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2020 election: who’s in the running to face Trump?

A rundown of the candidates who have officially declared their campaigns for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020.

It is January 2019, and the race for the Democratic nomination for the 2020 presidential election is already in full swing. Here, in no particular order, is a roundup of the candidates that have already declared their intention to run – we’ll update this list as more candidates formally announce in the coming months.

Amy Klobuchar

Age: 58

Occupation: US senator for Minnesota

Campaign: Klobuchar formally announced her campaign for president in the teeth of a Minnesota snowstorm on February 10.

Pros: Klobuchar, like Warren, gets under the president’s skin. In an – even for him – unbelievably stupid tweet, Trump struck out at Klobuchar for talking about climate change while announcing her candidacy in a snowstorm. “Amy Klobuchar announced that she is running for President, talking proudly of fighting global warming while standing in a virtual blizzard of snow, ice and freezing temperatures. Bad timing. By the end of her speech she looked like a Snowman(woman)!”, the president wrote, once again confusing climate for weather. Like Harris and Booker, Klobuchar, a former prosecutor, has been excellent in Senate committee hearings; most memorable was the extraordinary exchange with supreme court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, where she asked him if he’d ever drunk too much beer. “I don’t know. Have you?” Kavanaugh shot back to Klobuchar – who doesn’t drink. It was an infantile, rattled response to an elegant line of questioning.

Cons: According to the Huffington Post, Klobuchar’s staff have reported that she berates them to the extent that it creates a hostile work environment – leading to at least three people to withdraw from consideration to lead her presidential campaign. “Although some staffers grew inured to her constant put-downs … others found it grinding and demoralizing,” HuffPo reported. “Adding to the humiliation, Klobuchar often cc’d large groups of staffers who weren’t working on the topic at hand, giving the emails the effect of a public flogging.” Answering the allegations, Klobuchar said “Yes, I can be tough, and yes I can push people … I have high expectations for myself, I have high expectations for the people that work for me, but I have high expectations for this country.”

Cory Booker

Age: 49

Occupation: US senator for New Jersey

Campaign: Booker announced he would run for president on Twitter on February 1.

Pros: Booker, the first black senator from New Jersey, has long been linked with presidential potential. His CV is impeccable: educated at Stanford, Oxford (on a Rhodes scholarship), and Yale, he then set up a non-profit legal aid organization in Newark before successfully running for mayor. He has had a successful career in the Senate, too – he and Kamala Harris have formed a fearsome pair in the powerful Judiciary Committee. And he is a bona fide hero: he once entered a burning building and saved a woman from the flames.

Cons: This isn’t really a con per se, but as the BBC points out, Booker would be the first single (or at least, unmarried) president since Grover Cleveland, which might give his opponents ammunition against him. But come on, people, it’s 2019 – not everyone has to be married to be a person these days. And he’d be running against Donald Trump. But as Tom Moran of the New Jersey Star-Ledger, a long-time watcher of Booker, points out, he is also one of the highest recipients of big-money donations from Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry in the Senate, which will be a useful vulnerability for his more hardcore radical opponents to exploit.

Elizabeth Warren

Age: 69

Occupation: US senator for Massachusetts

Campaign: Warren was the first major candidate to officially launch her campaign, formally announcing her exploratory committee on New Year’s Eve 2018.

Pros: Long considered the nominal frontrunner, Warren was the focus of intense speculation during the 2016 Democratic primaries. A professor of law who taught at the University of Pennsylvania and at Harvard, her political fortunes began to rise during the 2008 financial crisis, when she emerged as a leading thinker on economics, especially focused on the financial misconduct by the big banks that led to the credit crunch, and was an early advocate of the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Her star continued to rise when she gave a barnstorming primetime speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, and she went on to beat Republican incumbent Scott Brown in the Massachusetts Senate race that November. As Robert Kuttner wrote for this magazine last year, Warren “would embody and energise the unmistakable progressive shift in the Democratic Party, as well as giving it cogent definition.”

Cons: While she has shown herself adept at getting under Trump’s skin, he has also managed to get under hers. In a line of attack that, even for this president’s standards, has been spectacularly racist, Trump has nicknamed her “Pocahontas” – a reference to Warren listing her racial background as Native American on a Harvard diversity form.

Warren has said previously that as a child she had been told she had Native American ancestry, and submitted to a DNA test when challenged to do so by the president in 2018. While the test did suggest a small Native American ancestry, the use of the test was criticised by the Cherokee Nation as “inappropriate”, and critics have said that playing along with Trump’s childish games represented a failure of judgment.

Kamala Harris

Age: 54

Occupation: US senator for California

Campaign: Harris announced her entry into the presidential race on Twitter on 21 January.

Pros: A former prosecutor and attorney-general of California, Harris is eminently qualified for the job – and she has developed a prosecutorial style in the Senate which tends to put her front and centre of many hearings, which has given her the opportunity to develop a wide public profile. Harris also has the most engagement on social media of any of the prospective Democratic candidates, according to a recent study by Axios. Among Democrats, only Barack Obama and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (who, at 29, will be too young to meet the minimum age-requirement for the presidency in 2020) have more Twitter engagement.

Cons: Though her position today on mass incarceration, single-payer healthcare, marijuana legalisation and other issues place her on the left-ish end of the Democratic party spectrum, her prosecutorial past might come back to haunt her.

As Vox explains: “A close examination of Harris’s record shows it’s filled with contradictions. She pushed for programmes that helped people find jobs instead of putting them in prison, but also fought to keep people in prison even after they were proved innocent. She refused to pursue the death penalty against a man who killed a police officer, but also defended California’s death penalty system in court.” Politically, she may also suffer from being from California, a state which Republicans strove to turn into shorthand for radical progressivism during the midterm elections.

Julian Castro

Age: 44

Occupation: Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development

Campaign: Castro formally launched his campaign on 21 January.

Pros: The youngest member of the Obama cabinet, former San Antonio mayor Castro was the rising star of Texas politics… until Beto O’Rourke came along.

But he still has excellent credentials, and the support of his twin brother, congressman Joaquin. His speech to the 2012 Democratic National Convention – he was the first person of Hispanic origin to give a DNC keynote address – drew comparisons with the speech that launched Barack Obama’s national political profile eight years earlier. And he’s one of those leading the field in rejecting money from super PACs.

Cons: Castro, having been out of government for two years, lacks the sheer star power these days that fellow Texan O’Rourke – who has not formally announced his candidacy but who everyone assumes is running – can boast.

Pete Buttigieg

Age: 37

Occupation: Mayor of South Bend, Indiana

Campaign: Buttigieg formally launched his exploratory committee on January 23.

Pros: Buttigieg, who was named “mayor of the year” in 2013 by GovFresh.com, has enjoyed considerable national buzz considering his relatively minor political position. In 2016, the New York Times wrote that “if you went into some laboratory to concoct a perfect Democratic candidate, you’d be hard pressed to improve on Pete Buttigieg.”

A Rhodes scholar and Navy Reservist who served seven months in Afghanistan, Buttigieg came out as gay in an op-ed in 2015 and then went on to win reelection with 80 percent of the vote – no small feat in Indiana, the pretty conservative state of which Mike Pence was governor. A self-described millennial, he emerged as a popular dark horse candidate for chair of the Democratic National Committee in 2017, further raising his national profile.

Cons: Despite punching above his weight in terms of national name recognition, it would still be a near-unprecedented leap to go from mayor of Indiana’s fourth-largest town straight to the presidency.

Tulsi Gabbard

Age: 37

Occupation: US representative from Hawaii

Campaign: Gabbard announced she was running for president on 11 January  2019.

Pros: When she was elected in 2012 Gabbard became the first Hindu and the first American Samoan to vote in Congress. She is an Iraq war veteran and supports Medicare-for-all, and is considered a rising star in the Democratic party. When she was running for reelection to Congress she won the support of Bernie Sanders – whom she endorsed in 2016 – as well as the AFL-CIO and Planned Parenthood, among other progressive groups. And as 538.com points out, she is a charismatic speaker.

Cons: Gabbard has a slightly chequered history in terms of her relationship with progressivism. She went on an extremely controversial trip to Syria, where she met with president Bashar al-Assad, in 2017 – a trip she made without the permission of the party leadership, according to reports – and characterised the rebels, which the US government supports, as “terrorists”. In 2015 she was one of few Democrats who voted for restrictions on refugees entering the US from Syria and Iraq; she has also voted against gun control legislation.

She was also one of few Democrats in Congress to meet with Trump after his election in 2016. She also grew up in a Hare Krishna sect which condemns homosexuality, and as a state representative referred to gay rights activists as “extremists” – and though she has since apologised and recanted her statements her position on gay rights remains a little murky.

Kirsten Gillibrand

Age: 52

Occupation: US senator for New York

Campaign: Gillibrand announced her candidacy for president on January 15 on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Pros: Gillibrand is a formidable candidate who has emerged as a key opponent of the administration, with the most anti-Trump voting record of any US senator. Jenn Palmieri, Hillary Clinton’s former communications director – Gillibrand filled the senate seat once occupied by Clinton – described her to the Guardian as “fierce and fearless”. She has made campaigning against sexual assault the cornerstone of her political life, and has become known as “the #metoo senator”; she was the first senator to call for the resignation of her Democratic colleague Al Franken when allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced about him.

Cons: Like many on this list, Gillibrand may suffer from the fact that her political positions have evolved over the years, from the centre and even the centre-right toward the modern progressive consensus favoured by the party base in the post-Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez age. Originally elected to Congress to represent a conservative district in upstate New York, in her early career she opposed “amnesty” for illegal immigrants who had been living in the country a long time; she also used to have an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association for her opposition to gun control legislation, though that has since been downgraded, according to the Guardian.

John Delaney

Age: 55

Occupation: Former US representative from Maryland

Campaign: Delaney announced his candidacy fabulously early, in an op-ed in the Washington Post in July 2017.

Pros: He’s made good noises about fixing America’s ailing democratic institutions; in 2017 he introduced legislation to end partisan gerrymandering and make election day a federal holiday.

Cons: Despite announcing his candidacy early, Delaney has struggled to break through into the wider national consciousness, and rarely if ever shows up in polling.

Richard Ojeda

Age: 48

Occupation: Former West Virginia state senator

Campaign: Ojeda announced his candidacy for president in November 2018, after losing his race to become Democratic congressman for West Virginia’s 3rd congressional district.

Pros: A former major in the US Army, Ojeda is… just kinda great. A gift to viral video, a visible straight-talker who gives little ground to the tedious niceties of political discourse, he is in many ways an antidote to the Trump era. He is pro marijuana legalisation, and has been open about the fact that, while he voted for Trump in the last election – and, in fact, has never voted for a Democratic presidential candidate – he now says that Trump has “not done shit”. He’s a straight-talker.

Cons: Well, he voted for Trump in 2016. But he has been open about this, and may be able to turn that to his advantage in terms of reaching out to the kind of forgotten voters to whom Trump appealed. He remains quite right-wing on many issues on which the Democratic base are far to the left; he is anti-abortion except in cases of rape, and is a vocal gun rights activist. He is ultimately a long-shot candidate, but likely to be an entertaining one to watch.

Dropped out: Ojeda became the first candidate to drop out of the race on January 25, telling The Intercept “I don’t want to see people send money to a campaign that’s probably not going to get off the ground.”

Andrew Yang

Age: 44

Occupation: Entrepreneur

Campaign: Yang filed his candidacy for president with the Federal Election Commission on 6 November, 2017.

Pros: The core appeal of Yang’s presidential campaign is a simple one: he wants to give every America $1000 a month. That’s not a silly idea: Yang believes that as self-driving cars and other automation technologies come on-stream, America (and the world) will begin to face a crisis of employment – after all, the two biggest jobs held in the US are truck driver and taxi driver. He believes the answer lies in a policy called Universal Basic Income, an idea gaining more and more traction in progressive and techno-futurist circles, endorsed by figures as diverse as Elon Musk and Bernie Sanders.

Cons: Universal Basic Income’s moment may not have come yet, and critics say that the policy would be (obviously) extremely expensive to implement, costing an estimated $2 trillion per year – as The Independent points out, that’s half the entire federal budget. Ultimately, he is running not so much to win but to introduce his ideas into the public consciousness, which may be no bad thing in the long run.

Nicky Woolf is the editor of New Statesman America. He has formerly written for the Guardian and the New Statesman. He tweets @NickyWoolf.