The next presidential election is going down on November 3, 2020. And the field of candidates who want a chance to take on President Trump just keeps growing.
Who’s actually running?
Trump is definitely running. So far, 24 candidates have said 'count me in.' Here's what you need to know about the contenders hoping to take on Trump:
✷ The Who: Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO), 54. In early April, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. And said he would run for president if he was declared cancer-free. A successful surgery got him here.
✷ The Resume: Senator since 2009. Former superintendent of Denver Public Schools. Served as chief of staff for then-Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, who’s also running in 2020.
✷ The Issues: He has a reputation for being a moderate. He’s best known for being a part of the Gang of Eight – a bipartisan group that drafted a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2013. (It passed in the Senate but it didn’t make it to the House.) He plans to make education a top campaign issue, but hasn’t dropped policy details. We know he wants to fight partisan gerrymandering, stop members of Congress from ever becoming lobbyists, and to overturn a controversial Supreme Court decision that paved the way for unlimited political contributions. He supports what he calls Medicare-X – which he says would be a public plan that would offer Americans low-cost health insurance choices and create more competition.
✷ The Who: Former VP Joe Biden, 76. Polls have consistently showed him as the Dem frontrunner, despite the crowded field.
✷ The Resume: Before serving as President Obama’s veep, Biden was Delaware’s longest-serving senator – first elected in 1972 at age 29. This is his third run for presidency (he also ran in 1988 and 2008).
✷ The Issues: As a senator in the ‘90s, he intro’d the Violence Against Women Act, which strengthened federal penalties for repeat sex offenders and established the National Domestic Violence Hotline, among other things. He’s been criticized for his role in the war on drugs, voting for the Iraq War before later criticizing it, how he handled the Anita Hill hearings as the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and his unwanted physical contact with some women.
✷ The Who: Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), 49. Launched his campaign on the first day of Black History Month. Said that if he’s the Dem nominee, he’ll prioritize finding a female running mate.
✷ The Resume: Senator since 2013, former mayor of Newark, NJ.
✷ The Issues: He’s known for his work on criminal justice reform including being one of the main backers for the criminal justice overhaul Congress passed last year. It did things like shorten mandatory minimum sentences for some drug-related crimes. He also supports Medicare for All, wants to give each child in the US a savings account with $1,000, and wants a program to guarantee jobs in high-unemployment communities across the country.
✷ The Who: Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT), 53. He says he can win over GOP voters, pointing to his 2016 re-election in a state that President Trump won by more than 20 points.
✷ The Resume: Governor since 2013, former state attorney general.
✷ The Issues: He’s known for holding liberal viewpoints in a red state. He supports gay marriage, net neutrality, expanding Medicaid, and an assault weapons ban. As governor, he’s signed laws that emphasize transparency around political donors. And so far, his presidential campaign is focused on campaign finance reform.
✷ The Who: Pete Buttigieg (D), 37. Youngest candidate. Would be the first openly gay presidential nominee of a major party.
✷ The Resume: Mayor of South Bend, Ind. Rhodes Scholar, military veteran who served in Afghanistan.
✷ The Issues: He’s been light on specifics so far. But has given shoutouts to policies like Medicare for All and wants to tackle climate change. As mayor, he’s focused on turning around the city’s economy – including rehabbing abandoned houses and the city’s downtown area. He’s pushing himself as a president for a new generation.
✷ The Who: Julián Castro (D), 44. The first major Latino candidate for 2020.
✷ The Resume: Former US housing secretary and former mayor of San Antonio, TX.
✷ The Issues: He's supportive of universal pre-K across the US for certain kids, like those who are homeless or receiving SNAP benefits.
He also wants more affordable higher education, Medicare for All, criminal justice reform, and to find a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. And thinks it'd be great if the US was back in the Paris climate deal.
✷ The Who: Bill de Blasio (D), 58. He’s already gotten heat for joining the 2020 race because critics say he should focus on issues at home in NYC.
✷ The Resume: Mayor of NYC (the country’s largest city) since 2014, former NYC public advocate, former NYC City Council member.
✷ The Issues: De Blasio wants to bring his progressive platform to the rest of the country. As NYC mayor, he’s implemented universal pre-K and a $15/hour minimum wage. Health care is also a big issue for him. He’s announced a health insurance program for undocumented immigrants and low-income residents in NYC, and has worked with his wife to create a city-wide mental health initiative. But he’s gotten pushback for things like problems with the city’s subway system and greenlighting Amazon’s HQ2 there.
✷ The Who: John Delaney (D), 56. You’re not the only one who’s never heard of him. He was the first Dem to announce a 2020 presidential run (all the way back in July 2017).
✷ The Resume: Former congressman from Maryland and former businessman.
✷ The Issues: He has a long wishlist. Including: wanting the president to debate Congress every quarter. Ending government corruption. Ending the opioid epidemic. Enacting a $15 federal minimum wage. Lowering student loan interest rates.
✷ The Who: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), 38. The first Hindu and American Samoan member of Congress. She’s come under fire for her history of anti-gay statements.
✷ The Resume: Congresswoman from Hawaii since 2013 and Army National Guard veteran.
✷ The Issues: Mostly TBD. She’s known for being outspoken against foreign military intervention – so don’t be surprised if that’s one of her main talking points. In 2015, she joined Republicans to vote in favor of increased screenings of Syrian and Iraqi refugees. She’s been light on details but says her campaign will focus on criminal justice reform, climate change, and health care.
✷ The Who: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), 52.
✷ The Resume: Senator since 2009, former House rep, started career as a lawyer.
✷ The Issues: Expect her to put women’s rights front-and-center. That’s been one of the biggest issues she’s tackled while in Congress.
That includes bills aimed at changing how sexual assaults are handled in the military and on college campuses. She also supports Medicare for All and is into the idea of the Green New Deal. Don’t be surprised if she’s called out for her history of backing more conservative policies when she was in the House.
✷ The Who: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), 54. The first African-American woman to announce a 2020 run for the White House. She’s gotten some criticism for her time as a prosecutor.
✷ The Resume: Senator from California since 2017, former California AG, and former San Francisco district attorney.
✷ The Issues: Last year, she intro’d a middle-class tax plan that’ll reportedly be a big part of her campaign. She also wants tax credits for low-income renters, a $15-an-hour minimum wage, and free higher education for most Americans. And she wants to change the cash bail system, which can hit poor Americans particularly hard. She supports Medicare for All.
✷ The Who: John Hickenlooper (D), 67. Has a reputation of being a moderate (doing things like persuading dozens of mayors – many Republicans – to back a sales tax hike).
✷ The Resume: Former governor of Colorado. Went from being a laid-off geologist, to owner of a brewpub, to mayor of Denver and then governor.
✷ The Issues: Hasn’t announced his platform. At the state level, he's implemented limits on methane emissions, signed gun control bills, expanded Medicaid, and worked to get almost everyone in the state healthcare coverage.
✷ The Who: Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA), 68.
✷ The Resume: Governor since 2013. Previously served as a representative at both the state and federal levels.
✷ The Issues: As governor, he’s done things like support raising the minimum wage in Washington and help pass a statewide paid family leave law.
There are not many details on his presidential campaign platform – but he’s made it clear it’ll be focused on climate change.
✷ The Who: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), 58. The first woman elected to represent Minnesota in the US Senate. She’s a moderate Dem who could pick up GOP votes (see: her 2016 re-election). There’ve been reports that she frequently mistreated staff – for which she issued a statement promising to do better.
✷ The Resume: Senator since 2007, she was previously Hennepin County Attorney.
✷ The Issues: Not that many details. When she announced her bid, she said she’s going to focus on reforming election laws, including automatically registering people to vote once they turn 18. She also wants to expand laws that protect online privacy.
✷ The Who: Wayne Messam (D), 44. He's pretty unknown outside of Florida, but says the presidency needs someone with “fresh eyes” and who’s more tuned in to Americans’ everyday issues.
✷ The Resume: Mayor of Miramar, FL, construction business owner.
✷ The Issues: He hasn’t talked much about his policies yet, though his track record as mayor shows that he’s in favor of gun control and fighting climate change. He’s also taken action against Trump’s tough immigration stance – and proposed making Miramar a “safe zone” for undocumented immigrants.
✷ The Who: Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA), 40. Has called for a new generation of leaders in the Democratic party.
✷ The Resume: Congressman since 2014, former Marine who served four tours of duty in Iraq.
✷ The Issues: Moulton’s military background will play a big role in his campaign. He plans to focus on foreign policy, national security, and defense issues. He’s already outlined his vision, which includes fixing relationships with allies like NATO countries and focusing on improving weapons tech with AI. Also on his agenda: veteran affairs. He’s on the House Armed Services Committee, has helped recruit veterans to run for Congress, and has sponsored legislation to help improve their access to health care.
✷ The Who: Beto O’Rourke, 46. Became a rising star in the Democratic party after his grassroots 2018 Senate campaign against Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).
✷ The Resume: Former US congressman from Texas, former El Paso City Council member, former punk rocker.
✷ The Issues: In Congress, he helped pass legislation to expand health care to veterans. He also supports universal health care, universal background checks on prospective gun owners, and legalizing marijuana. On the Senate campaign trail, his main focus was immigration policy. He wants to create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and is against Trump’s hard-line immigration policies – including the “zero tolerance” policy and his plans for the US-Mexico border wall. He’s said he’d support tearing down the current wall in El Paso – one of the largest cities on the border and his hometown.
✷ The Who: Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH), 45. He’s putting himself out there as someone who will win over working-class voters.
✷ The Resume: Congressman since 2003, former Ohio State senator. Best known for his (unsuccessful) challenge against Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) for House minority leader in 2016.
✷ The Issues: Expect manufacturing to be one of his top priorities. Last year, GM announced it was shutting down his blue-collar district’s factory. Ryan has called out the company and said President Trump’s corporate tax cuts haven’t helped keep US jobs at home. Expect him to also focus on trade. In the House, he’s intro’d legislation to enforce fair trade with China, and has been ‘ra ra’ about Trump’s China tariffs. He’s also said NAFTA has hurt US workers.
✷ The Who: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), 77. Raised a record $5.9 million from more than 200,000 donors in the 24 hours after he announced his bid.
✷ The Resume: Senator since 2007, the longest serving independent member of Congress in history.
✷ The Issues: Hasn’t dropped his 2020 platform yet but we can guess what’ll be on it. He’s the one who spearheaded Medicare for All. He wants to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans, enact a $15 federal minimum wage, supports making college tuition free, and will likely make climate change a key issue.
✷ The Who: Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA), 38.
✷ The Resume: Former prosecutor, congressperson since 2012.
✷ The Issues: Gun control. He wants a ban on assault weapons and background checks on all gun purchases. He’s also focused on relieving student debt.
✷ The Who: Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), 69. Highest-profile Dem in the race. If you don’t know her, you’ve probably still heard about the controversy around her ancestry.
✷ The Resume: Senator since 2013, former Harvard law professor who laid the groundwork for what became the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
✷ The Issues: Her big thing is economic opportunity for the middle class. She has a reputation for putting a lot of pressure on the financial industry for the way it does business. She’s very much pro regulating Wall Street and more recently has focused on a bill to combat gov corruption.
✷ The Who: Bill Weld (R), 73. The first primary challenger to the president.
✷ The Resume: Former Massachusetts governor, 2016 Libertarian VP nominee with former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson for president.
✷ The Issues: Setting up to be the anti-Trump Republican. Has called Trump a “schoolyard bully” and said his “priorities are skewed to the promotion of himself.” Weld supports abortion rights, gay rights, marijuana legalization, and cutting taxes. He also opposes Trump’s tariffs, and thinks the US should rejoin the Paris climate deal.
✷ The Who: Marianne Williamson (D), 66. She’s a big name in Hollywood and has dabbled in politics before.
✷ The Resume: Best-selling author and spiritual guru. Founded several charities. She unsuccessfully ran for a California House seat in 2014.
✷ The Issues: She wants the US back in the Paris climate deal, supports universal health care and free college, and gun control legislation that includes universal background checks. She's also proposing a plan that would put between $200 billion and $500 billion in reparations for slavery to be distributed to educational and economic projects that benefit African Americans.
✷ The Who: Andrew Yang (D), 44. He doesn’t have any experience in politics but is running because he’s afraid for the future of the country, saying new tech (think: robots, software, artificial intelligence) has “destroyed more than 4 million US jobs.”
✷ The Resume: Former tech executive and author.
✷ The Issues: He has three main issues but the biggest one is universal basic income. His goal is to find a way to give $1,000 a month to every American adult. No conditions. He also supports Medicare for All.
Why do I keep hearing about exploratory committees?
Because several candidates started out by launching an exploratory committee. Meaning they were looking into a presidential run but hadn’t officially registered as candidates. The committee means someone can start raising and spending money on things like polling and reaching out to voters. But they don’t have to give the Federal Election Commission a heads up about all their money moves (although some still do). The main benefits: start building up that campaign bank account and get your name in the headlines twice – once for announcing the committee and again when you make it official. Sneaky sneaky.
Got it. Who’s on the fence?
All eyes are on big names like former Ohio Governor John Kasich (R) and former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz (considering an independent bid) to enter the race. Stay tuned.
You mentioned the Green New Deal. What is it?
It’s a plan to fight climate change that’s been in the spotlight lately thanks to support from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) – the newbie lawmaker shaking up DC. The goal: transition the US to relying 100% on renewable energy sources (think: wind and solar) for electricity within 10 years. Because in case you’ve missed report after dire report, the world needs to massively reduce its greenhouse gas emissions ASAP or risk events like more frequent droughts and flooding, and extreme heat that could lead to things like food shortages and potentially affect hundreds of millions of people (BTW, read our FAQ on climate change here). There aren’t a lot of specifics yet about how to make the Green New Deal reality. Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) intro’d the proposal in Congress in February and say they’re hoping to continue hashing out details. Meanwhile, activist groups are pressuring 2020 candidates to get on board with the deal.
Medicare for All. Explain.
The short version: it’s the idea of government-sponsored, universal healthcare. You might also hear people refer to this as single-payer health care – the government being the single payer. The longer version: lawmakers have been debating for years about the best way to offer Americans health insurance. Right now, Medicare is the gov program that gives health insurance to people over age 65 and certain younger people with disabilities. Medicare for All would edit and expand that to cover, yep, all Americans. It’s an idea that’s been largely pushed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in recent years. Dem candidates went all in on it for the 2018 midterms. And it’s already a major 2020 talking point. Supporters say this is the best path toward more accessible, affordable healthcare. Critics say it would give the gov too much control over the health care system and cost the feds a ton of money. Check out this breakdown for specifics on how it would affect you.
Trump is considered a lock for the Republican nomination. But the field of Democratic candidates is crowded and expected to continue to grow. It’s the most diverse ever. And full of both VIP names and people you’ve maybe never heard of. But Trump’s 2016 win proved that even the most unlikely and less experienced political contenders have a shot. The challenge will be fighting for the fundraising dollars and staffers that’ll give their campaigns an edge.