It’s only January and the Democrats are already dealing with an immensely crowded field of contenders for the 2020 Primary race. 2019 had barely started when Elizabeth announced on Twitter that she was setting up an exploratory committee on her potential as a Democratic Nominee in the 2020 Presidential Race. Though an exploratory committee doesn’t always lead to a campaign, Warren was the first person to officially announce their foray into the 2020 race.
Warren, Senator from Massachusetts, is ideologically an ideal candidate; as socially liberal as Clinton and Obama, but economically sitting between to two. Controversial claims of Native American ancestry have marred her appeal to millennial voters. At 69 years old, twice the age of most other potential contenders, her age may work against her. Warren can spin the Bernie Sanders-esque narrative of being an older progressive guru to the youth, but Warren was the weakest incumbent elected in the 2018 midterms; her support isn’t as strong as it seems.
The next challenger in the primary race was New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who announced her interest in being a candidate on The Colbert Show (some saw this as a thinly veiled ploy to gain visibility among millennial voters). Gillibrand greatest strength may also be her greatest weakness: she’s a woman who pushes women’s issues. She has been an outspoken advocate of the Me Too movement and if she can harness the significant voting bloc of educated white suburban women, things might start looking very good for Gillibrand. On the other hand, In desperation not to relive the horror of the 2016 election, Democrats may be vying for a candidate that they see as ‘electable’, by which I mean a white straight male. Gillibrand need not apply.
Surprisingly, Kamala Harris, the 54-year-old daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants from Berkeley has the widest base of support of the candidates so far. She made history in her role as San Francisco’s district attorney by being the first woman, the first person of South Asian descent and first black person to hold that office. She broke the state party line to support Obama over Clinton in the 2007 primary race and she opposes capital punishment. She has a relative amount of support from most major demographics, but a lack of national profile and her position as a criminal prosecutor could hinder this.
Julian Castro’s American Dream narrative will gain him support from Democrats; escaping his impoverished background in Texas to attend Stanford and Havard and then become Mayor of his home town of San Antonio. He served in the Obama administration as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, but his time in major offices have been short-lived meaning most Democrats are unsure of where he stands on major issues. His ethnicity will garner him broad support from Hispanic voters, but it will also work against him in areas of America where racial prejudice is evident.
The Democratic favourites for the race have yet to announce their intentions: former Vice President Joe Biden and Texan Democratic Hero Beto O’Rourke. Both have that ‘electable’ quality and a national image that appeals broadly to Democrats that haven’t started to care about the 2020 candidates yet. In the meantime, more presidential hopefuls continue to throw their hats in the ring, from openly gay Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg to Hawaii’s progressive conservative contradiction Tulsi Gabbard. It’s going to be a long twenty-three months.
By Muireann O’Shea – CoEditor