Baskin-Robbins field. (Will there be 31 flavors? Fewer? More?)

The question we have — some 400 days before Iowa and New Hampshire — is what flavor will Democratic voters ultimately want to buy when facing President Donald Trump in 2020?

There are the progressives (Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren) and the experienced hand (Joe Biden).

There are the Obama 2.0s — relatively young African-Americans with fascinating backgrounds — like Sens. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Kamala Harris, D-Calif., as well as a Latino in former San Antonio Mayor and HUD Secretary Julian Castro.

There are multiple women (Harris, Warren, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.) and multiple billionaires (former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer).

There are current and former governors (John Hickenlooper of Colorado, Steve Bullock of Montana, Terry McAuliffe of Virginia and Jay Inslee of Washington), as well as residents of the politically important Midwest (Klobuchar, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio).

There are the current and former mayors (Los Angeles’ Eric Garcetti, New Orleans’ Mitch Landrieu and South Bend’s Pete Buttigieg).

And there could be a young congressman offering an updated “Hope and Change” message in 2020 — Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, who lost his Senate race to Ted Cruz last November — as well as Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif.

Oh, and there’s the one candidate who’s ALREADY been running for president since July 2017: Rep. John Delaney, D-Md.

So what’s it going to be? A progressive? Experience? A minority? A woman? A governor? A billionaire? A mayor? A congressman? Someone who’s young? LGBT? A politician from the Midwest? Someone with cultural currency, as Peter Hamby recently wrote?

Don’t be surprised if the Democrat who ultimately wins the nomination is able to stitch together two or three of these constituencies, and is able to overperform with African-American voters.

Also worth asking: Could the winning Dem look a lot like Hillary — progressive policy positions (though not as progressive as Bernie’s), outreach and appeal with the African-American and Latino communities, establishment support – but *without* Clinton as a last name?

A Beto candidacy is starting to look very real

By the way, consider what we’ve learned about Beto O’Rourke in the past week:

  • He’s speaking with Mindy Myers, who was Elizabeth Warren’s campaign manager in 2012 and who ran the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee this past cycle.
  • And he met with Al Sharpton and had a call with Andrew Gillum, as NBC’s Garrett Haake and Mike Memoli write. “One source, granted anonymity to describe a private conversation, said [O’Rourke and Gillum] discussed their mutual preference that someone ‘young and unapologetically progressive’ lead the Democratic Party going forward.

So yeah, Beto is starting to look very real for 2020. And maybe more than that, whether he runs or not appears to have frozen the Dem field. Think about that: His decision might be the biggest shoe to drop in the 2020 Democratic race.

Trump meets with Pelosi and Schumer

At 11:30 a.m. ET, Trump meets at the White House with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, speaker-designate.

The subjects to discuss: the border wall and avoiding a government shutdown. “Democratic leaders plan to offer President Trump $1.3 billion in funding for a border fence when they meet Tuesday at the White House, a bid that falls far short of the $5 billion Trump is demanding to fund a border wall,” the Washington Post writes. “Democrats, Republicans and the White House have until Dec. 21 to reach a budget deal if they are to avert a partial government shutdown, but talks are deadlocked over funding for the wall.”

Pelosi and Schumer released this statement on Monday night, per NBC’s Alex Moe: “Republicans still control the House, the Senate, and the White House, and they have the power to keep government open. Our country cannot afford a Trump Shutdown, especially at this time of economic uncertainty. This holiday season, the president knows full well that his wall proposal does not have the votes to pass the House and Senate, and should not be an obstacle to a bipartisan agreement.”

But Trump is still demanding his border wall. "Ice, Border Patrol and our Military have done a FANTASTIC job of securing our Southern Border. A Great Wall would be, however, a far easier & less expensive solution. We have already built large new sections & fully renovated others, making them like new," he tweeted this morning.

Russian accused of spying reaches plea deal

The New York Times: “Maria Butina, the Russian woman accused of running a secret campaign to influence powerful American conservatives, has agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to act as a foreign agent, bringing to a close a case that had drawn headlines with prosecutors talking of a sly seductress who traded sex to further the aims of her spymasters in Moscow.”

And note Butina’s connection with the NRA: “The investigation that ensnared Ms. Butina has focused on a Russian government official, Aleksandr P. Torshin, who worked closely with Ms. Butina for years. Mr. Torshin, a former senator close to Christian conservatives in Russia, has been attending N.R.A. conventions in the United States since 2011 ... In the deal, prosecutors said Ms. Butina used her position as a gun-rights activist in Russia and worked with Mr. Torshin and Mr. Erickson — identified in court papers as ‘Russian Official’ and ‘U.S. Person 1’ — to infiltrate the Republican Party and the N.R.A. Her goal was to promote Russian-friendly policies on behalf of the Kremlin by establishing ‘unofficial lines of communication with Americans having power and influence over U.S. politics,’ the prosecutors wrote.”

Hatch on campaign finance allegation against Trump: 'I don’t care'

Talk about hear no evil, see no evil:

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, “told CNN’s Manu Raju that he didn’t have any concerns about allegations that Trump directed his former lawyer Michael Cohen to pay hush money to two women with whom Trump allegedly had affairs,” the Desert News says. “‘No, because I don’t think he was involved in crimes but even then, you know, you can make anything a crime under the current laws; if you want to you can blow it way out of proportion you can do a lot of things,’ Hatch said, according to a Raju tweet.”

“Hatch said the Democrats would do anything to hurt the president. When told the federal prosecutors for the Southern District of New York were making the allegations, Hatch said, ‘OK but I don’t care; all I can say is he’s doing a good job as president.’”

Back in 1999, Hatch voted that Bill Clinton was guilty of perjury and obstruction of justice in the Monica Lewinsky affair.