While you could potentially split the Democratic Party into an infinite amount of different sectors, for simplicity’s sake, I will split it into four. From left to right the four main wings of Democratic Party are the Progressives, “plain” and “modern” Democrats, centrist Democrats, and conservative Democrats. The 2016 primary was a very simple affair with Hillary Clinton, a modern Democrat, facing off against Bernie Sanders, a Progressive. With the 2016 election of Donald Trump, Democrats have been given a rude awakening and it appears that many more candidates will throw their hat in the ring for 2020. Here are the candidates that I think if they decide to run, could have a solid chance of clinching the nomination.
Progressive members of the Democratic Party continually feel cheated by the DNC, an organization they believe, is working against them. If these Democrats are willing to stay in the party until 2020, though, they will have some strong potential candidates to back in the Democratic primary
Barring any health problems or other unforeseen events, it is basically a forgone conclusion that Bernie Sanders will run for the Democratic primary in 2020. While he may not have won the Democratic primary in 2016, he came fairly close. This is an impressive feat against Clinton, a candidate with very close ties to big donors and the DNC. Sanders has a motivated an impressive base of young people, perfect for primary caucuses which can take their toll on older voters. While polls on potential candidates for 2020 don’t indicate a clear front-runner, Sanders still leads the pack with around 14%.
Like Sanders, I would say that there is a high chance that Elizabeth Warren runs for President in 2020. If she does not, it will likely only be because she has been offered a Vice Presidency position by Sanders. Warren has been painfully obvious in her intent to run in 2020 from her constant grandstanding to flashing interviewers a nice silent smile when asked about her 2020 presidential ambitions.
Warren is not without dirt, she has made a lot of money flipping houses and has been given controversy over her claim of Native American heritage. As of now, I would say she could comfortably remain senator of Massachusetts without these scandals gaining any real attention, but if she decides to run, they could blow up out of her control and ruin her political career. These scandals may seem small, but remember Clinton lost the election to a reality TV star with no political experience because she used a private server for her emails.
While still being solidly to the left, these “modern” Democrats will likely be very successful in the general election because of their ability to excite their base and appear more palatable to independents than their progressive counterparts.
Kirsten Gillibrand is a popular New York Senator, who previously served as a member of the Blue Dog Coalition while in the house. As a senator, though, Gillibrand who has moved much farther to the left; perhaps, a calculated move to make her more appealing to Democratic voters for Presidential primaries? And, while Gillibrand has denied rumors that she will run in 2020 for the Democratic nomination, she could always change her mind.
Gillibrand is very much a Hillary Clinton 2.0. And, while I think Gillibrand would make a great president one day, I have doubts that she could win a 2020 election against Donald Trump. Voters have already rejected one distinguished senator from New York; odds are they will do it again. There is one Democratic senator that voters may not reject, though, which brings me to…
Tim Kaine is a very solid candidate for the 2020 primary. Democrats desperately need to show the nation that they are not a party run by the coastal elite, which makes Kaine a perfect candidate.
Kaine has solid political experience, being both a popular Governor and Senator for his home state of Virginia. Virginia is by no means a solidly blue state, and the fact that Kaine was able to remain a prominent politician there indicates his ability to court voters across the aisle. Finally Kaine has a great down to earth “common-man” appeal, which I believe will be crucial to win back the voters Trump gained in the 2016 election.
One issue with Kaine, though, may be his debating skills. When he debated Mike Pence in the 2016 vice presidential debate voters were turned off by his frequent interruptions and only 42% of viewers thought Kaine won the debate. Then again, Trump is an awful debater, so maybe this will be a non-issue. If Kaine wins in 2020, though, he will definitely need to brush up on his debate skills for 2024.
Although Kamala Harris has only been Senator of California since 2016, there is quite a strong possibility that she may win the Democratic nomination in 2020. She has influential friends from all across the Democratic Party including Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Jerry Brown, Joe Biden, and Barack Obama.
Before being Senator of California Harris, was a popular attorney general of California advocating for criminal justice reform, the abolition of the death penalty and marriage equality. She has been engaged in California politics a long time, and has managed to keep her hands fairly clean with little scandal to speak of.
Furthermore, Harris is the first Indian American and second African American women to be elected to the senate. If Harris can successfully build a coalition of women and African Americans in the Democratic primary she will have great odds of clinching the nomination.
While not getting as much buzz for 2020 as Harris, I truly think Chris Murphy, the Senator from Connecticut, has a real shot at the 2020 nomination. Murphy’s home state of Connecticut was the site of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook elementary in 2012. Since then, Murphy has made continual and passionate pleas for gun control, once even filibustering in the Senate for 15 hours straight.
If Murphy does not run for the nomination in 2020 he would make a solid VP pick, and maybe even a future Democratic President.
It is always hard for a centrist to win a primary. Opponents easily outflank them to the left and, unless they are great politicians, they often have issue drumming up passionate supporters. That being said, if they can make it past the primaries their appeal to independents makes them a general election powerhouse.
As a two-term governor from the red state of Montana, Steve Bullock has successfully been able to reach out to Republican voters, a key advantage centrist Democrats have in their ability to win elections. Bullock’s greatest feat is being able to win in Montana while sticking to key Democratic issues. While a moderate, Bullock is still a clear Democrat. He has officiated over same-sex weddings, protected the environment, believes women have an unrestricted right to abortion, and expanded Obamacare.
Most candidates, though, get their initial financial backing from their home state when running in presidential primaries. Here, Bullock is at a disadvantage, as Montana is a small state with not as many rich donors.
Still, if there is any Democrat that wants to see Trump defeated in 2020, there best answer is Bullock.
It is hard to pin down Terry McAuliffe as a centrist Democrat. He is very much a normal Democrat with his support of issues like gay marriage, Obamacare, abortion, and gun control. Still, McAuliffe shows some tendency towards fiscal conservatism with his support of free trade and privatizing social security. For that reason, I am going to round up and put him in the centrist Democrat camp.
McAuliffe is clearly ambitious, and will almost certainly run in the 2020 primary. When asked if he wanted to be President, McAuliffe responded with, “I don’t now, I might.” Furthermore, McAuliffe has deep ties with the Clintons and could use their fundraising power and political skills to successfully win the Democratic nomination. The Clintons though are a double edged sword, while useful for courting Democrats, the 2016 election showed that the country as a whole are not to fond of political dynasties. So, it may be in McAuliffe’s best interest to distance himself from the Clintons.
Finally, like Kaine, McAuliffe, is not part of the stereotypical coastal elite that is now the stereotype of the Democratic Party. This fresh face could serve to his advantage in the 2020 primaries, and general election.
Conservative democrats tend to work best in localized elections. Louisiana’s Democratic Governor John Bell Edwards and West Virginia’s Democratic Governor Jim Justice while passing muster as a Democrat locally, would likely be viewed with disdain by Democrats nationally.
Simply put, conservative Democrats are just too conservative to win the Democratic primary. For that reason, I do not think there are any conservative Democrats who have a real chance at clinching the 2020 Democratic nomination.
Out of this list, I think the four best candidates for Democrats in 2020 are Kamala Harris, Tim Kaine, Terry McAuliffe, and Steve Bullock. Harris is fresh, popular, and has a clean track record. Kaine has solid name recognition and a down-to-earth personality. McAuliffe is influential and could win back Trump supporters. Finally, Bullock can win Republicans over while still staying solidly Democratic. The best choice for Democrats as I have said would be Bullock. His ability to win voters that do not traditionally vote Democratic is crucial in the 2020 election. Unfortunately, I have doubts about his ability to fundraise and break free from the pack in the early stages of the Democratic primary. Hopefully he can, because the Democrats desperately need him to.