Race to 2020
Buoyed by their historic midterm victory and Trump’s troubles, Democrats are thirsting for a shot at the White House. Let the games begin
The Democratic Front-runners— at Least for Now
Donald Trump’s unlikely ascension To the White House shattered the conventional belief in American politics that not just anyone can be president—and it has made the chance to challenge him in 2020 open to, well, anyone.
And so, even though there are nearly two years until the next presidential election, an immense field of prospective candidates is already emerging. They span decades in age and political experience, millions in net worth and across the liberal spectrum. Supposed front-runners shift week by week, jumping from billionaire megadonor Michael Bloomberg to anti–wall Street socialist Bernie Sanders and even 46-year-old Texas Congressman Beto O’rourke. But despite their differences, the dozens of Democrats pondering presidential runs are united in the belief that, after their party’s success in the midterms and Trump’s tumultuous tenure in office, the White House will be painted blue in 2020.
Democrats recorded their best midterms showing since the 1974 election that followed President Richard Nixon’s resignation amid the Watergate scandal. The party easily flipped control of the House, picking up 40 seats—including 17 districts where Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016. They also made significant gains in state legislatures, where they could redraw political boundaries in the next round of redistricting and repeal controversial voter-identification laws, both measures that would help them in upcoming national elections. All-star candidates like O’rourke, Georgia’s Stacey Abrams and Florida’s Andrew Gillum, despite losing their races, became national celebrities and proved that Democratic engagement is alive and well in Republican strongholds. While they will have to work to distinguish themselves from one another, all are certain to capitalize
on the intensifying legal troubles plaguing Trump and his administration, which make him a more vulnerable candidate than he was in 2016.
As Democrats pick up steam, Trump and his party seem to be falling further behind. Despite the president’s tireless efforts to galvanize his base (which included attending 30 rallies in five weeks), his campaign promises of border security and tax cuts rang hollow with many Republican voters. Trump’s troubles only intensified after the midterms, as special counsel Robert Mueller closed in on former members of his inner circle. In an investigation of the president’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, prosecutors in New York alleged that then-candidate Trump directed a federal crime by orchestrating hush-money payments Cohen arranged for two women just prior to the 2016 election. Trump has given inconsistent accounts of his own involvement but now places all blame on Cohen.
As he gears up for 2020, Trump can, of course, turn to the more successful aspects of his presidency, like record-low unemployment rates and reshaping the courts with conservative judges. But if history is any guide, he’ll go negative, bigly.
The historic loss in the midterms offered at least crumbs of comfort: The GOP gained two Senate seats, demonstrating that rural conservative support is stronger than ever in the age of Trump. Still, even some Republican lawmakers are skeptical that it will be enough, and the possibility that Trump will face a primary challenger for the GOP nomination is becoming more probable.
While none of the major players have yet to formally declare their 2020 intentions, political insiders see these 10 Democrats as most likely to make a run for the presidency. Trump is already boasting that he is ready to take on his challenger, whoever that may be. “Nobody is going to come close to beating me,” he has insisted. We’ll soon find out.