Many perspectives, 1 simple etiquette

The Shortlist: 4 Contenders to Take on Trump in 2020

Author: Rob Bennett
Created: 17 September, 2018
Updated: 17 October, 2022
8 min read

We are just over two years away from the election night 2020, and we are now around the time where campaign teams are beginning to form, and front-runners are beginning to emerge. President Donald Trump has made it clear that he will run for re-election in 2020 and, while he will undoubtedly face opposition from his own party due to his controversies, he is almost sure to be the Republican Party’s nominee for the next election. While Trump is disruptive, his voter base clearly wants him to remain in office.

On the other hand, the Democratic Party has yet to form any sort of leadership ever since Hillary Clinton lost her bid for the presidency in 2016. The party itself is also dealing with an identity struggle which provided the perfect breeding ground for new leaders to emerge within the party. As the midterm election campaigns are in full swing, the party is looking to demonstrate itself as a clear alternative to Trump’s image of America.

1. Uncle Joe

Leading the pack of potential candidates is former Vice President Joe Biden. Undoubtedly the most experienced member of the Democratic Party left and often regarded as its presumptive leader.

While Biden has yet to declare a run for the 2020 election formally, he remains a significantly crucial figure and is the forefront leader of the pack of contenders. While Biden has flirted with the presidency before, running for president on two occasions and falling short at the first hurdle, his successful stint as vice president under Barack Obama has made him popular with American voters. Biden remains revered across party lines, especially with his ability to create bipartisan friendships, something that American politics seemingly lacks under Trump.

President Trump said in an interview on CBS that Biden would be his “dream” opponent in the 2020 election and believes he will beat him by a large margin. On the other hand, many polls suggest Biden would beat the incumbent president.

While Biden has a lot running for him as a potential candidate, he is 75 years old. If elected, it would make him the oldest president ever in office. It could prove problematic as the Democratic Party is trying to attract younger voters and younger congressional candidates.

Biden may not be the right fit for a party that is progressively looking toward more youthful members for office. That said, Senator Bernie Sanders was able to prove that age would not be an indicator in electing potential Presidential nominees.

2. Senator Bernie Sanders

Although not technically a Democrat, Senator Bernie Sanders is a hugely popular figure within Democratic circles after his presidential run for the party in 2016. Falling just shy of Hillary Clinton's support to become the nominee in the general election, Sanders was still able to captivate the youth vote and bring a new wave of supporters into the Democratic Party.

Sanders is widely recognized as having a huge loyal fan base, gaining 43% of the 2016 Democratic primary vote, and he has far from hidden from the political limelight since. He could be the perfect candidate to heal the division within the party and bring back voters who left it after many believed the primaries were rigged in Clinton’s favor.

In 2016, many polls indicated that Sanders was the only Democratic candidate who could have beaten Donald Trump in the general election. Although Sanders has often said that he will not be running a campaign in 2020, it is common for parties to choose former runners-up as their nominees in future elections, just as the Democrats did with their most recent nominee, Hillary Clinton.

Sanders, 77, would be the oldest person elected to the office of president if he were to win the 2020 election. While age would be an indicator, Sanders officially regards himself as an independent and does not agree with some of the fundamental principles of the Democratic Party.

Could these two factors be the most significant problems facing the Democratic party or will it prove to be the change that the party needs at this time? Only time will tell; however, his 2016 election run proves that Sanders can charm the American voters.

3. Senator Elizabeth Warren

If Democrats are looking for a candidate who could position them between the establishment and the party base, Senator Elizabeth Warren could provide the perfect ticket. Senator Warren has maintained a respected presence within the Democratic Party over the last few years, becoming one of their leading women, and is seen as a definite contender for a future run at the presidency.

While other candidates have flirted with the concept of running in 2020, Warren has given the most significant indicator by remaining vocal against the current president and setting up clear indications of a possible run.

Earlier this year, Warren produced a full-scale campaign-style tour of the West, supporting Democratic candidates for the mid-term elections, and while she insists she is focusing on her own re-election campaign for the midterms, this move is a clear signal that she is generating a voter base for a future Presidential run.

As a Democratic candidate, Senator Warren leans heavily to the left, which could prove problematic against Trump’s full throttle conservative campaign. To provide a challenge to the current administration, Warren would need to align herself as more centrist and create appeal across the aisle to the Republicans to potentially pick up anti-Trump voters.

Her current stance could prove too liberal to win nationally, and although recent polls suggest she could clinch a narrow win against Trump in a general election, previous election polls failed to foresee the power of grassroots voters across America. In fact, nearly every poll suggested a Clinton win prior to election night.

4. Senator Kamala Harris

The final serious Democratic contender for a 2020 presidential run is a first-term senator from California, Kamala Harris. She has remained incredibly active in the political arena since getting elected in 2016.

She most recently grabbed headlines by producing a point of order against the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, stating that the Republican Party is rushing the appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. She provided much energy to an otherwise slow and dull political process and was able to generate enough publicity to possibly attract future voters.

Senator Harris has also been campaigning for her Democratic colleagues in the midterm elections and even signed a deal to write a book of her memoirs, a common pre-presidential-run ritual. While Senator Harris lacks the experience of Senator Sanders or former Vice President Biden, she symbolically positions herself at the center of critical issues that are at the forefront of the Democratic Party’s voting base, much like Barack Obama did as a first-term senator before his 2008 presidential campaign.

Political insiders predict that she could, as Barack Obama did in 2008, win the Democratic nomination by a coalition of well-educated African Americans and white voters, along with a strong youth vote. Her accolades have positioned her to be a rather prominent figure in the party within a short period:

  • She is the first African American and Indian woman elected to the Senate from California;
  • She was one of the first Democrats to ask for the resignation of Senator Al Franken amid sexual misconduct allegations; and
  • She is currently the only African American female senator in the US Senate.

This combined with her relentless battle to combat President Trump’s aggressive immigration policies, align her to be an ideal candidate for minority groups that Trump has offended, such as African Americans and even women voters.

While Senator Harris has created quite an impact on the political scene, her short time as a first-term senator could provide the biggest argument for why she should not be president. Many voters are reluctant to elect a first-term senator due to their lack of experience at the political center stage.

That said, recent elections show that American voters are looking for fewer establishment candidates -- candidates they believe would not have corrupt ties with corporations and money donors from organizations that could sway their political decisions. These could position Senator Harris as a candidate to take seriously in the run-up to 2020.

Honorable Mentions: Sens. Cory Booker or Kirsten Gillibrand

There are other names within the Democratic Party currently who have been suggested as contenders for the nominee in 2020, such as Senator Cory Booker and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. However, both have yet to make enough of a public impact to generate the needed momentum to make a mark in the 2020 election season.  While mainstream media outlets might consider them serious contenders, historically speaking both parties tend to go with predictable nominees from a handful of predictable candidates -- the exception being Donald J. Trump.

2020: Tea Leaves Are Tough To Read

While it is premature to be seriously considering who will win the next election, it is clear that the Democratic Party is battling with its identity and the party needs to produce a clear alternative to Trump’s vision of America to have any chance of toppling his sizable dedicated voter base.

The 2016 election completely dismantled the usual election rulebook for precisely what sort of experience is considered essential to become president; someone who had never held a political position in his life beat someone who was arguably the most experienced presidential nominee ever.

It is becoming more likely that a Washington DC outsider, such as Oprah Winfrey, could seize the nomination due to the party’s struggle to take a clear stand on specific issues. Amongst voters, she may appear to be a clear polar-opposite to Donald Trump as a candidate.

Even with my list of presidential challengers, it will prove difficult for the Democrats to find a worthy contender to beat Trump in 2020. Historically speaking, many incumbent presidents usually win a second term and by a large margin. There are few examples in modern American history when an incumbent president failed to achieve a second term, most recently being President George H.W. Bush in 1992.

Similarly, no vice president has been elected president since George H.W. Bush in 1988, and before him, Richard Nixon in 1968. The attempt could prove problematic for Democratic favorite Joe Biden. If anything can be said, the 2020 race will surely be another electrifying election that will no doubt be full of twists and turns.

Photo Credit: Gino Santa Maria / shutterstock.com

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