While it may still seem like it's a ways away, the 2020 Presidential campaigning season has already kicked off when Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, announced to her supporters that she was creating an exploratory committee, which, in simpler terms, means she's running for President of the United States and against Donald Trump.
Now, since Trump is a Republican and the current President, odds are he's not going to face a tough reelection campaign in the primary season of the campaign (more on that in a future article), so we'll focus mainly on the Democrats that may run for their party's nomination. Now, as a quick heads up, I'll only be focusing on the elected or formerly elected members of the party, not celebrities. Like the Republicans, that list is for another day. Anyways, it's time to sit down and meet the candidates!
1. Bernie Sanders
Age (as of Election Day 2020): 79
Most recent elected position: Senator, Vermont (since 2007)
Bernie Sanders, the main challenger to Secretary Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic nomination, is supposedly looking into doing an encore performance in 2020. His populist, leftist message resonated with young members of the Democratic Party, taking him from a trivial member of the Senate to one of the most prominent politicians in the country.
Senator Sanders, having served in public office for an almost totally consecutive 39 years, is one of the most experienced candidates the Democrats have to field. From his time serving at the local level in the town of Burlington to his time in the House of Representatives to now in the Senate, Senator Sanders is also one of the most respected members of the body, not to mention one of the most beloved elected officials by his constituents, who constantly reelect him with overwhelming numbers.
Some issues do arise with a possible Sanders candidacy. For starters, he's still very much a party outsider, a characteristic many say cost him the nomination in 2016, while others consider it an admirable attribute. Sanders, despite popular belief, is actually not a Democrat, but an independent who caucuses, or votes, with the Democrats in the Senate.
In 2016, he switched his registration to Democrat so he could run to be their nominee for President, but after losing to Hillary Clinton, he changed it back to independent. The party establishment, which still holds some sway over nomination by the party in the form of superdelegates, is somewhat untrusting of him and his admittedly further left ideology than the party at large.
Some worry that Bernie Sanders is just too liberal and, because of that, he's not going to do well in swing states like Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, all states that helped Trump win in 2016. On top of that, in the days leading up to this article being written, reports of sexual harassment by members of the Sanders 2016 campaign, which were supposedly not addressed by senior campaign members, have somewhat tarnished the Senator's reputation. How it will affect the Senator's outlook on 2020 has yet to be seen, but maybe the man who's arguably the most popular Democrat in the country isn't the best choice.
2. Joe Biden
Age (as of Election Day 2020): 77
Most recent elected position: Vice President (2009-2017)
If Bernie Sanders isn't the most experienced Democrat out there, then Joe Biden is. Having served in the Senate for the state of Delaware from 1973 (predating Senator Sanders in that body by over 30 years) until his election as Vice President under Barack Obama in 2008, Joe Biden was often regarded as a perennial candidate, someone who runs every election cycle only to fail to gain momentum.
This seemed to be the case in 2008 when the Democratic Party's nomination seemed to be locked up for then-Senator Hillary Clinton of New York and Senator Barack Obama of Illinois. After Obama secured the nomination, he tapped the experienced Senator Biden to be his Vice President, a position he would hold for all eight years of Obama's presidency. Regarded as a favorite going into the 2016 election season for not just the Democratic Party but to win it outright, Biden made the mysterious decision to not run for the Democratic nomination, theoretically leaving the field wide open for Clinton to win it with no competition (that is, until Senator Sanders entered the scene).
While many attribute this decision to a combination of age, the need to rest, and the recent loss of his son, Beau, to cancer, no one really knows what Vice President Biden was thinking. Many still contend that had he run, he likely would've been elected President, but now we'll never know. A more moderate voice in the party, with close relationships to people on the other side of the aisle, Biden was seen as a centrist candidate who could help break down the hyper-partisanship that has been gripping Washington for some time now. However, this never came to fruition, as many argue that under President Trump the hyper-partisanship has not only remained intact but has gotten even more significant.
Vice President Biden presents the same issue that Senator Sanders did, age. At the point where the ballots will be cast nationwide, the former Vice President will be just weeks away from his 78th birthday, meaning at the point he runs for reelection, should he win, he'd be well into his 80's. To be fair, his likeliest opponent on the national stage, Donald Trump, isn't much younger, seeing as he will be 73 on Election Day 2020, but still, youth is not on his side.
On top of that, Biden, while extremely well-respected, has some documented odd tendencies when it comes to women. With that said, no explicit accusations have come out against the former Vice President, and likely won't at all if there are any, so this could very well be treated as more of a non-issue. It's likely that the former Vice President would consider a run for the White House, and odds are he'd do well if he did, but with Father Time being as inescapable as the IRS, it may be safe to say that the sun has set on Mr. Biden's chances in Washington D.C.
3. Elizabeth Warren
Age (as of Election Day 2020): 71
Most recent elected position: Senator, Massachusetts (2013)
The "young gun" of the three most prominent candidates to this point, Senator Warren, like both Vice President Biden and Senator Sanders, has a record of proud and prominent public service. Unlike Senator Sanders or Vice President Biden, though, Senator Warren has had to make her name on the political stage in a much more recent timeframe, only being a member of the Senate since 2013.
Before that, she was a consultant to the Consumer Financial Protection Board. Before that, she was Chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel, and before that, nothing. However, in that short time, she has made quite a name for herself. Often said to be similar in political leanings to Senator Sanders, Senator Warren has made herself out to be a champion of the people and an enemy of big business. She supports the breaking up of the largest banks in the country to ensure that their status of "too-big-to-fail" isn't a self-fulfilling prophecy, as well as other "socialist" positions.
Senator Warren, again, presents the issue of age. While younger than her Democratic counterparts discussed thus far, as well as the incumbent President she'd face on the national stage, Senator Warren is still an older candidate. She does, though, get a leg up, seeing as she is the first Democrat to file to run for President in 2020. If that helps her case has yet to be seen, but what doesn't was the recent debacle over her ancestry.
There is evidence that, throughout her life, Senator Warren claimed to be part-Native American, a claim many conservative pundits hounded her over, saying her supposed demeanor of inclusiveness and respect for other cultures was a farce. She decided to silence her detractors by taking an ancestry test that, at best, said there was a distant relative of hers that was Native American. Again, conservatives attacked her, often characterizing her attempts to "prove" her ancestry as nothing more than a sideshow in a lead up to a presidential campaign, if not an outright lie.
This may present an issue to Democrats, as many Native Americans who vote tend to vote Democrat and may feel put off by the Senator's seemingly-dubious claims. Whatever the case may be, she started this race off, so now it's time to sit back and watch her be the ringleader of, as of January 3, a circus of one.
4. Beto O'Rourke
Age (as of Election Day 2020): 48
Most recent elected position: Congressman, Texas 16th District (2013)
The rising star candidate of the batch, Representative O'Rourke doesn't have the political pedigree of some of the other candidates on this list. Having served in public office since only 2005, Representative O'Rourke is likely the most inexperienced candidate on this list, but his prominence on the national stage is not to be taken lightly. Despite his seemingly unknown status, Representative O'Rourke is a minor celebrity in the Democratic Party right now, following his high profile Senatorial campaign against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz in the 2018 midterm elections.
Having lost to him by fewer than three percentage points, O'Rourke nearly became the first statewide elected Democrat in decades. On top of that, his performance is believed to have a down-ballot effect, leading many more Texans to vote for Democratic candidates in other races than previous years, in a few cases actually flipping seats that had been long held by Republicans. Having raised more money than any other race in 2018, the Texas Senate race was one watched across the country, and Beto's face on the front of it took him from a small player to a presidential hopeful.
The main issue that arises here is his inexperience. Having only done a single high-profile campaign (and it being an unsuccessful venture) is not reassuring for someone hoping to run to be the leader of the free world. On the other hand, though, his youth and general inexperience may be an asset, seeing as he is generally well-respected by both the party establishment and the party outsiders.
Adding in the fact that he's relatively young, especially compared to the other candidates discussed, makes him very favorable. His ability to get blue-collar voters to support him is an invaluable asset, as well. A better idea of how he'd perform as a national candidate is still forthcoming, and we likely won't get a good look at how he'd perform nationally until he announces he's going to run and starts campaigning, but Beto O'Rourke may just be what the Democratic Party needs. He just needs to show us that he knows what he's doing.
5. Kirsten Gillibrand
Age (as of Election Day 2020): 54
Most recent elected position: Senator, New York (since 2009)
Kirsten Gillibrand is not the most prominent, or well-known, name on this list. In fact, for many of you, this may be the first time you've ever heard of her. Nevertheless, Senator Gillibrand is going to be a prominent name in the race for 2020. Similarly to Representative O'Rourke, Senator Gillibrand is not as experienced as some of her counterparts, but being a Senator from New York is a pretty big role that, as a New Yorker, I can say she has filled quite admirably.
Having won over 72% of the vote in her reelection campaign in 2012, she holds the record for the largest margin of victory of any statewide candidate in New York State history. In the Senate, she has repeatedly stood strong on her ideals, including her stance on women's rights, the rights of immigrants, student's rights and relief, and healthcare.
Taking a slightly more liberal stance in recent years, she has shifted slightly but has always been true to her beliefs while not necessarily swaying to the will of her party or special interests. A native New Yorker, she has been someone for the people of New York to trust since she joined the Senate following Senator Clinton's appointment as Secretary of State.
Again, similarly to Representative O'Rourke, Senator Gillibrand is relatively fresh-faced in the realm of national politics. However, this shouldn't disadvantage her as much as it may appear. While name recognition is low, her ideals are widespread across the country, and it's likely that, at least in the early going of the campaign season, she'll gain a lot of support across the country.
Adding in the fact that she is from New York, she'd likely do well in the New Hampshire primary, often a very good indicator of who will do well in a given presidential campaign season. She is very similar to Representative O'Rourke in many regards, and I personally see them doing well on a ticket where one is President and one is Vice President. Making those predictions, though, is too overzealous on my part, so for now, we'll look at presidential prospects.
6. Andrew Cuomo
Age (as of Election Day 2020): 62
Most recent elected position: Governor, New York (since 2011)
Like Senator Gillibrand, Governor Cuomo isn't the most prominent name here, despite his many attempts. Andrew Cuomo, the current governor of New York, is the son of the late former governor Mario Cuomo, who is often regarded as one of the most beloved governors in New York's history. The current Governor Cuomo rose to prominence in the Clinton Administration, first as a Deputy Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, then as the Secretary outright.
In 2002, Cuomo ran in a crowded New York Gubernatorial election, in which he lost the primary despite, for most of the season, is seen as the favorite to win. In 2006, he ran for attorney general, a venture where he was more successful, serving from his election until he was elected governor for the state in 2010. Extremely popular for his investigations into police surveillance perpetrated by Governor Spitzer, as well as his campaigning against corruption and crime, Cuomo won in 2010 as well as reelection in 2014.
However, in 2018, Cuomo was decidedly less popular, at least among the younger members of his Democratic Party. In the primary, he faced off against actress Cynthia Nixon, famous for her role in the television show "Sex and the City." Nixon challenged that Governor Cuomo was not a champion of anti-corruption, stating that rather than pursuing corrupt officials close to him, Cuomo had shut down corruption investigations. In fact, many of her charges were true, while many were sensationalized.
Nixon also stated that the governor was a "false liberal" following what he thought would garner him greater national prominence and popularity, like the legalization of gay marriage, tighter gun control, and the legalization of marijuana, a topic he flipped on during his campaign against Ms. Nixon, all of which the governor denied. In the end, Governor Cuomo beat Ms. Nixon in the primary and went on to be reelected by the people of New York as Governor.
Governor Cuomo does, however, raise some eyebrows when it comes to his electability. First off, he did, in fact, shut down corruption investigations, many of which were targeting close friends and allies of his, several of which were later arrested in connection to corruption.
On top of that, he has garnered the reputation of a bully in Albany, New York state's capital, pressuring members of the Democratic Party to vote with him, even when they ideologically deviate from where he stands. This has led to several high profile encounters and issues for the Democratic majorities in both houses of the state legislature.
Add onto that his apparent feud with the Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, and public safety issues that arose the construction of the Mario Cuomo Tappan Zee Bridge, a centerpiece of the governor's efforts to revitalize New York's roadway infrastructure, and you can see some budding issues that could be hounded in a presidential race. Cuomo is a high profile Democrat who would likely gain traction, but, as a high-risk candidate, it's likely that he carries just too much baggage to contend nationally.
7. Sherrod Brown
Age (as of Election Day 2020): 67
Most recent elected position: Senator, Ohio (since 2007)
Another unfamiliar name on this list, I know, but Sherrod Brown is likely to be a name you hear quite a bit in the coming months. Senator Brown has served in public office in the state of Ohio, a state President Trump carried in 2016, since 1975, when he was elected to the House of Representatives. He served in the House for over 20 years, with a brief interruption to serve as Secretary of State of Ohio in the middle, and has now served the state in the Senate for over a decade.
Seen as a center-left liberal who has stood firm on social issues such as gay rights well before they were popular stances, Senator Brown is often regarded as a sleeper candidate in regards to the 2020 presidential primary season. Many have made comparisons to him and John Kasich, the former governor of Ohio, the very same state.
Governor Kasich, who we'll discuss in greater detail another day, ran a centrist campaign for the Republican nomination in 2016, ultimately losing out to the eventual winner Donald Trump. Most notably, Kasich was the last Republican candidate other than Trump himself, outlasting every other candidate that had declared their candidacy at some point. Also interesting to point out, Governor Kasich won a single county in the New York state primary, whereas Donald Trump won every other county.
Many say that, ideologically, Senator Brown and Governor Kasich are quite similar and, like Vice President Biden, Senator Brown could run a less partisan or even unitary campaign, one in which the candidates for President and Vice President, despite running together, are from different parties.
Senator Brown brings many interesting things to the table for the Democratic Party. For starters, he's a popular Democrat in a state that many regard as the centerpiece of Trump's winning campaign in 2016 and very well may be a key part of his victory should he be reelected in 2020. Taking Ohio off the board, as well as similarly industrial states like Pennsylvania, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan may be an opportunity too good to pass up.
On top of that, his centrist stance on many issues is likely to attract many independents, among whom, according to Gallup Polls, President Trump holds an approval rating of 38%. However, the lack of name recognition could derail a Brown candidacy before it even begins. Early debate performance and his ability to win votes in early primary season contests like Iowa and New Hampshire could make or break his presidential candidacy. All of that is dependent on whether or not he runs, which he has been decidedly mum about.
While all signs point to his candidacy, he may still pull a surprise out, much like Vice President Biden did in 2016. There are a lot of unclear variables with Senator Brown, and there's no easy way to clear things up before they get started, so at this point, it's better to just sit back and watch the show.
Other prominents Democrats who are seen as possibilities to run include Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Cory Booker, Chuck Schumer, Chris Murphy, and even Hillary Clinton, the party's 2016 nominee. Who will officially run and who won't has yet to be seen, but with the campaign season already started, let's get ready to watch what may very well be the "Infinity War" of presidential campaigns.