(CNN)The news broke late Monday night: Levi Sanders, the son of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, announced he was running as a Democrat for Congress in New Hampshire.
Bernie Sanders' son is running for Congress. But can he win?
The 1st district, in which Sanders is running, is one of the swingiest in the country. Donald Trump won it by 2 points in 2016 and Barack Obama won by that same margin four years earlier. The seat, which takes in Manchester and much of the southeastern part of the state, has switched control in the House in five out of the last six elections; Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, a Democrat, has announced she isn't running for re-election this fall.
Does Levi Sanders have a chance? And if he wins, what does it all mean for his father's potential 2020 presidential bid? I put all those questions and more to my friend James Pindell, a political reporter for the Boston Globe. Our conversation, conducted via email and lightly edited for flow, is below.
Cillizza: How surprising -- or not -- was this candidacy? Is Levi Sanders someone who has been active in New Hampshire politics?
Pindell: On one level, it is not surprising because he has been talking about running for this spot for months. But on another level it is surprising because basically everyone in the state told him it was a dumb move (he lives at least an hour drive from the district he is running in), especially after other Bernie supporters jumped in the race. Many people this morning just cannot believe he actually jumped in.
Until this point Levi Sanders was sort of local political trivia. He was so under-the-radar that you'd tell people as a fun fact: Did you know that Bernie's son lives in New Hampshire? No? Well he does. And that was that. He has only run for office once: losing a bid to get on the city council in a city of 13,000 like eight years ago. The only time he has made the rounds of New Hampshire politics was during his father's presidential bid. During that campaign Levi was attached to his dad's hip. Since then he'll pop up at some liberal gatherings, but never in a speaking role.
Cillizza: Obviously his last name makes his candidacy big national news. But what does this race look like? And is he in the top tier?
Pindell: The reaction this morning from those in New Hampshire was a lot of head-shaking, especially in the Bernie Sanders world. I first heard that Levi was thinking about a run a few hours after Democratic incumbent Carol Shea-Porter announced she would not seek reelection.
But Levi waited. Now he is the 8th Democratic candidate. Only two people in that group have raised any real money, and, if we want to go there, both are from the Clinton side of things politically. Among the remaining six, two were already duking it out to be the Bernie candidate. One had a lot of grassroots support. A second has a lot of the Bernie infrastructure, including Bernie's top political aide in the state and Bernie's national consulting firm. And now there is an actual Sanders.
Levi is now the race's X factor. You can see how he could totally take off, with his last name -- and provided he can raise money. This could also be a total disaster, given that this Democratic primary is a hot mess and Levi is a unproven political entity.
He starts somewhere in the bottom part of the top tier of the Democratic Primary.
Cillizza: What do we know of his policies? Is he in a similar liberal vein as his dad?
Since he has never held office, never taken a vote and never campaigned in a high-profile way, we don't have a complete picture of where he stands. But from what we do know he appears to be pretty similar to his dad, especially in terms of talking about income inequality.
He is also quite into animal rights.
Cillizza: He doesn't actually live in the 1st district. Does that matter in New Hampshire?
Pindell: It isn't a huge deal. It would be if he moved from a different state. This isn't the reason that people will vote against him. The practical impact, however, is that he will be asked about it pretty much every day and he can't be annoyed by that or fumble an answer. His dad gets annoyed by process questions. Levi simply can't on this one, at least not for a while.
Cillizza: Finish this sentence: "If (when?) Bernie Sanders starts running for president in 2019, the chances of his son representing one of New Hampshire's two congressional districts are ___________." Now, explain.
There are a lot of questions going on in that question (sneaky, Chris), but it's really about two questions:
1. Will Levi appear on a ballot and win the Democratic primary in September? This is the hardest question to figure out. As I referenced above that is not going to be an easy ride. The way it is shaping up, the Democratic nominee will be the next member of Congress.
While New Hampshire's 1st District has been America's biggest swing district, this cycle the Republicans appear to just be giving up, even though it was a district Trump won in 2016. They have two candidates who are so severely underfunded that they aren't even in the game. Recently the Cook Political Report and Inside Elections correctly downgraded the race to "Leans Democrat" from "Toss Up."
2. Will Bernie run for president? He is certainly making moves suggesting that he wants to be in the position to run, but he has to understand that he won't be the phenomenon that he was in 2016 because there will be so many other candidates in the race. Not running could be a better move for him politically and his legacy. But I can imagine it would be hard to turn down another run given the advantages he has at this moment.
Add up those factors and I am at 14%.