A Quick Rundown Of Every 2020 Candidate So Far

05.03.19

As of March 5th, 2019, the United States has almost 30 candidates running for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 presidential election (plus Howard Schultz, but more on that later). It is the biggest pool of candidates in American history, and only time will tell if the sheer enthusiasm and urgency that brought so many people to run will ultimately become a disadvantage in the quest to defeat Donald Trump.

To get you up to speed, here’s a quick rundown of all the first-tier candidates who’ve announced their bids so far, including their strengths and possible challenges. First-tier candidates are those who will really compete for the nomination and be in with a grin, the next tier down are those who are less likely to be front-runners but are running as a means to bring attention to a single issue or a single person (usually themselves). Someone like Washington State governor Jay Inslee falls into this category; he is running on the single issue of climate change, although as he argues, “The beauty of it is, climate change is not a single issue – it is all-encompassing.” And with growing concerns among voters about global warming and the rise in popularity for a Green New Deal, Inslee might be right.


Elizabeth Warren:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren was first out of the gate, announcing her candidacy on December 31st last year with corruption as the central theme of her campaign. Arguably one of the front-runners, Warren has been an outspoken critic of the corruption and greed in both Washington and the big banks and pharmaceutical companies. She is sick of unregulated Capitalism where the economy is rigged in favour of the wealthy and the well-connected; instead she wants to use the power of the government to clean up the system by implementing policies like a new annual tax on the 75,000 wealthiest families in the United States. A proposal which would raise $2.75 trillion in tax revenue over a decade. The risk of her campaign is that she is putting all her eggs in the basket of corruption and simply hoping that she is right in her assessment that voters are feeling alienated from the economy.

Kamala Harris:

To my mind, Californian Senator Kamala Harris has had the slickest campaign-rollout. Her slogan, “Kamala Harris For The People”, celebrity-endorsements, use of social media and overall messaging has been close to perfect, but she’s not a perfect candidate: Harris was the district attorney of San Francisco and the attorney general of California, and during that time her record on criminal justice has drawn criticism. In particular her approach to sex work, police reform, prisoners’ rights and truancy have raised concerns among progressive voters (this opinion piece published in the NYT in January didn’t paint her in the best light). But she’s campaigning as a liberal and has endorsed big liberal goals like debt-free college and healthcare as a fundamental right; the difference between her and a candidate like Bernie or Warren is that she’s more cautious in how she talks about enacting these changes, for example she has proposed a tax cut to working and middle-class Americans but hasn’t proposed taxing the wealthiest Americans like Warren has.

Cory Booker:

If Kamala Harris positions herself to the left of the political centre, then Cory Booker is a few notches closer to that middle. What distinguishes Cory from other candidates is his energy, and it’s something that is a smidge annoying to some people (like me). The 49 year old gained national prominence in the fight over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh where he gave an impassioned performance, he’s the kind of guy who might quote six different philosophers in a single interview, he’s the kind of guy who says “shoot for the stars, even if you miss you’ll land among the clouds!”. But my critiques aside, Booker has projected a relentless optimism that provides perhaps the starkest contrast to the divisive politics ushered in by Trump. Plus he’s incredibly qualified: before he was the senator for New Jersey he was the mayor of Newark where he once used his large Twitter presence to convince Mark Zuckerberg to donate $100 million to Newark schools. Not bad.

Pete Buttgieg:

At only 37 year’s old, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttgieg is the field’s youngest candidate, the first openly-gay man to seek office, and an Afghan War vet. There are a lot of reasons I love this guy, but mainly it’s because you can tell from his interviews that he has really thought about why he is running, why now, and why him. He explains that because he is a millennial he feels a different sense of urgency to solve America’s problems: it is his generation that have grown up with school shootings, his generation that will have to pay the bill for Trump’s tax cut on the wealthy, and it is his generation that will live with the ticking time bomb of climate change. For the past several years, Democratic leaders including former President Obama have called Buttgieg an example of the future of the Democratic Party, and while I’m not sure he will be able to rise to the top of such a crowded field this time around, I’m willing to bet we will see him again in another presidential race in our lifetime.

Amy Klobuchar: 

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar entered the race in February with moderate politics and Midwestern roots which makes her an appealing candidate to both Democratic voters but also Centrists and moderate Republicans who can look to her bipartisan history. However, late last month the New York Times published a shocking investigation into Klobuchar’s alleged mistreatment of her employees, which included her berating staff and throwing objects at them. It’s a pretty damning read and Klobuchar has since admitted to CNN that she often “pushed people too hard. I have very high expectations.”

Bernie Sanders:

Bernie Sanders was the first candidate to call for transformational change back in 2015 during his first presidential run; a man who believes that healthcare is a right – not a privilege – and that voters should have Medicare For All through a single-payer system, a man who believes that the economy should work for the many and not just the few. This kind of messaging no longer sets him apart from other Democratic candidates who are campaigning on a similar message, and now his age (77) is even more of a disadvantage when you consider that most people want a two-term incumbent. Bernie’s campaign this time around is still all about class. He believes in favouring the 99% over the 1% – that the wealthiest country in the world should not have such grotesque levels of inequality. And it seems voters are feeling the Bern, with his campaign raising nearly $6 million in its first 24 hours.

Kirsten Gillibrand: 

When Hillary Clinton became the Secretary of State under President Obama back in 2009, it was Kirsten Gillibrand who took over her role as Senator of New York. Since then, Gillibrand has been a strong advocate for American families and has vowed to fight for American children the same way she would fight for her own young boys. In particular she is advocating for a national paid family leave policy and is proudly pro-choice. What distinguishes her from the other first-tier candidates is how boldly she is running her campaign on women’s rights; she has been outspoken about the #MeToo movement and back in her attorney days Gillibrand defended abused and marginalized women, chaired the DNC’s Women’s Leadership Forum and sought to mentor and elevate other women in her field.

Dishonourable Mention:

Ex-Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz should be on this list. Not because he’s going to be a front-runner but because if he’s going to run at all, he should be running as a Democrat, not an Independent. An Independent candidate in 2020 will seriously jeopardise the chances of anyone defeating Trump. If you want to to understand why, read this article I wrote in January.


Header image via Google