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2020 Democrats: Who’s running, who’s leaning, and who’s out

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It’s a big field.

With the 2018 midterms in the rearview mirror, the 2020 presidential election has shifted from speculation into concrete plans for Democrats want to run against President Donald Trump.

Trump already has his eyes on 2020. In February 2018, he named Brad Parscale, the head of the president’s 2016 campaign digital operation, as his campaign manager. As for the 2020 Democrats, a picture is beginning to form of who will be the most prominent people to try and secure the Democratic nomination for president.

And on the last day of 2018, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) became the first, announcing she was forming an exploratory committee for a 2020 run. Soon enough a number of prominent Democrats have followed, announcing their own bids for the presidency.

There are a number of things that can happen between now and the 2020 election, but here is a list of Democrats who have announced their presidential campaigns and some folks who could join what appears will become a very crowded field of people hoping to take on Trump.

2020 Democrats: Presidential candidates who have announced

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1) Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

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Sen. Bernie Sanders announced in mid-February 2019 that he would again seek the presidency. His surprising showing in the 2016 Democratic primary rocketed Sanders into the national consciousness, and he is arguably the most popular politician currently serving in office.

In an email to supporters on Feb. 19, Sanders touched on the policies that attracted a large number of supporters to him in 2016.

“Three years ago, during our 2016 campaign, when we brought forth our progressive agenda we were told that our ideas were ‘radical’ and ‘extreme,'” the senator wrote, according to the New York Times. “Well, three years have come and gone. And, as result of millions of Americans standing up and fighting back, all of these policies and more are now supported by a majority of Americans.”

In a video accompanying his announcement, the senator said his campaign was “about transforming our country and creating a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial, and environmental justice.”

With the announcement, Sanders became one of the likely front runners in what has become an (already) crowded 2020 Democratic primary. However, there are some drawbacks. While his impressive ability to lure younger voters to his campaign is something any person vying for the Democratic 2020 nod is sure to try to replicate, there will always be the question of whether his policy agenda would actually work without Congress firmly on his side.

Some Democrats may even hold a grudge against Sanders for his grueling primary against Hillary Clinton in 2016. 

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However, there is no denying that he’d have a large number of supporters and many people willing to donate to his campaign from the start.

In early 2018, reports suggested that Sanders has begun talking to advisers about a 2020 election campaign. The discussions focused on other possible opponents in the 2020 primaries and how Sanders could defeat them. In mid-September rumors continued to swirl, with the Hill reporting that those close to Sanders expect him to make another bid for the White House.

The speculation of a 2020 bid reached a fever pitch in early 2019 when Yahoo News reported that Sanders feeling good about his primary chances after he was “heartened” by a poll that showed him as the top candidate choice among Black and Latino voters.

As the New York Times pointed out, Sanders also is not the only hard-left progressive candidate in the public sphere anymore, which could also dent his chances of making the same impact he did during the 2016 election.

2) Sen. Elizabeth Warren

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) became the first major name to throw their hat into the 2020 Democratic presidential ring in late December 2018, when she announced she had formed a presidential exploratory committee.

In a video, Warren focused on middle-class economics and her past as part of her announcement.

“America’s middle class is under attack,” she says. “How did we get here? Billionaires and big corporations decided they wanted more of the pie, and they enlisted politicians to cut them a fatter slice.”

She added:

“Our government is supposed to work for all of us, but instead it has become a tool for the wealthy and well-connected. The whole scam is propped up by an echo chamber of fear and hate, designed to distract and divide us.”

Warren, like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), would tap into the growing number of Democrats hoping for a more progressive candidate to challenge Trump’s hard-right base.

Warren is also an outspoken critic of Trump, helping raise her profile among Democrats. She saw her profile skyrocket when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) silenced her as she was criticizing former Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

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In particular, Warren could tap into the populist fervor that has overtaken the American electorate. Her tough stance on Wall Street and championing projects like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would likely play well with voters on the left who are upset with the economy. That said, Republicans already think they have a game plan to crush any possible 2020 hopes Warren may have.

At least one poll by Politico and Morning Consult found that Warren would beat Trump in a head-to-head matchup, with voters picking her 34 percent to 30 percent.

And when Warren released the results of a DNA test in October that showed she had Native American ancestry, it was seen as a direct rebuke to Trump, who has often referred to her mockingly about her heritage claims.

The test was seen by some people as a way to rebuff Trump’s attacks on her ancestry ahead of any potential White House matchup. However, it did lead to attacks from several Republicans.

With a consistently liberal voting record, Warren would please large swaths of the Democrats’ progressive wing of the party—and maybe Republicans, too, but for very different reasons.

3) Sen. Kamala Harris

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Seen by many as a rising star in the Democratic Party, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) announced her bid for the Democratic nomination in early 2019.

In late January Harris made her first formal speech as part of her campaign in Oakland, California, where she touched on a number of progressive causes like women’s rights, Wall Street, and racial injustices, among other topics.

Her national profile was lifted earlier last year when she grilled former Attorney General Jeff Sessions during a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee amid the ongoing Russia probe. Harris also gained attention for her questioning of CIA Director Gina Haspel and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

More recently, Harris’s intense questioning of Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh also drew attention from liberals.

Specifically, Harris asked Kavanaugh if he knew of “any laws” that allowed the government to “make decisions about the male body,” to which the then-nominee responded: “I’m not thinking of any now, senator.”

She also asked Kavanaugh about net neutrality, an issue that is important to many Americans.

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In April, Harris drew ire from conservatives when she laughed at a joke on the Ellen Degeneres Show where the host asked her who she would prefer to be stuck in an elevator with: Trump, Vice President Mike Pence or Sessions.

In response, Harris laughed and jokingly said: “Does one of us have to come out alive?”

During the same interview, Harris brushed off questions about a possible 2020 presidential run.

“Right now we are in the early months of 2018, and at this very moment in time, there are people across America who have priorities around their health care, have priorities around can they get through the end of the month and pay the bills, pay off their student loans, can they afford to pay for gas, housing?” she said, adding: “There are so many pressing issues… these are immediate needs and these are the things I’m focused on right now.”

Despite this, there were signs pointing toward a presidential run. In July 2017, there were reports that Harris met with top Clinton donors, and Politico reported in April that she has begun spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on web advertising and digital campaign consulting.

Harris also pledged not to accept donations from corporate political action committees, which could be a sign she would try and emulate Bernie Sanders’ success with small individual donations during the 2016 primary.

Harris is also relatively new to politics, which could dent her. Although that didn’t stop Obama from running—and eventually winning—the presidency. To say nothing of Trump.

4) Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

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Kirsten Gillibrand announced in mid-January that she would be entering the Democratic presidential primary.

The New York senator took the seat that was vacated by Hillary Clinton in 2009 and has moved consistently left in her policy and voting record since taking office.

Like Warren, she has been a constant critic of Trump, even casting more “no” votes against Trump’s cabinet nominees than any other Democrat.

She announced her intention to run during an appearance on the Late Show With Stephen Colbert, adding that she wanted to run “because as a young mom I am going to fight for other people’s kids as hard as I would fight for my own.”

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Gillibrand has also been lauded for her commitment to gender equality and is in the spotlight for her strong support of women who have come forward asking for a congressional investigation into Trump’s alleged sexual misconduct. She also was the first senator to call on Sen. Al Franken to resign following his own sexual misconduct allegations.

She was targeted by billionaire Democratic contributor George Soros in June, who said she pushed for Franken’s ouster to “improve her chances” in a possible 2020 campaign. The donor’s comments were criticized as being sexist. Gillibrand also was attacked on Twitter by the president in late 2017, who said she would do anything for campaign donations, a reference that many took to have sexual implications.

The senator responded by saying she would not be silenced by the president.

5) Sen. Cory Booker

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The New Jersey senator has had star-power for many years, even during his time as mayor of Newark (where he carried a woman out of a house fire).

Sen. Cory Booker announced in Feb. 2019 that he would be seeking the Democratic nomination heading into 2020. In a video announcement, Booker used the inspirational language that people have grown accustomed to hearing from him and spoke about American’s “common purpose.”

“It is not a matter of can we, it’s a matter of do we have the collective will, the American will?” he said. “I believe we do. Together, we will channel our common pain back into our common purpose.”

Booker would likely appease more center-left Democrats and at least be palatable to more progressive voters. While Booker does have ties to Wall Street, he has also been a major critic of Trump and outspoken proponent of criminal justice reform. He also supported other progressive causes, such as declassifying marijuana as a scheduled substance on the federal level.

Booker is also a talented public speaker and made a much-lauded speech during the 2016 Democratic National Convention. There were even rumors Clinton was considering him as a potential running mate in 2016 before she ultimately chose Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine.

When asked in mid-March about a possible 2020 run and the message Democrats need to send to voters, Booker seemed to hint at a possible strategy. “I’m saying this to Democrats who will listen to me—we can’t make our elections about being against Trump. They have to be about what we’re for,” Booker told the Atlantic.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) also stoked the 2020 speculation when, during an argument about the release of documents amid the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, he admonished Booker, saying “running for president is no excuse for violating the rules of the Senate.”

In an interview with NYMag in September 2018, Booker made one his strongest statements regarding a 2020 run when he said it would be “irresponsible” not to consider making a run for president.

That was followed by Booker talking with political strategists in Iowa that worked for Clinton and Obama’s presidential campaigns, according to CNBC.

6) Former Housing Secretary Julian Castro

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Julian Castro, the former head of Housing and Urban Development, announced his presidential bid in Texas in early January.

“When my grandmother got here almost a hundred years ago, I’m sure she never could have imagined that just two generations later, one of her grandsons would be serving as a member of the United States Congress and the other would be standing with you here today to say these words: I am a candidate for President of the United States of America,” he said.

Castro also took a shot at former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who in late January 2019, said he was considering running as a “centrist independent.” That move, Castro said, would boost the reelection chances of Trump.

7) Former Rep. John Delaney

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Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) was the first candidate to officially announce their candidacy for 2020.

The congressman announced way back in July 2017 that he would be seeking the Democratic nomination, telling Business Insider that he thinks voters will be “open-minded and wants to do what’s best for their party and most importantly their country.”

Delaney is known as moderate as the Associated Press reported.

“I kind of view myself as sort of a long-distance swimmer, and I view this as a long race, and so, part of the challenge, obviously, in running for president, is to build the kind of name ID you need, so that you’re relevant when the race really starts,” he told the news outlet. “It’s a lot easier to build name recognition over a year and a half than it is across two months.”

As of April 2018, Delaney had spent more than $1 million on ads in Iowa and made 110 campaign stops in the state, according to Politico.

“I think I’m the right person for the job, and I have the right vision, but not enough people know who I am,” he told the news outlet. “The way you solve that problem is by getting in early.”

8) Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

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Tulsi Gabbard, a representative from Hawaii, announced a presidential bid in January. When elected in 2012, she became the first Hindu and first American Samoan member of Congress with voting power, according to FiveThirtyEight.

Gabbard is an Iraq War veteran and has strong anti-intervention beliefs when it comes to foreign policy, which could appeal to some Democratic primary voters. She also backed Sen. Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election.

However, if she makes it far into the primary she will have to answer questions about her 2017 meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad and her past work with an anti-LGBTQ organization that backed conversion therapy.  

Gabbard apologized for her views on the LGBTQ community in a video posted on Twitter.

However, the first stage of her presidential campaign has been bumpy. In late January, Politico reported that her 2020 campaign was blindsided by her announcement and major key staff members were already leaving.

9) Sen. Amy Klobuchar

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While Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) doesn’t have the name recognition as some other lawmakers on this list, she certainly has a résumé that can compete. The Minnesota senator has served in Congress since 2007 and has high approval ratings.

On Feb. 10 Klobuchar announced her bid for the presidency during a snowy speech in Minnesota. During the speech she touched on her family history and announced a number of policy goals she hoped to focus on if elected. The issues included campaign finance reform, climate change, and digital privacy and net neutrality, among other topics.

“For too long the big tech companies have been telling you, don’t worry, we’ve got your back,” she said. “While your identities, in fact, are being stolen and your data is being mined. Our laws need to be as sophisticated as the people who are breaking them. We must revamp our nation’s cybersecurity and guarantee net neutrality for all. And we need to end the digital divide by pledging to connect every household to the internet by 2022, and that means you, rural America.”

Klobuchar is from the Midwest, an area that Democrats overlooked during the 2016 election and could have swayed the election in favor of Clinton.

The rumors of a possible 2020 bid for Klobuchar were fanned when she traveled to a Democratic fundraiser in Iowa—a frequent stop for politicians ahead of announcing their presidential bid.

Klobuchar was one of a number of Democrats who grilled Kavanaugh—and was the only one to directly reference net neutrality—which probably raised her profile among Democratic voters.

She told MSNBC in mid-January 2019 she was “looking into” running for president.

2020 Democrats: Presidential candidates who have not announced

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1) Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke

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Beto O’Rourke, the man who captured national attention ahead of the 2018 midterms in his bid to unset Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.) has drummed up a lot of speculation about a presidential bid despite losing to the incumbent senator earlier this year.

The talk of “Beto 2020” came almost immediately after his loss to Cruz on election night, with some people changing their “Beto for Senate” lawn signs to “Beto for President” signs

There is no question O’Rourke has the ability to raise enormous amounts of cash—something that would be crucial for any 2020 Democratic candidate—and has rocketed in popularity because of his close race against Cruz.

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O’Rourke has downplayed the idea of entering the 2020 fray on numerous occasions, despite getting the endorsement of several celebrities.

The former Texas lawmaker told Politico in late January 2019 that any decision about jumping into the 2020 race could be months away, a different approach than numerous other Democrats who have announced their candidacies early.

“There are people who are smarter on this stuff and study this stuff and are following this and say you’ve got to do it this way or get in by this point or get in in this way if you were to get in,” he told the news outlet. “I think the truth is that nobody knows right now the rules on any of this stuff. I think the rules are being written in the moment.”

On Oprah this week, O’Rourke said he would make a decision in the coming months. 

There is also the question of whether O’Rourke would be progressive enough for a larger Democratic base. Some of his policies have been described as center-left, which may not sit well with a Democratic primary voting base who could be looking for a progressive hard-left candidate.

Whether or not O’Rourke decides to run, expect him to be on the shortlist for a vice presidential spot on the 2020 Democratic ticket.

2) Former Vice President Joe Biden

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Many Democrats were hoping Joe Biden would decide to run in 2016. But he decided not to, following the death of his son, Beau. Biden has not ruled out a 2020 bid and announced that a cross-country speaking tour to promote his book—sparking speculation of a 2020 run once more.

Biden would obviously have to tackle questions about decisions made by former President Barack Obama’s administration, but that hasn’t hurt his polling numbers. There are also questions about his conduct with women. However, many Democrats appear to have a very favorable view of the former vice president and Delaware senator.

One poll by Public Policy Polling found that Biden would beat Trump in a hypothetical 2020 match-up by a 54-to-41 percent margin.

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The questions swirling around the former vice president’s future aspirations also cropped up as he began campaigning amid the 2018 midterm elections.

A Politico report in March 2018 shed light on possible plans Biden’s team may have for announcing his 2020 candidacy. Some of the scenarios included the former vice president announcing his candidacy early, skipping the first votes in Iowa and New Hampshire, or possibly running with the promise of a one-term presidency.

In early September Biden also launched an Instagram account, sparking speculation he may have his eye on a White House run. He also adopted a dog in mid-November 2018, which had the internet buzzing about 2020.

Around the same time as his Instagram launch, CBS News reported that Biden has set an artificial deadline of January 2019 to decide whether or not to run. Advisers told the news outlet the former vice president believes he would be able to defeat Trump in a hypothetical election.

In late January 2019, Biden told Politico that he was “a lot closer” to making a decision and would announce his plans “soon.”

If Biden is planning on running, he’s certainly dusted off his ability to attack opponents–something he’d have to do a lot of in a matchup against Trump.

In early 2018 the two men made headlines after Biden said he would “beat the hell” out of Trump because of his comments in the past about women. Trump, predictably, responded on Twitter by saying the former vice president would “go down fast and hard, crying all the way.”

Biden entering the race could impact who else decides to join the fray.

“He’ll have competition, obviously. But that field’s going to get narrow if Joe Biden’s in it,” New Hampshire state Sen. Lou D’Allesandro told NBC News in early June 2018.

3) Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg

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In early-September, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made waves when he signaled the possibility of seeking the Democratic nomination in 2020.

The New York Times spoke with the billionaire, who had been donating money to causes hoping to elect Democrats to Congress during the 2018 midterms, and pointed out that despite his desire to run he may not find many progressive voters flocking to him due to his views on large banks and his controversial stop-and-frisk policies while mayor of New York City.

Bloomberg explored the idea of running as an independent during the 2016 presidential election, according to reports, and if he were to run this time it would be as a Democrat, he told the Times.

“It’s impossible to conceive that I could run as a Republican—things like choice, so many of the issues, I’m just way away from where the Republican Party is today,” he told the newspaper. “That’s not to say I’m with the Democratic Party on everything, but I don’t see how you could possibly run as a Republican. So if you ran, yeah, you’d have to run as a Democrat.”

However, if the uninspired reaction to fellow businessman Howard Schultz’s 2020 announcement is any indication, Bloomberg would likely find it hard to gain much traction among Democratic primary voters.

4) Sen. Sherrod Brown

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Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) was reportedly also considered by Clinton to join her 2016 ticket as a running mate.

Coming from Ohio, once thought of as a crucial swing state, does play into his favor, as does his progressive background. Brown, who won reelection in a state that has increasingly turned red, could be a roadmap of how Democrats play with Rust Belt states.

As one Cincinnati.com columnist put it:

“Vermont’s Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Warren? Kooky left-wingers. New Jersey’s Cory Booker and California’s Kamala Harris? Talking-points coastal elitists. How’d these types of candidates work out last time? None of them have proven they can connect with rural and small-town Trump voters in Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.”

Brown was a proponent of reenacting the Glass-Steagall Act, which made sure commercial and investment banks could not be linked, and he was an advocate for a larger stimulus package during Obama’s first term.

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In a November interview with Politico, Brown said he did not feel any pressure to launch himself into the 2020 discussion, but spoke about working-class issues that could resonate with people in states Democrats would need to take back from Trump to win the next presidential election.

He told NPR in early January 2019 that he would “figure it out in March” if wanted to run.

Of all the names on the list, Brown could be the dark horse to watch in the Democratic primaries leading up to 2020.

5) Gov. John Hickenlooper

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Gov. John Hickenlooper is in his second term as governor of Colorado and has become popular in the state that is seen as “purple,” an even mix of Republicans and Democrats.

The governor was reportedly considered by Clinton to be her vice presidential nominee before she ultimately chose Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.).

Hickenlooper ruffled a few feathers when reports surfaced that he and Republican John Kasicha frequent critic of Trump, had explored running on an independent ticket during the 2020 election with Kasich leading the team. However, in an interview with Rolling Stone, he downplayed that possibility.

In early 2018, Hickenlooper made a trip to Iowa, the first caucus in presidential primaries, raising some eyebrows about his presidential aspirations. As the Denver Post points out, the governor met with “veteran political players” ahead of the trip.

Speaking with CNN in April, Hickenlooper said he wanted to take some time to explore his options.

“This summer we’ll see how it begins to feel,” he said. “You’d have to get much more polished than what I am now, in terms of what my message would be and what I would bring that’s different than other candidates.”

In early September 2018, ColoradoPolitics.com reported that Hickenlooper created a political action committee called “Giddy Up,” and he told Axios in late August that he was talking with “old friends” about a possible run at the White House.

In late January 2019, Hickenlooper, like Brown, said he would decide by March if he wanted to run.

6) Former Attorney General Eric Holder

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Eric Holder, the former attorney general during President Barack Obama’s time in office, has fanned speculation about running in several interviews he’s given in recent months.

Holder, who was the first African-American attorney general in United States history, is also the chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. He told Viceland that he would decide about his 2020 intention by the end of 2018.

“What I’ve said is, I’m going to decide by the beginning of next year and see if there is going to be another chapter in my public service career. We’ll see,” he said.

Holder also blasted Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ decisions on the job. During his time as attorney general, Holder said the Justice Department would not enforce the Defense of Marriage Act and fought against discriminatory voting restrictions—both of which could appeal to liberal voters.

7) Rep. Tim Ryan

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Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) is relatively unknown but raised his profile when he challenged then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to lead the Democrats following Trump’s surprise election victory.

Ryan’s name has been subject to rumors of a possible 2020 bid for months, and when asked in September 2017 by Hardball host Chris Matthews about possibly running for president he responded with “I don’t know.”

Around the same time, Ryan spoke in Iowa and urged Democrats to focus on an economic message in future elections that starts “with letting these working-class people know that we see them, we hear them and we know what they are going through, and we have a plan.”

In late July 2018, the Intercept reported that Ryan was telling people he intended to run for president, and told at least one political operative that he was “gonna win.”

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Other possibilities:

Former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Former Secretary of State John Kerry, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Montana Governor Steve Bullock, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Andrew Wyrich

Andrew Wyrich

Andrew Wyrich is a politics staff writer for the Daily Dot, covering the intersection of politics and the internet. Andrew has written for USA Today, NorthJersey.com, and other newspapers and websites. His work has been recognized by the Society of the Silurians, Investigative Reporters & Editors (IRE), and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ).