The first democratic primaries are in less than a year.
There are 14 announced democratic candidates vying to challenge President Donald Trump in 2020.
Name recognition, campaign donations and early primary victories are key steps toward securing the party’s nomination.
While most candidates agree on a wide range of issues, landing endorsements, performing well in debates and camera time might separate one candidate from the pack.
Bernie and Biden are the frontrunners, for once
The Bernie Bros. are back.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I – Vermont) has performed well in early polls for the Democratic nomination, which makes sense. He has the most name recognition among announced candidates, being the only one who’s really ran for president before.
But he’s old. Sanders, 77, would be the oldest president ever elected. He’d be serving into his early ’80s. Being the hip candidate was easy when the only competition was Clinton and the Twitter guy.
Additionally, his lead might not extend past the early primaries. His stature right now is only reflective of people knowing who he is. Poor performances in any of the early states, or a debate, opens the door for the many capable candidates he’s leading.
In 2016's primary, Sanders barely lost in Iowa, won in New Hampshire and lost in Nevada. He struggled mightily in the South. His campaign narrative was the cards were stacked against him by the Democratic Party. Well, 2020 will be a lot harder. He won big in Colorado in 2016. But Colorado’s Gov. John Hickenlooper is in the race. He has more competition in New Hampshire with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D – Mass.) and Iowa and Minnesota with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D – Minn.). There’s a very real possibility he isn’t in the race after the first few races.
Then, there is former Vice President Joe Biden, who would also be the oldest president elected. It’s unclear if he’ll run or back out, but the field is getting more crowded and if he doesn’t join in soon, he might lose his footing at the top. If he did run, he would join Sanders as the only two candidates who have made a serious run at the presidency.
He hasn’t announced a presidential run but in nearly every recent poll, he leads all other Democrats. But, that might be a bad thing.
Since 1972, the candidate leading between January and June of the primary year has won the party’s nomination only twice.
The majority of the time, the winning candidate has averaged at least 5 percent in the early polling period and is in the upper-middle rankings of the pack.
In a Real Clear Politics average of recent polls, that would be a good sign for Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Beto O’Rourke and Sen. Corey Booker (D-N.J.) − who trail Biden and Sanders, but average more than 5 percent.
On two occasions (Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter) were polling at less than 2 percent − good news for everyone else.
Everybody’s worried about Howard Schultz
When Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz said he was considering an independent run for president, Democrats were not pleased. “He’ll help Trump win,” was echoed in op-eds across the country. But the coffee giant might hurt Trump more than help him.
Schultz’s policies align more with liberals than conservatives, but that’s not all that matters. Who democrats nominate will decide the impact Schultz has. If the party picks someone who can contrast with Schultz, but isn’t too liberal, his impact on Democrats might be positive.
Let’s say Democrats nominate someone like Sen. Corey Booker (D – N.J.). The ballot would have Trump, Schultz and Booker — two old white businessmen and a young black senator. It’s hard to believe liberals will pick Schultz over Booker, who’s a fairly moderate Democrat. What is likely, is those moderates who voted for Trump out of party loyalty/disinterest in Hillary Clinton, could vote for Schultz because he’s a less polarizing option, and he’s not a Democrat.
But candidates like Sanders, Warren or Biden either contrast too strongly or not enough with Schultz.
One last thought Democrats really hate the president. The same way Republicans elected Trump out of disdain for Clinton, Democrats will likely vote for who has the best odds to beat him.
These people could make it through
Harris, a former district attorney, has shown her debate skills in Senate hearings with presidential appointees. She adds to the list of great speakers in the Democratic crowd.
She has a few weak spots, though. Her tough-on-crime stance as DA in the past is now seen by many as too-tough-on-crime. She got in some trouble while saying she tried marijuana in college, while being strict on the drug as DA. She’s historically opposed its legalization, but now says she’s in favor of legal weed.
As a graduate from Howard, a historically black university, she might have an edge with African American voters.
Booker, former mayor of Newark, New Jersey, has built a career on criminal justice reform.
He’s been one of the faces and voices of the party over the last half decade. One of his breakout moments was a speech at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.
His policies place him as a progressive, but fairly moderate liberal. But, early connections with Wall Street banks have made some liberals uneasy, though he’s distanced himself somewhat from those ties in recent years.
As far as candidates polling at more than one percent, he’s toward the bottom, but high up enough to stay in the game. His fundraising hasn’t been as successful as others’.
He wants to decriminalize marijuana federally, among other policies.
After months of hinting, Beto announced he’s running for president earlier this month. O’Rourke, a former congressman from El Paso, Texas, built a grassroots senate campaign in 2018 against Sen. Ted Cruz (R – Texas), falling short while coming closer than any Democrat in recent history.
Some have drawn comparisons between the Texan and Barack Obama. O’Rourke, like Obama, would enter the race with little congressional experience. But, both are known as lanky liberals capable of charismatic speeches that could rally the youth to vote (which they didn’t in 2016).
O’Rourke was an early champion of marijuana legalization and he falls more to the left on the political spectrum than other candidates.
Some liberals have criticized O’Rourke for saying he was “born to run,” in his campaign announcement article.
But, O’Rourke raised more than $6 million after his announcement, signaling he’s capable of a serious run.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D – Mass.) is in an odd position. She’s well known, but not exactly popular among the country, but that could change.
In a recent CNN Town Hall, Warren laid out some of her policies, including abolishing the electoral college and re-instituting reparations.
If Bernie Sanders wasn’t in the race, she’d probably have a better shot. But, she’s a far-left liberal in a field of mostly moderates plus Sanders. He’s had more success and will likely continue to. But, if Sanders were to bow out, or Warren can catch up in a debate or primary, she’d stand out better among the field.
These people, not so much
Buttigieg is the two-term mayor of South Bend, Indiana. He’s the first openly gay person to run for president.
A lieutenant in the Navy Reserve, Buttigieg was deployed for seven months in Afghanistan. He remains a Reserve lieutenant.
His military experience gives him a unique advantage, but a small town mayor will need a lot of momentum to continue deep into the primaries.
For Buttigieg, this is likely the first step into a successful national career.
Klobuchar is a Senator from Minnesota.
While her posture in the Midwest could be a major asset for her, she hasn’t been able to crack into the spotlight like other candidates.
Reports of Klobuchar harassing staffers quickly marred her announcement. But, she’s got a strong criminal justice history and moderate policies that could help her in debates and early primaries.