U.S. Democrats are well into the marathon season of picking their next candidate for the White House—and the primary field is already more crowded than a Tim Hortons at lunch rush. Among the 23 declared candidates are a record six women (the previous record was two, leading one writer to declare that women running for president is the “new normal”). Here’s your guide to the politicians who would take on Donald Trump.
Candidates you’ve definitely heard of
Joe Biden, 76
Vice-president under Barack Obama, veteran politician and far and away the initial front runner (24 percent of Americans said they’d support him in the primary in a recent poll), Biden only declared his candidacy in late April. He’s viewed as a centrist liberal, which is saying something, considering he called the 2020 election the “battle for the soul of this nation.” His success will depend in part on how he handles his own lengthy political past, including his stances on crime, his “handsy” treatment of women and his infamous role as the chair of the Senate committee that belittled and berated Anita Hill.
Bernie Sanders, 77
The senator from Vermont, class crusader and democratic socialist rose to fame in 2016 when he took on Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination and has been credited with helping shift the Democratic party to the left. Under the overarching goal of reducing income inequality (he regularly criticizes the “one percent”), Sanders champions Medicare for All—a form of universal health care, something many Democratic candidates say they favour, though the specifics can vary widely—free college tuition and a $15 minimum wage. He’s considered among the front runners.
Candidates you’ve probably heard of
Kamala Harris, 54
A senator from California—who went to high school in Montreal—and the state’s former attorney general, Harris is another front runner, regularly polling near the top of the field. She’s among those who favour impeaching Donald Trump and is campaigning with a “truth and justice”-style messaging (she favours the legalization of marijuana as a way to reduce mass incarceration), but she’s also faced criticism for her years as a state prosecutor and attorney general.
Beto O’Rourke, 46
O’Rourke was one of the standout stars of the 2018 midterm elections, despite losing his Texas senate race to Ted Cruz. O’Rourke was credited with an Obama-esque ability to galvanize grassroots fundraising and for coming nail-bitingly close to winning, in part by slamming Trump’s treatment of immigrants and securing Latinx votes. He buoyed Democratic hopes of regaining territory in what’s long been the Republicans’ southern stronghold. But in the crowded 2020 field he’s become “just another Democrat in a crowded field” to some.
Elizabeth Warren, 69
Warren is often characterized as a female Bernie Sanders—just one example of the ways women running for president are still being compared to men rather than being recognized on their own terms. The Massachusetts senator’s main tag line is “ending Washington corruption.” She’s running one of, if not the most, policy-heavy campaigns so far (she wants to break up big technology companies and relieve student debt), and some called her the standout candidate at a presidential forum which specifically addressed the concerns of women of colour.
Pete Buttigieg, 37
Colloquially dubbed “Mayor Pete,” Buttigieg is the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, a former officer in the U.S. navy reserve who served in Afghanistan for seven months, and openly gay Christian whose positive, uplifting messaging has catapulted to the top of the national media’s attention (he’s apparently on all the podcasts and Hollywood loves him, and money is flowing in). He’s captured the mantle of the “authentic” and “smart” candidate—a Harvard alum and Rhodes Scholar who promises a “new American spring” in U.S. politics—but he’s also criticized for lacking “meaningful policy ideas.”
Bill de Blasio, 58
The New York City mayor seeks to claim a role on the national stage. Running on a central message of fighting income inequality, a theme he hit in the video announcing his candidacy, de Blasio will be able to cite accomplishments such as expanding full-day prekindergarten and curtailing police tactics, which had been called discriminatory by critics, while presiding over continued drops in crime rates in NYC. Even if de Blasio’s candidacy isn’t successful, he’ll be able to promote his policies and potentially angle for a job in a future Democratic administration. With his candidacy, de Blasio becomes the latest in a line of NYC mayors who have run for president. None has ever won.
Candidates you might have heard of
Andrew Yang, 44
The political rookie is making a surprising amount of noise, considering this is his first time running for office. An entrepreneur and founder of a non-profit that sought to build tech startups in struggling cities, he’s campaigning on a “human-centred capitalism”—advocating for a universal basic income and Medicare for All.
Amy Klobuchar, 58
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The senator from Minnesota gained national attention last spring for her withering questioning of Brett Kavanaugh during his senate confirmation hearings for the U.S. Supreme Court. A former prosecutor, Klobuchar doesn’t hail from a Democratic stronghold and she’s used that to campaign on the message that “bipartisan appeal can beat Trump.” Klobuchar’s bid to be a more “practical” candidate was initially undermined by allegations she mistreats her staff (which launched a separate debate over whether her behaviour was only criticized because she’s a woman).
Julián Castro, 44
A former Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Castro is trying to set himself apart by taking on Donald Trump’s signature issue: immigration. Castro grew up in Texas (his story is that of “an immigrant’s American Dream”) and believes “migration should not be a criminal justice issue” (he wants to make crossing the border a civil infraction). He’s also in favour of the Green New Deal, the Democrats’ high-level and wide-ranging policy document highlighting the need to address climate change at every level of government and society.
Cory Booker, 50
The senator from New Jersey and former mayor of Newark was among those praised by Democrats for his performance during the Kavanaugh hearings and his campaign has been defined thus far by his focus on the word “love.” He’s also a leading proponent of criminal justice reform, but has fallen to the right of some other candidates on issues like college tuition (he doesn’t want it to be free).
The New York senator is known as a vocal supporter of the #MeToo movement (she called for the popular Democratic senator Al Franken to resign over harassment allegations, but also faced her own scandal over her handling of harassment allegations against an aide). She’s angling to make herself the champion of the “resistance” movement to Donald Trump, and is considered among the left flank of the primary field (she supports social net programs like paid family leave and argues for abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement).
Candidates you probably had no idea existed, let alone knew were running
Tulsi Gabbard, 38
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Today, on exactly 6 months since the massacre at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh & the last day of Passover, a gunman opened fire at Chabad of Poway synagogue, killing one person and injuring 3 others. We must stand united to condemn this anti-semitism & all religious bigotry. An attack against one of us based on our religion, is an attack against all of us.
A member of the House from Hawaii and combat veteran, Gabbard is considered a “maverick” in the Democratic Party (she supported Sanders in 2016) and is running on a host of progressive causes, from affordable housing to gay rights and gun control. She’s also drawn sharp criticism for her comments on terrorism and Islam (she favoured the term “radical Islam”) and her soft stance on Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad: she said she was skeptical that he used chemical weapons, and argued he was “not the enemy of the United States because Syria does not pose a direct threat to the United States.”
The former governor of Colorado is campaigning on the idea that he can bridge the gaps in an increasingly partisan country, promising to go “beyond just defeating Donald Trump.” He’s been dubbed a “different” kind of candidate for his somewhat unpolished approach to bi-partisan politics.
Jay Inslee, 68
John Delaney, 56
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Delaney is a former member of the U.S. House from Maryland who’s considered a centrist (he’s dedicated to bipartisan legislation) and was a very early entry into the field. He wants to create a new government agency devoted to cybersecurity and is calling for people to unfollow Trump on Twitter.
Wayne Messam, 44
The mayor of Miramar, Florida (and the city’s first black mayor) favours cancelling student loan debt and has progressive views on the environment, abortion and gun control. He views health care as a “civil right.”
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Perhaps best known for being Oprah’s “spiritual advisor,” Williamson is also a bestselling author whose campaign is tagged as an “evolution” (not “revolution”) to counter the “spiritual and moral rot” in politics.
Tim Ryan, 45
The congressman from Ohio is one of the latest to join the race. He started his campaign by calling for unity in the Democratic Party and the country and is considered a moderate whose views on gun control and abortion have shifted to the left over time.
The congressman from California is a regular guest on cable news shows (he appears both on Fox News programs and MSNBC shows), and he’s so far focusing on health care, education and gun control in his campaign.
Seth Moulton, 40
The congressman from Massachusetts and former Marine is another recent entry to the field, announcing his candidacy in a video that slams Trump. Moulton has said of the president that “he’s not a patriot” over the way he avoided fighting in Vietnam due to bone spurs, and he’s called on Vice-President Joe Biden to apologize to Anita Hill. His campaign is focusing on patriotism, security and climate change.
Steve Bullock, 53
The Montana governor distinguishes himself among the nearly two dozen candidates as the field’s only statewide-elected official to win a state that President Trump carried in 2016. Bullock pitches himself as the rare Democrat who can win over rural and small-town voters—he’s done it three times in his home state of Montana, where Hillary Clinton got just 36 per cent of the vote in 2016. Bullock has aligned himself with conservationists, environmental activists and outdoorsmen by prioritizing public land use and conservation—a key issue in many Western states. But, he’s also been at odds with them at times as the leader of an energy-producing state, such as when he criticized the Obama administration for “moving the goal posts” by proposing stringent carbon dioxide emissions reductions under the now-defunct Clean Power Plan.
Michael Bennet, 54
Colorado senator Michael Bennet is trying to distinguish himself as the nominee “who’s going to level with the American people about why our system doesn’t seem to work for them.” Bennet says it seems “fairly clear” from special counsel Robert Mueller’s report that Trump “committed impeachable offences,” and that Democrats must find a way to deny Trump a second term. He also thinks that Attorney General William Barr should resign, saying Barr “has behaved like Trump’s criminal defence lawyer” rather than attorney general.
With files from Rosemary Westwood and The Canadian Press.