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.
But picture is less clear for the Democrats, and there is speculation a large field of contenders may throw their hats into the ring to take on Trump in the next presidential election.
As the campaign inches closer, every move and speech (particularly among the bigger names in the party) is analyzed and deconstructed as possible hints of a presidential run being launched.
But things can change quickly for Democrats with their eyes on the White House. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) was considered a liberal rising star and possible 2020 candidate until he resigned from office after several women came forward with sexual misconduct allegations.
There are a number of things that can happen between now and the 2020 election, but here are several names that could be gearing up for what is sure to be a brutal campaign against Trump in a few years.
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.)
Some Democrats may even hold a grudge against Sanders, who is technically not part of the party, for his grueling primary against Hillary Clinton in 2016. There have been arguments that Sanders’ attacks against Clinton may have helped Trump win the election and sway some voters views on her ahead of the election.
- Could Bernie Sanders run — and win — in 2020?
- Bernie Sanders’ new plan offers every American work, living wage
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.
Politico reported in June that Sanders was one of several possible 2020 Democrats who have met with former President Barack Obama in recent months.
Sanders and Obama talked about the future of the Democratic party and what it should focus on moving forward, according to the report.
IS BERNIE SANDERS RUNNING IN 2020?: Almost certainly.
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 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.
- What’s stopping Elizabeth Warren from running president in 2020?
- Why can’t Elizabeth Warren win the White House?
In particular, Warren could tap into the populist fervor that has overcome 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.
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. However, not everyone is sold on that.
Warren was also among the possible 2020 candidates who has met with Obama in recent months, according to Politico.
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.
IS WARREN RUNNING IN 2020?: Maybe. Too early to tell.
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 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 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.
Gillibrand responded by saying she would not be silenced by the president.
- 2020 Democrat contenders voted against the shutdown deal—here’s why
- Sen. Kristen Gillibrand on Trump: ‘Has he kept his promises? No. F**k no.’
The New York senator was among several possible 2020 candidates who attended a “We the People” summit in Washington where she blasted Trump for his attacks on immigrants, press freedom and other issues.
During her speech, she touched on several liberal themes including paid family leave, tax laws and a women’s right to decide about her reproductive rights.
In early 2018, Gillibrand was asked by the hosts of The View about a possible 2020 run and the senator replied coyly.
“No. No,” she said, laughing. “I’m running for Senate… and I do hope New Yorkers will allow me to continue to serve. I really value this opportunity to be a voice for them.”
IS GILLIBRAND RUNNING IN 2020?: Probably.
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 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.”
More recently, Biden told MSNBC in April that he was “hoping that some other folks step up” into the 2020 Democrats field, but didn’t close the door on running, saying that he would decide by the end of 2018, according to the Washington Post.
- The best Joe Biden memes that stand the test of time
- Trump says Biden would ‘go down hard and fast’ in a fist fight
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 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.
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.
IS JOE BIDEN RUNNING IN 2020?: Probably.
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 Jeff Sessions during a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee amid the ongoing Russia probe.
- Why Kamala Harris 2020 is a real possibility
- Sen. Kamala Harris rips into Trump’s ‘many sides’ response to Charlottesville
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.”
While she hasn’t announced any plans for 2020, signs are pointing toward a 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.
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.
IS KAMALA HARRIS RUNNING IN 2020?: Yes.
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 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.
In May, Booker was asked on The View about his 2020 aspirations but demurred.
“I’m a contender for the 2018 midterms where I’m going to be fighting for every Democratic candidate,” he said. “This is the most important midterm election of our lifetime… for folks who are looking beyond that… don’t look beyond.”
Similarly, at a University of Chicago event in May, Booker seemed to think someone else would be at the top of the Democratic ticket in 2020.
“In the mosh pit of all the names that are talked about, maybe there is going to be a person where you and I both will say ‘she is the one’ and let’s get involved in supporting them,” he said.
However, Booker also met with Obama like other possible 2020 candidates—so he could just be playing coy as the time gets closer for an announcement.
IS CORY BOOKER RUNNING IN 2020?: Maybe. Could be a VP candidate.
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.
In February, Cuomo also ended a speech with union supporters by sending not-so-subtle barbs at Trump.
“We will make America America again!” Cuomo said.
The idea of Cuomo running has crossed the minds of at least some Republicans–with one former Trump adviser telling Politico that a face-off against the New York governor makes him “nervous.”
“Hillary Clinton wouldn’t take the gloves off. There isn’t a counterpunch Andrew Cuomo won’t throw,” Michael Caputo told the news outlet.
However, Cuomo might not have the star-power outside of the Northeast to make a realistic run at the nomination in 2020, and clearly he may not have the liberal chops people in his home state are hoping for. Cuomo is being tested by an insurgent left-leaning primary campaign by Cynthia Nixon ahead of his re-election bid in November.
Despite this, all signs appear to be that he has presidential aspirations in the future.
IS ANDREW CUOMO RUNNING IN 2020?: Probably.
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.
IS AMY KLOBUCHAR RUNNING IN 2020?: Not likely.
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.
The actor seemed to downplay the idea of him making a bid for the White House in 2020 during an interview with Rolling Stone in April.
“I mean, look people are very excited, and it’s so flattering that they’re excited,” he told the magazine. “I think it’s also a function of being very unsatisfied with our current president. But this is a skill set that requires years and years of experience. On a local level, on a state level and then on a national level. I have the utmost respect for our country and that position, and I’m not delusioned in any way to think, ‘Oh, absolutely, if Trump can do it, I can do it, and I’ll see you in 20-whatever, get ready.’ Not at all.”
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.
IS THE ROCK RUNNING IN 2020?: No.
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.”
For quite a while, the co-founder of Facebook stirred the presidential run rumors, particularly 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. Zuckerberg also hired a chief strategist from Hillary Clinton’s campaign in August 2017, fueling speculation.
Don’t start printing “Zuck for Prez” buttons yet.
Besides Zuckerberg denying any intention of running for president, there was the extreme public backlash against Zuckerberg and the social media giant following the revelations that Cambridge Analytica, a data firm that caters to businesses and political campaigns, harvested data on more than 80 million Facebook users without their knowledge.
Not to mention his testy testimony before Congress that was watched by millions of Americans.
Before the news of Cambridge Analytica broke, Trump seemed 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.
IS MARK ZUCKERBERG RUNNING IN 2020?: Not after this year’s fracas.
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.
- Donald Trump’s dream vice president is Oprah
- Trump watches ’60 Minutes,’ goes off the rails on Oprah
- Donald Trump Jr. slams NBC for tweet endorsing Oprah’s 2020 presidential run
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.”
While she says she isn’t running, at least one poll says she would beat Trump in a hypothetical 2020 matchup. A poll by Zogby Analytics found 53 percent of likely voters would choose her, compared to 47 percent who would choose Trump.
However, former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer disagrees with that notion.
IS OPRAH RUNNING IN 2020?: No.
12) Eric Holder
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.
In March, 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 in 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.
IS HOLDER RUNNING IN 2020?: Maybe. Let’s see later this year.
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.
In April, O’Malley told NBC News that he is keeping an “open heart and an open mind” about running for president again.
A month later, a local news channel spoke with O’Maley in New Hampshire–a state anyone seriously considering running would spend a lot of time in–where he said he “might” run in 2020.
In the interview he took swings at Trump that would likely be standard fare in any primary or general election matchup.
“I believe that the Trump administration is an administration whose malice has been tempered only by their own incompetence,” he said.
IS O’MALLEY RUNNING IN 2020?: Probably, but it won’t matter.
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.
However, Brown is expected to have a tough re-election battle in the 2018 midterms.
Of all the names on the list, Brown could be the darkhorse to watch in the Democratic primaries leading up to 2020.
IS BROWN RUNNING IN 2020?: Check again after the midterms
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. However, in an interview with Rolling Stone in April, 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.”
IS HICKENLOOPER RUNNING IN 2020?: It’s looking likely.
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.”
As of April, Delaney has spent more than $1 million on ads in Iowa and made 110 campaign stops in 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.”
IS DELANEY RUNNING IN 2020?: Yes.
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.”
IS RYAN RUNNING IN 2020?: Too early to tell
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, Rep. Keith Ellison (Minn.), New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, Montana Governor Steve Bullock, Sen. Chris Murphy (Conn.), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.)
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.