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Democrats 2020: Who are the young guns already in the race - and who's Biden their time?

The party is looking to build on their successes in the midterms.

pjimage (9) Three candidates and one possible in an increasingly crowded field. Source: PA Images

TUESDAY 3 NOVEMBER 2020 may sound like a long time away yet, but in US presidential politics now is make your mind up time. 

We’re about 21 months out from the presidential election and Democrats are lining up to compete for the chance to take on Donald Trump. 

The first debates of the Democratic contest are slated to begin in June, so candidates must get serious now if they want to take to the stage. 

Some have already declared and some are said to be mulling it over, so let’s cast an eye over those in both categories and take a look at their chances. 

Running

Elizabeth Warren

If there was one thing that kicked off the Democrat contest proper, it was Warren’s announcement on New Year’s Eve that she was in the race.

The Massachusetts senator is certainly what you would consider to be a party heavyweight, having been a senator for the past six years and having a background of progressive activism that’s gained her a loyal following. 

And while the Democrats appear to have moved leftwards following Bernie Sanders’ 2016 run and the recent midterms, Warren occupied this space in the party even before those two events. 

It means she’s seen as a consistent and perhaps prescient voice in the party, although some worry her time to run was four years ago, when she declined to so.

Before her announcing her candidacy, Warren struggled to shake off criticism of her response to Trump’s attacks on her heritage, when she released DNA results in an effort to prove Native American ancestry. 

More recently, a video she posted on Instagram of her drinking a beer in her home also received a mixed reaction.

Source: CBS News/YouTube

Kamala Harris

Another senator, but this time from the west coast, Kamala Harris announced her candidacy this week and is certainly sparking some early buzz. 

In a Democratic party that is currently attempting to integrate a whole raft of fresh legislators from different backgrounds, Harris could prove to be an excellent bridge for the party. 

Election 2020 Kamala Harris Kamala Harris, D-Calif speaking at Howard University. Source: PA Images

The California senator’s parents are both immigrants, coming from India and Jamaica, and this makes her candidacy potentially historic. If she were to be chosen by Democrats, she would be the first African-American woman and the first Indian-American to be nominated by a major party. 

Allied to this, Harris is a former attorney general of California and her law and order credentials could help her win some moderate conservative votes. 

The combination of these factors could prove a winning combination and she broke online funding records this week after she announced her candidacy. 

Julian Castro

Election 2020 Fresh Faces Julian Castro has put his name in the frame. Source: Mary Schwalm/PA Images

If the Democrats decide to look back to the Obama-era, they may decide to go for the former president’s housing secretary. 

Julian Castro is a former mayor of the Texas city of San Antonio and would become the first Hispanic US president. 

Castro launched his campaign earlier this month and delivered a speech that frequently invoked his Mexican-American heritage. It was delivered at a time when Trump’s demand for a border continued the government shutdown.

Castro’s national profile rose sharply in 2012 when he became the first Latino to deliver a keynote speech at the Democratic national nominating convention, eight years after Obama had done the same. 

Despite this strong political background, Castro has some ground to make up on his opponents. 

Kirsten Gillibrand

Source: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert/YouTube

An outspoken critic of Trump who has become a central voice in the #MeToo movement, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced her candidacy on the The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. 

Much like all the Democrats in the field, she has said that she will put the provision of healthcare at the heart of her campaign. The protection of Obamacare was a key message of many successful Democrats in the recent midterms and she repeated this on the CBS show.

“I’m going to run for president of the United States, because as a young mom I’m going to fight for other people’s kids as hard as I would fight for my own — which is why I believe that health care should be a right and not a privilege,” she said. 

Others confirmed

First 2016 Presidential General Election Debate A debate stage ahead of the 2016 election. Source: PA Images

At this stage of the race there are always multiple candidates that aren’t in the final shakeup.

Indeed, in the 2016 race Republicans had so many declared candidates that each time a debate rolled around there was a need for two separate debates. There was an earlier debate involving those polling lowest and a later primetime debate involving the heavy hitters.

This is likely to happen again in these Democratic primaries and candidates will be eager to avoid the earlier debate.

Candidates who have work to do to avoid this include Mayor of South Bend, Indiana Pete Buttigieg, New Jersey Congressman John Delaney, Congresswoman  Tulsi Gabbard and Senator Richard Ojeda

Possibles

While it may already be make-your-mind-up time, those who are still in the process of doing so are worth talking about too. 

Not least because they include Democrats who are polling strongest against Trump.

Joe Biden

In a hypothetical match-up against Trump, former vice president Joe Biden is the clear winner among possible Democrats.

Biden leads the president by a healthy 12 points, according to Public Policy Polling, even though he has yet to rule himself in or out. 

Biden was reported to be mulling a White House run over Christmas but if he was deciding, we’ve heard nothing since.

Donald Trump sworn in as President of the USA The former president and vice president arrive for Trump's inauguration. Source: PA Images

Biden certainly has a lot of things going for him. He has the name recognition, he has sheen of the Obama-era and as a Pennsylvania native he could carry some northeastern blue-collar states then went for Trump in 2016. 

In the negative column, he’d be 80 when being sworn in as president and hasn’t run a campaign since 2008.

As an elderly, white male politician he also doesn’t bring a new face to the Democrats and people have questioned his place in the #MeToo era.

Bernie Sanders

Andrew Wheeler participates in his hearing held by the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works to be Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Senator Bernie Sanders has not yet definitely outlined his intentions. Source: Chris Kleponis

After being defeated by Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic nomination, Sanders was elected as an Independent Senator for Vermont. 

Back then, Sanders’ socialist message electrified many young Democrats and his outsider status led many to believe he matched the moment much better than Clinton.

He still polls strongly among Democrats but the fear is that he missed his chance and that he appears less radical in a changing party.

He may claim some credit for that changing party but again there are questions over his #MeToo credentials and appeal to minority voters.

Beto O’Rourke

PastedImage-62977 A picture shared by O'Rourke from his road trip. Source: medium.com

He was the darling of the Democrats’ midterm campaign, so clamour to see him run for the presidency remains fierce. 

Despite losing to Senator Ted Cruz, he’s perhaps more well-known than any declared candidate and if he was to repeat his fundraising efforts he would be a formidable candidate. 

Since losing in the midterms, O’Rourke has embarked on a road-trip in the US southwest, blogging along the way, provoking both praise and snark. 

His supporters have been working away anyway and a number of ‘Draft Beto’ groups have sprung up.

His camp says it could be a few weeks before he makes any announcement, so all eyes will be on an event scheduled for 5 February in New York when he’ll be interviewed by Oprah.

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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