The United States is charging full speed through the Trump presidency’s first year, and there’s already a pool of potential Democratic challengers to the president emerging for 2020.
While next year’s focus is on the 2018 midterm elections, these contenders are gaining clout by either vocally opposing Donald Trump’s policies or through Congressional action, appearing more often in the news cycle as a result. They have 2018 and beyond to build themselves up as candidates by fighting Republicans in Congress, and by late 2019 some of them will likely be household names if they aren’t already.
Here are seven Democrats who could very well form their party’s next presidential field.
Kicking off the list is Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who emerged as a surprise star in the primaries of 2015 and early 2016.
Sanders managed to turn Hillary Clinton’s road to the nomination from a foregone conclusion into a grueling war of attrition. His platform connected with working class voters, progressives and most notably youths, a group whom Clinton never quite cliqued with as a candidate.
The Senator’s message about income inequality in particular drove progressives to stand fervently behind him. It may propel forward again in 2020, perhaps to the nomination this time.
Sanders isn’t the only avowed progressive in the running.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., emerged onto the scene as another left-values champion in Congress during the Obama presidency. Warren made a name for herself following her election in 2012 by taking on big banks, advocating for affordable college education and investing in renewable energy among other things.
While pundits intensely speculated if Warren would run for president in 2016, the senator ultimately chose to sit it out. It doesn’t mean she won’t throw in her hat for 2020, especially since she is one of President Trump’s most ardent opponents in Congress.
Oh, what might have been.
During the last months of Barack Obama’s presidency, former Vice President Joe Biden spent what felt like a lifetime deciding if he would enter the 2016 race as a late contender.
Biden ended up staying out following the death of his son, though since the election he’s given conflicting statements on whether or not he’ll run in 2020. Biden certainly possess the experience needed for a president, and his legacy as Barack Obama’s vice president adds to his resume.
However, he has yet to run a successful campaign.
Biden ran in both 1988 and 2008, losing in both cases. Perhaps a third time might do him the trick.
Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., stands out from the pack for his more moderate positions. The former mayor of Newark holds a number of unorthodox views, among them his criticism of former President Obama’s attacks on Mitt Romney’s business career during the 2012 election.
Booker is almost Libertarian on certain issues, such as his belief in easing government regulations on business, ending the War on Drugs and supporting charter schools and school vouchers. At the same time Booker advocates raising the minimum wage, supports the Affordable Care Act and is a defender of LGBT equality.
Booker’s centrist views could make him a potentially potent candidate in 2020.
He could, with the right maneuvering, bridge the divide of the Democratic Party’s central and progressive wings. Booker also has a record of bipartisanship, having worked with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to introduce the CARERS Act, a bill to give Americans access to medical marijuana without fear of federal prosecution.
While it’s far too early to know if he’ll run in 2020, the 48-year-old Booker could stand out as a fresh, energized moderate who might begin to break down the partisan walls of Washington. Only time will tell.
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., is a relative newcomer to the Washington political scene. Her election last year followed a six year career as California’s attorney general.
Harris has a history of fighting for women’s equal pay, supporting the Fair Pay Act in her home state while also advocating for abortion rights. The platform for her Senate campaign promised she’d work to establish a carbon tax or a cap-and-trade market for carbon pollution to combat climate change, and Harris is in favor of resettling refugees and immigrants’ rights.
Harris has opposed nearly every nominee to President Trump’s Cabinet. While this will go a long way in the eyes of liberals, her biggest obstacle right now is inexperience; Harris is a freshman Senator, and she has a lot of catching up to do before 2020 arrives.
But as of now Harris hasn’t expressed interested in running just yet.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, D-N.Y., on the other hand has plenty of experience, having governed the populous New York for seven years now.
As governor, Cuomo legalized same-sex marriage in his state, enacted tougher gun laws and recently passed legislation to begin increasing New York’s minimum wage to $15. He also cut taxes on small businesses and restructured his state’s tax code.
Cuomo also knows the inner workings of a presidential administration, as he served as Bill Clinton’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development from 1997 to 2001.
However, Cuomo comes from a family of politicians. His father Mario Cuomo was governor of New York for three terms.
After Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016 it’s clear Americans aren’t interested in dynastic politics. While a family of governors isn’t quite the same as a family of presidents, perception is nonetheless key in politics, which could present a potential candidate Cuomo with some problems.
The last one on our list is Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. Elected to the Senate in 2009, Gillibrand previously represented New York in the House of Representatives for two years, making baseline political experience for her a non issue.
Gillibrand’s political history is an interesting one, which could hurt or help her in a hypothetical presidential run.
She was a member of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of fiscally conservative Democrats, during her time in the House, and she represented a largely conservative Congressional district. Her Senatorial positions became far more liberal, reflecting her representation of a mostly liberal state.
One example of this is gun control. Gillibrand firmly supported the Second Amendment in the House and even voted for a law that would have repealed Washington, D.C.’s ban on semiautomatic weapons.
But in one of her first major Senate votes, Gillibrand voted against a similar bill aimed at expanding gun rights in the nation’s capital. At the time, she said her views on gun control had become more “flexible.”
Gillibrand’s fluid views can be seen as either pragmatism or flip-flopping, depending on who you ask. As with Sen. Booker, a centrist attitude may bridge partisan gaps that have long plagued Capitol Hill if she is willing to look at the issues on both sides.
But her “flexible” stances will inevitably bring tough questions from primary voters, whose backing is key to any successful candidate. And that’s nothing compared to the ammunition Republicans would have against her.