In the 2016 presidential election, Senator Ted Cruz (R–Tex.) didn’t declare until March 2015. Hillary Clinton released a YouTube video announcing her candidacy in April. Donald Trump didn’t take that famous ride down the escalator until June. But America now lives squarely in the era of The Endless Campaign: The 2020 race is already here.
Before 2018 was even over, Senator Elizabeth Warren announced she had formed an official exploratory committee and was headed to Iowa to campaign. A long list of Democratic contenders will likely follow. (In one CNN poll of the potential field, only one woman, Senator Kamala Harris, broke into the top five contenders. And despite lots of talk about a new wave of young, ethnically diverse leaders shaking up politics, the two top slots were held by older white men: former vice president Joe Biden and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.)
Early polling doesn’t always indicate which candidates will jump into the ring—and if they do, every day of a presidential race, from the first to the last, can be a political minefield. (Not to mention the potential pitfalls of at least a dozen presidential debates that are already on the calendar.) Here’s Glamour’s cheat sheet to the White House contenders. Watch for updates as this race unfolds.
THE JUSTICE LEAGUE
Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee played a high-profile role in 2018’s divisive confirmation hearings for now Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, showcasing their skills for going big on the national stage. No surprise many of them are high on the list of potential Democratic presidential contenders.
Senator KAMALA HARRIS (D–Calif.) is a daughter of immigrants—her mom is from India and her dad from Jamaica. Her parents met as student activists, and Harris, 54, has credited them with shaping the woman she is today. The prosecutor turned California attorney general has shown her tough questioning skills while taking on Kavanaugh (as well as Jeff Sessions during his confirmation hearings for U.S. attorney general). Harris is the first Indian American woman in the Senate and currently the only black woman in the upper chamber. Nearly every candidate is coy about running for president until they are officially running for president, but Harris’ new book, The Truths We Hold: An American Journey—part autobiography and part mission statement—is a sign to many observers that she’s seriously sizing up a White House bid. Running wouldn’t be a walk in the park: Harris is relatively new to the Senate, and critics worry about how progressive she truly is at heart at a time when some see a full-on ideological war as the only way to take on Trump.
Senator AMY KLOBUCHAR (D–Minn.) has been pegged by some observers as more moderate—and maybe even more relatable—than other Democrats in contention. It’s the kind of political triangulation you’d find in decades of political playbooks: Be liberal enough to win a Democrat primary, but not so far off the grid that you can't get independents and moderate Republicans on your side to win in November. Klobuchar, 58, who’s made a test-the-waters visit to early voting Iowa and has said she’s "close" to deciding about a run, could fit the bill: She’s got a blend of Midwestern politesse and diplomacy. She’s not a household name, but she was able to turn deep red counties blue in her reelection.
Senator CORY BOOKER (D–N.J.), served as mayor of Newark before joining the Senate. Like many of the possible contenders, Booker, 49, said he’d use the holiday break to consider a run for president, although he’s widely expected to be in the mix—and on December 20, he got what might be seen as an early Christmas gift from a political standpoint: the passage of a bipartisan criminal justice reform bill he’s championed. But his ties to Wall Street may be a little too close for comfort for some Democrats.
This year’s midterms included a raft of women emphasizing their time in the armed forces. Not all won (cases in point: MJ Hegar of Texas and Amy McGrath of Kentucky), but service can draw respect that crosses party lines.
Senator TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D–Ill.): In 2004 Duckworth lost both legs while serving in Army National Guard as a Blackhawk helicopter pilot in Iraq. Five years later, she became assistant federal secretary of Veterans Affairs under then President Barack Obama. She went on to serve two terms in the House, and was elected to the Senate in 2016. This spring, Duckworth, 50, became the first woman to give birth while serving in the Senate. Illinois is a state that produces presidents, from Lincoln to Obama; Duckworth has visibly sacrificed for her country. That could make her an interesting foil to Trump, who talks continually about military spending and caring for vets while not having served in uniform himself, but it hardly means she’ll see a path to victory in 2020. (And be prepared for more “birther” smears: Duckworth was born in Thailand to a U.S.-citizen father and Thai mom. Foes have already stirred up suspicions about her heritage and whether she’s legally qualified to be president.)
Representative TULSI GABBARD (D–Hawaii’s 2nd district) At 37, Gabbard is one of the younger lawmakers being discussed for the presidency (the age requirement is 35). In 2002 she became the youngest person ever elected to the Hawaii legislature; she later stepped down ahead of two tours with the Army National Guard. Gabbard now serves on the House Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees. Gabbard is in many ways the antithesis of the current POTUS: young, female, progressive, experienced in war, and happens to be the first Hindu to serve in Congress. Her break with the Democratic Party during the 2016 campaign over the Clinton-Sanders battle (she supported Sanders) could speak to a simmering dissatisfaction with the establishment among liberal primary voters—something they expressed with their ballots in 2018.
Donald Trump campaigned as a plain-spoken candidate who would make the average American’s life better. A big question that will get answered by the 2020 election: whether those regular folks think Trump’s policies have actually gotten that done. The Democrats in this category would answer that question with a resounding no, and pose very different ideas for solving the problems of the struggling middle class and those dealing with inequalities in U.S. society.
Representative BETO O’ROURKE (D–Texas’s 16th district) failed to knock out Sen. Cruz in the midterms, but the 46-year-old succeeded in getting himself squarely on the national radar, coming in third in the CNN 2020 survey. His fund-raising strategy got many people to sit up and take notice: He pulled eye-popping, record-breaking financial support from around the country against an entrenched, well-known (if not universally beloved) Republican incumbent—and he did it without help from corporate PACs. Family money could help in a national campaign, and the Senate campaign may (or may not) have helped clear the decks on a 1998 drunk-driving arrest. Still, history suggests a presidential race will be an uphill climb for him and his fellow members of the House: Modern-day Americans generally tend to elect governors and senators as commander-in-chief.
Senator ELIZABETH WARREN (D–Mass.) is one of the most liberal and aggressive critics of the Trump White House. Known for taking on the big banks, Warren, 69, became President Obama’s appointee to oversee the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (which Trump has dismantled), and has an avowedly power-to-the-people tone to her work. (She's also gone after sexism in political campaigns right off the blocks, with a January 2 fund-raising email scoffing at "likeability" issues for female candidates and "tired, beard-stroking opinion pieces." But Trump delights in taunting Warren and likely won’t be quick to stop throwing around his “Pocahontas” nickname for her that his arena-rally fans have grown to love. She might be the right populist for the moment, but some question whether Warren can be the kind of national leader who can broker meaningful Washington compromises.
Senator KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D–N.Y.) has tried to position herself as a populist, but her pedigree is more Washington insider: Her grandmother founded the Albany Democratic Women’s Club, and her father was a lobbyist. Gillibrand, 52, was fairly new to the House when appointed to fill Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat in 2009, and has handily won reelection ever since. She has served on the Armed Services Committee and has been been notably out front on addressing sexual assault in the military. Gillibrand has made a point of promoting women’s empowerment in public life and is out with a new children’s book celebrating leaders of the suffrage movement. But if she continues to frame herself as a passionate progressive, she can be sure there are those who’ll be only too glad to reminisce about her days as a more moderate congresswoman—one, in fact, who once said she kept a couple of rifles under her bed for home defense.
THE REPEAT RUNNERS
Donald Trump was the oldest elected president in U.S. history when he won in 2016 at age 70 (Ronald Reagan was 69 when he took the oath; George H.W. Bush was a kid of only 64). Voters may look ahead to the time when a woman sits behind the Resolute Desk—but is that time now, or would a Trump contemporary have a better chance of actually defeating him?
Former Vice President JOE BIDEN has had his eye on the Oval Office before. In 2008, when he couldn’t beat Obama, he joined him. Son Beau Biden, before his death from brain cancer in 2015, even encouraged his dad to run. The elder Biden is known for plain—and sometimes tough—talk, as well as a good measure of personal charisma. He’s a popular guy. Still, he’s reportedly quite aware that his age, 76, at least factors into the wisdom of waging another White House campaign. Could he balance a ticket with a younger running mate? Quite possibly: The late Senator John McCain, Bush 41, and plenty of others have looked to that strategy. Unknown is whether it can and will work in the next election.
Senator BERNIE SANDERS (I–Vt.) has remained hypercritical of the current administration since his attempt to mobilize a wave of young, super-energized progressive voters to catapult him to the 2016 Democratic nomination. He wasn’t able to overcome Hillary Clinton in that race, which stayed ugly to the end, but he didn’t go down without a fight, and the people who shared his beliefs didn’t vanish, either. Sanders is now 77, and he’s not the only game in town when it comes to unabashed liberals. It’s reasonable that he’ll place high on the list in early surveys like the CNN poll, but maybe the Vermonter is really at a fork in the road: If he’s set on ousting Trump, should he try to do that by remaining the standard bearer, or pass the progressive torch to the next generation? Critical new looks at his heavily male-dominated 2016 campaign may not play in his favor, either.
Former Secretary of State JOHN KERRY ran a failed bid for president in 2004 while representing Massachusetts in the Senate, and has said he’ll consider jumping into the 2020 arena. Kerry, 75, clearly has experience in diplomacy that could be relevant in an uncertain world where China and Russia are angling to overtake America economically, militarily, or both. What isn’t clear is who he could excite voters as a second-time presidential hopeful.
Former Secretary of State HILLARY CLINTON, 71, should never be counted out until she says she’s out (and the winner of the 2016 popular vote hasn’t definitively said she’s not running), but most insiders say it’s time for new talent.
Aside from Trump’s talk about his personal wealth, there are men in the mix who could possibly self-fund a presidential campaign. But do Americans want 2020 to become a Battle of the Billionaires?
MIKE BLOOMBERG, 76, made his money in finance, technology, and media and served three terms as mayor of New York. He’s a well-known philanthropist—and a political chameleon who switched from Democrat to Republican to run for mayor, later declared himself independent, and is considering a try for the Democratic nomination for president. He has a no-nonsense style and is known as a supporter of global public health, antismoking, and gun control initiatives. (He also has a reported history of frat-boy-style cracks about women, and has excused behavior by men like Charlie Rose.) Bloomberg memorably dissed Trump’s self-styled business titan image at the 2016 Democratic National Convention—“I’m a New Yorker, and I know a con when I see one” was probably one of his softer remarks. But if Trump could take on his fellow New Yorker and win, it might be his most prized title yet.
TOM STEYER, 61, a Californian investor and activist, is funneling his considerable wealth into Democratic causes and has been loudly calling to impeach Trump. He also poured more than $30 million, per Forbes, into registering more than a quarter million young voters ahead of the 2018 midterms, with a special focus on swing congressional districts. His efforts there (along with Bloomberg’s spending) could well have helped make a difference in tight races. Could that translate into some astounding 2020 dark-horse Steyer presidency? That’s a much heavier lift.
(A.K.A. CALL ME VP, MAYBE)
If there’s a time-honored tradition in American politics, it’s running for president (or talking about it) to get on the ticket as vice president. Some are likely doing just that. Among them:
Maryland Congressman JOHN DELANEY, 55, who's already declared his 2020 candidacy. Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development JULIAN CASTRO, 44, hasn’t declared but is forming an exploratory committee. Senator SHERROD BROWN, 66, hails from the pivotal state of Ohio. Governors often spark interest in presidential cycles, and JOHN HICKENLOOPER, 66, of Colorado, and JAY INSLEE, 67, of Washington State, as well as past governors DEVAL PATRICK, 62, of Massachusetts, and TERRY McAULIFFE, 61, of Virginia, also a former top DNC official, are all in the mix. Mayors of high-profile cities also can’t yet be counted out, including ERIC GARCETTI, 47, of Los Angeles, and MITCH LANDRIEU, 58, of New Orleans.
FAILURE TO LAUNCH
Some wanna-be candidates were knocked out before things even really got going. Lest we forget (much as some might want to):
MICHAEL AVENATTI, lawyer to Trump accuser Stormy Daniels, took several jaunts to Iowa, and threw plenty of elbows at Trump on TV and Twitter. After he notably told Time that the 2020 Democratic nominee “better be a white male” if the party wants a real chance of knocking Trump out, allegations—which Avenatti, 47, categorically denies—of domestic violence led him to set aside any White House ambitions for, he said, the sake of his family.
The list of who’s out will, of course, get longer. Stay tuned…
Celeste Katz is senior politics reporter for Glamour. Send tips and questions to Celeste_Katz@condenast.com.
Published at Thu, 03 Jan 2019 21:00:00 +0000