An unprecedented 45 Democrats are jockeying for the party's nomination to challenge President Trump in 2020 — shattering the record for the number of candidates aspiring to be commander in chief.
A review of potential contenders by the Washington Examiner reveals that up to 45 candidates could mount a serious bid to become leader of the free world. While many will undoubtedly decide against formally entering the race, most Democratic strategists expect at least two dozen to do so.
Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, co-chairman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, said recently that the 2020 presidential contest could draw up to 40 Democratic hopefuls. “Look, we’ll have between 30 and 40 great candidates running for president,” he told MSNBC. “Everyone recognizes how urgent this moment is in our country’s history.”
To have more than 40 Democrats seeking to win the White House would be "historic," James Thurber, the director of American University's Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies, told the Washington Examiner.
That number would be well over the 17 major Republicans who drew ire in 2016 for crowding the GOP primary field, ultimately to the benefit of Trump. And it would be more than six times as large as the "seven dwarfs," who were mocked for competing for the 1988 Democratic nomination, which went to then-Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis. Dukakis went on to lose to then-Vice President George H.W. Bush.
So who are the 45 contenders who could soon be vying to become the 46th president of the United States?
Two consistent favorites, according to early polls, are former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who caucuses with Democrats. Biden, 76, and Sanders, 77, earned double-digit support from Democrats surveyed this month by SSRS for CNN. Biden had a 16-percentage-point lead over the socialist, who failed to win the party's nod in 2016 against Hillary Clinton. Sanders is favored by progressives.
The septuagenarian stalwarts notched the same No. 1 and No. 2 finish when the poll was conducted in October, a trend pollsters partly attribute to their significant name recognition.
Sanders, who's said he'd "probably run" if he were the best bet to beat Trump, isn't the only senator considering a White House bid. His potential rivals include Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who's released 10 years of tax returns and a DNA analysis after Trump attacked her claims to Native American ancestry. Warren, 69, who Trump has mockingly nicknamed "Pocahontas," is making all the moves expected of a candidate, though she has run into early problems.
Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California made clear by their performances during Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation hearings that they see themselves as White House material. They have promised to go public on whether they plan to seek higher office in January — the suspense is limited because both are expected to jump in.
Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota are other senators tipped to enter the fray and become top-tier candidates. Brown has Rust Belt credibility and populist appeal, Gillibrand has been a leader of the #MeToo movement, and Klobuchar's quiet competence and "Minnesota nice" demeanor could be seen by Democrats as a welcome contrast with Trump.
Brown, 66, has said he is "seriously" mulling a run; Gillibrand, 52, has described herself as "definitely thinking" about it; while Midwesterner Klobuchar, 58, has ventured that "voices from the Midwest" are needed in 2020
On the other side of the U.S. Capitol, Rep. Beto O'Rourke's popularity surged among Democrats nationwide as he challenged Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz in November's election for a Texas Senate seat. Since his narrow loss, the three-term El Paso congressman and fundraising powerhouse, 46, has said he's not ruling "anything out" ahead of 2020.
Biden, who's described himself as the "most qualified person in the country to be president," is also unlikely to be the sole Obama administration alumnus on the trail. Julian Castro, 44, the former Barack Obama Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and mayor of San Antonio, last week formed an exploratory committee and said he will make an official announcement on Jan. 12.
In addition, billionaire philanthropist and ex-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who only re-registered as a Democrat in October, has launched a shadow campaign prior to making a decision in "January, February," per the Associated Press. Bloomberg, 76, poured $110 million into the 2018 midterm cycle to boost the Democratic Party.
"It's one thing to say something, it's a different thing to have actually done it," Bloomberg told CNN during a trip to Iowa, referring to his decades-long career in New York City Hall.
Maryland Rep. John Delaney and West Virginia state Sen. Richard Ojeda have declared their candidacy. Meanwhile, a slew of lesser-known entrants, such as Venture for America founder Andrew Yang and Oprah Winfrey-approved self-help guru Marianne Williamson have filed Federal Election Commission paperwork to start campaigning.
Although the race has begun for some, it's already over for others. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, and celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti, the attorney advocating for porn star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuits against Trump, have all bowed out of contention.
OTHER CONGRESSIONAL CONTENDERS
But Democrats have a deep bench of talent in Congress. Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Tim Kaine of Virginia, Chris Murphy of Connecticut, and Mark Warner of Virginia are senatorial possibilities. Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, however, will have to choose between the White House or the Senate because state law won't permit him to run for both.
Simultaneously, Reps. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts and Tim Ryan of Ohio are prospects from the House whose profiles have risen thanks to their opposition to likely incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California. Rep. Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts is the target of persistent speculation given his last name, despite denying having 2020 aspirations. On the other hand, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, a 2016 Sanders surrogate, has said she's "seriously" weighing a tilt at the presidential title. And Eric Swalwell California is said to be "definitely running."
OBAMA LEGACY CANDIDATES
Familiar Obama-era faces are expected to return to the national spotlight as well, including former Secretary of State John Kerry, the party's 2004 nominee, who's said he's "not taking anything off the table." Ex-Attorney General Eric Holder's been looking at becoming the party's standard-bearer for some time. Even defeated 2016 Democratic pick Hillary Clinton has hinted she'd still "like to be president."
Govs. Steve Bullock of Montana and Jay Inslee of Washington are raising money through their political action committees so they can springboard from their governor's mansions into the White House. Former Govs. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia and Martin O'Malley of Maryland are being floated as contenders following visits to early-voting states.
Like O'Malley, who struggled to build momentum in 2016, unsuccessful 2018 gubernatorial candidates Stacey Abrams of Georgia and Andrew Gillum of Florida don't seem deterred by failure. Abrams has said she'll be ready "to get back in the ring" after a brief "nap," while Gillum, the previous mayor of Tallahassee, has been more proactive, addressing Democratic donors at a Washington party event.
Then there's Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. A former brewpub founder, Hickenlooper, 66, has said he's "leaning strongly" toward a run and has been rumored to be contemplating joining Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich on a bipartisan third ticket. Kasich has tried to downplay conjecture by joking that the name Hickenlooper is "too long" for a bumper sticker.
Outgoing California Gov. Jerry Brown and his successor Gavin Newsom are also being discussed — though the days of Brown, who has run for president three times, may be in the past and most Democrats see Newsom's as being after 2020.
Although Bloomberg is the best-known mayoral figure jostling to become the next occupant of the Oval Office, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg is viewed by many Democrats as a dark horse who could be worth backing. He stepped down as mayor this week, which is being interpreted as a strong indication he's in for 2020. Other mayors in the frame include Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, Bill de Blasio of New York, and former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu.
Dallas Mavericks basketball owner and investor Mark Cuban is a well-resourced outsider who's postulated about a jump into politics, whereas hedge fund manager Tom Steyer has already taken the plunge. Like Bloomberg, Steyer has spent millions of dollars championing liberal causes, most notably Trump's impeachment. And he's started recruiting, last week anonymously posting a campaign jobs notice on LinkedIn. Retired Starbucks executive Howard Schultz — who's due to embark on a national book tour, a perennial harbinger of White House ambitions — has hired staff too, including Steve Schmidt, who managed the 2008 campaign of the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.