Washington experts say Gabbard needs to drown out controversial past to have a chance in 2020

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Where does Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) fit in the 2020 field? As the list of Democrats continues to grow, Hawaii’s congresswoman finds herself running alongside other lawmakers, CEO’s, governors, mayors, and more. Gabbard is considered a long shot, and experts say it’s a long uphill battle to the nomination.

“I would really hate to say that she looks like an ‘also ran’ at this time,” said Todd Belt, a political campaign expert at George Washington University.

Belt isn’t writing off the 37 year old, whose platform includes interventions to change a regime, Medicare for all, affordable housing, and other progressive ideas.

“Anybody could catch fire,” said Belt.

Belt says Gabbard can move into frontrunner consideration if she stands out in debates, bolsters her social media presence, and drowns out a controversial past.

That past includes opposition to gay marriage years ago, for which she has apologized, and her muddied stance on Syrian Dictator Bashar al-Assad, who some government officials consider to be a war criminal.

“We’re in an age today where everything you’ve ever done sort of follows you around and gets picked up by opposition research,” said Belt.

The Republican Party is chomping at the bit.

“There’s no doubt that we’d love to see Tulsi Gabbard as the nominee,” said Kayleigh McEnany from the Republican National Committee.

McEnany says Gabbard’s liberal priorities will not fare well against the likely GOP candidate President Donald Trump.

“Perhaps she’ll do well in a Democratic field where you do have a lot of radical far leftists that make up the Democratic base,” said McEnany.

Gabbard’s team has not responded to multiple interview requests. But the congresswoman says in a statement, “My message is a simple one—we need to take the resources that we've been spending for decades on regime-change wars and the money that we're now starting to spend on a new cold war and nuclear arms race, and redirect those resources and invest them in our communities here at home. I'm confident that the American people will feel the same way.

"My record in Congress reflects my heart. For over six years in Congress, I have fought for LGBT equality and have a 100% legislative rating from the top LGBT advocacy organization in the country—the Human Rights Campaign. To further our national security interests and the cause of peace, we need to be ready to meet with adversaries and those we disagree with—the only alternative is war and more war."

Experts say Gabbard could be one of more than two dozen candidates running on the Democratic side.