Democrats are starting to wonder who might be able to beat Donald Trump.
While the 2020 presidential election is still several years away, that hasn’t stopped Democrats from speculating about who may decide to run against President Donald Trump.
Democrats have a lot to consider before then—most notably, a 2018 midterm election that they hope will swing Congress in their favor. But every move people make, particularly bigger-name members of the party, is analyzed as a possible early sign they are considering taking on Trump.
However, things can change quickly for people thinking of a possible run. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) was thought to be a liberal rising star and prospective candidate to run against Trump in 2020, but he resigned from office following seven women coming forward with sexual misconduct allegations.
There is a long list of possibilities, so let’s take a look at some of the names that have been thrown around since Trump was inaugurated.
2020 presidential election: Potential Trump challengers
1) Sen. Bernie Sanders
It shouldn’t be a shock that Sen. Bernie Sanders’ name comes up in nearly every 2020 election talk. 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.
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. (Of course, there’s always that pesky S-word.)
Possible roadblocks for Sanders, an independent from Vermont, include the recent FBI investigation into his wife, Jane Sanders, over potential bank fraud. Depending on how the federal investigation into Trump goes, that could be hot cannon fodder for Trump—not to mention all of the other bruises he may have taken during the (sometimes contentious) 2016 primary fight against Hillary Clinton. However, there is no denying that if he decided to run, 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.
2) Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), like Sanders, would tap into the growing number of Democrats hoping for a more progressive candidate to challenge Trump’s hard-right support base.
Warren is also an outspoken critic of Trump, helping raise her profile among disenfranchised Democrats. She saw her profile skyrocket when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) silenced her as she was criticizing now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
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Warren also has a relatively high (57 percent) approval rating, according to Morning Consult’s tracker, although that’s down from around 61 percent in April. That said, Republicans already think they have a game plan to crush any possible 2020 hopes Warren may have.
While it’s still early, Warren seemed to try and quell 2020 speculation when she spoke with Fox News. “I’m not running for president,” she told Fox News Sunday in mid-March.
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. Kirsten Gillibrand
Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York senator, took the seat that was vacated by 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.
Gillibrand has also been lauded for her commitment to gender equality and is in the spotlight with 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.
Gillibrand was recently attacked on Twitter by the president, who said she would do anything for campaign donations, a reference that many took to have sexual implications.
Gillibrand responded by saying she would not be silenced by the president.
That said, she still remains relatively unknown on the national stage, with around a quarter of Americans saying they don’t know enough about her to have an opinion. That could be a valuable asset for a 2020 prospect—provided she can keep control of her own narrative.
4) Former Vice President Joe Biden
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 soon-to-be-released 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.
A recent poll by Public Policy Polling found that Biden would beat Trump in a hypothetical 2020 match-up by a 54-to-41 percent margin.
Biden continued to fan the flames of a possible 2020 run in November when he said he wasn’t “closing the door” on seeking the Democratic nomination during an interview on The Today Show.
“No, no, I’m not closing the door,” Biden said. “I’ve been around too long. I mean, I’m a great respecter of fate. But who knows what the situation is going to be a year and a half from now.”
A Politico report in March 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.
5) Sen. Kamala Harris
Seen by many as a rising star in the Democratic Party, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) is the country’s first Indian-American and second female African-American senator. As a former state attorney general, Harris would likely match up well against Trump in a debate.
Harris also champions liberal causes such as criminal justice reform and marriage equality, which would please a large portion of the Democratic base.
Her national profile was lifted earlier this year when she grilled Attorney General Sessions during a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee amid the ongoing Russia probe.
There have been reports that Harris recently met with top Clinton donors, further fueling 2020 speculation.
However, 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.
6) Sen. Cory Booker
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 would likely appease more center-left Democrats and at least be palatable to more progressive voters. While Booker does have deep ties to Wall Street, he has also been a major critic of Trump and outspoken proponent of criminal justice reform.
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.
7) New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo
Gov. Andrew Cuomo‘s recent push to beef up New York’s infrastructure and transportation—not to mention his recent decision to hire 12 staffers who worked for Obama’s White House, the federal government, or a presidential campaign—has put him firmly in the realm of 2020 speculation.
In his annual state-of-the-state address in 2017, Cuomo clearly positioned himself—and the state of New York—as anti-Trump, rejecting the ideas that got Trump elected. In his address, Cuomo touched on the middle class and how progressive policies “created the nation’s middle class in the first place.” He also proposed executive orders to reduce the wage gap for women in New York, as well as criminal justice reform.
However, Cuomo might not have the star-power outside of the Northeast to make a realistic run at the nomination in 2020, but all signs appear to be that he has presidential aspirations in the future.
8) Sen. Amy Klobuchar
While Sen. Amy Klobuchar 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.
Klobuchar is also from the Midwest, an area that Democrats arguably 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.
9) Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Perhaps one of the more “out there” ideas for the 2020 nomination, there has been an inordinate amount of buzz surrounding Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson running for president.
The actor has not shied away from the rumors—in fact, it seems that at times he has actively encouraged them to continue.
In an interview with GQ earlier in the year, the Rock said it was a “real possibility” that he would run against Trump in 2020. And in May, the Rock “announced” his candidacy for 2020 with his “running mate” Tom Hanks during the season finale of Saturday Night Live.
For what it’s worth, some polls suggest that he would beat Trump in a hypothetical 2020 matchup. Public Policy Polling found that Johnson would beat Trump 42 percent to 37 percent and would actually pull in 15 percent of people who voted for Trump in 2016.
10) Mark Zuckerberg
Like the Rock, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is another less traditional choice given his lack of political or military experience. However, he would fit the mold created by Trump as a “businessman turned politician.”
The co-founder of Facebook stirred the presidential run rumors when he announced he would visit every state in America as a way to meet people—the kind of tour that politicians make before announcing a presidential bid.
Don’t start printing “Zuck for Prez” buttons yet: Zuckerberg has denied any intention of running for president. However, rumors continued to swirl after he hired a chief strategist for Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Trump seems to view Zuckerberg as a possible threat, with reports surfacing that White House aides have started “informally monitoring” Zuckerberg and other potential Democrats who might run in 2020.
11) Oprah Winfrey
Talks of an impending Oprah run heated up when, on Sept. 28, Winfrey tweeted out an article endorsing her for president, calling the former talk show host the Democrats’ “best hope” to challenge Trump. In the tweet, Winfrey thanked the writer for a “vote of confidence.”
In fact, Trump’s election may have sparked some more interest in Winfrey. Speaking with Bloomberg News, Winfrey said with Trump’s win, she may have overestimated what it takes to become president.
“I thought, ‘Oh, gee, I don’t have the experience, I don’t know enough.’ And now I’m thinking, ‘Oh,’” she said.
The whole idea of an Oprah vs. Trump election gets weirder when you consider that Trump considered having her as a running mate when he toyed with the idea of running for president under the reform party in 2000.
A speech Winfrey gave at the Golden Globe awards sparked intense speculation about a 2020 presidential run, but in late January, she seemed to put it all to rest, saying that running for president is “not something that interests me.”
12) Mark Cuban
Dallas Mavericks owner and television star Mark Cuban said in early fall that he is “considering” running for president.
Speaking on the Viewpoint podcast hosted by former South Carolina state Sen. Bakari Sellers, Cuban said he wasn’t ready to commit to running in the future, but said he was considering it.
Like Trump, Cuban is a billionaire businessman who is not afraid to speak his mind. In fact, the two of them have had some feuds in the past.
A hypothetical poll by Public Policy Polling found that Cuban would narrowly beat Trump in a 2020 matchup 41 percent to 40 percent.
13) Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley
You may have forgotten Martin O’Malley, given how crazy the 2016 election and primaries were. But O’Malley did compete against Sanders and Clinton during the Democratic presidential primaries.
But perhaps he’ll take another crack at the presidency in what is expected to be a wide-open Democratic field ahead of 2020. As FiveThirtyEight points out, O’Malley spent more time in Iowa between 2013 and 2016 than Clinton or Sanders and has visited early voting states like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina in recent months.
O’Malley did push for same-sex marriage in Maryland, signing a law in 2012 and repealing the death penalty in the state–issues that are core to many Democrats.
14) Sen. Sherrod Brown
Coming from Ohio, a crucial swing state, does play into his favor, as does his progressive background. As he runs for reelection 2018, how Brown plays with Rust Belt states could be a roadmap for those serious about unseating Trump in 2020.
Brown was a proponent of reenacting the Glass-Steagall Act, which made sure commercial and investment banks could not be linked, and was an advocate for a larger stimulus package during Obama’s first term.
Of all the names on the list, Brown could be the darkhorse to watch in the Democratic primaries leading up to 2020.
15) Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper
Gov. John Hickenlooper is in his second term as governor of Colorado and has become popular in the state that is seen as “purple,” or a mix of Republicans and Democrats.
Hickenlooper ruffled a few feathers earlier this year when reports surfaced that he and Republican John Kasich–a frequent critic of Trump–had explored running on an independent ticket during the 2020 election with Kasich leading the team.
16) Rep. John Delaney
Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) is the only candidate to officially announce their candidacy for 2020.
The congressman announced way back in July 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 and supported a measure to raise money to build infrastructure by allowing corporations in the United States to avoid taxes on overseas profits if they purchase bonds to be used for infrastructure, the AP reports.
“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.”
17) Rep. Tim Ryan
Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) is relatively unknown, but raised his profile earlier this year when he challenged 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 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.”
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz
Editor’s note: The Daily Dot will periodically update this list as people begin to make it clearer whether they will seek the 2020 Democratic nomination.
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