With 21 candidates, the 2020 democratic presidential election lineup is looking crowded.
Here is a guide to the top 5 who stand a chance.
By: Logan Phillips
5. Senator Elizabeth Warren
Blue-collar history, Wall Street watch dog
Elizabeth Warren grew up in a working-class family in Oklahoma, but found her way out of poverty and became a Harvard Professor of Economics.
When President Obama wanted to create a new agency to regulate Wall Street and protect consumers, he turned to Elizabeth Warren who spearheaded the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Lagging, but don’t count her out
Warren is not taking the traditional route to running for President - she has gone all-in on ambitious policy plans that she believes will give the middle and working class a fair shot at success. They include:
Canceling almost all student debt
Building three million new homes to make housing more affordable
A universal child care plan paid for with a new tax on multimillionaires.
While Warren has underperformed so far, Warren is turning things around. Her student debt have gone viral, and in contrast to the early stages of her campaign, she’s starting to get glowing coverage from the press.
I’d argue that Elizabeth Warren’s strengths, message, and political skills are probably a much better fit with a scrappy underdog than a heavy front-runner. No one should be surprised to see her claw her way back to the top and become Democrats’ comeback kid.
4. Senator Bernie Sanders
When Bernie Sanders came into 2016, most people thought a successful run would be picking up 5 to 10% of voters, getting some attention to his agenda, and dropping out after Iowa. It worked out a little better than expected.
Will a socialist surge be enough?
Bernie is betting that 2020 is the year that a political revolution hits the Democratic Party. He has been off to an impressive start and is polling second to Biden nation ally.
Even so, there are already some canaries in the coal mine – he’s losing support in key early states already, losing 5% in Iowa in the last month.
Here’s the real question that will determine the success of his candidacy:
Will Bernie supporters from last cycle stick with their man, or will they migrate to other candidates that have adopted his policies, but may be younger, a little more exciting, or look a little more electable?
3. Senator Kamala Harris
When Kamala Harris kicked off her campaign in Oakland, it was hard not to get the feeling that you may just have been watching history. Speaking to an audience of 20,000, (even bigger than President Obama’s 2008 campaign launch), she waxed poetically in an inspiring speech that spoke to America's better angels. A week later, she had doubled her support in the polls to 14%.
And yet… things seem to have slowly declined from there. Kamala stopped doing as many press interviews, she started to get less coverage, and voters seems to be taken with other candidates in a field that seems to be growing larger by the day. Week by week, Kamala’s support has slowly slid down back to an average of 7.5%.
Here’s what Senator Harris still has going for her:
Harris has excellent political instincts, a great message, is charming, and passionate.
She has the exciting and enticing potential to be the first black women president in history.
Harris might just be the candidate best able to build a diverse coalition that attracts support from all wings of the party.
2. Mayor Pete Buttigieg
How did the nationally unknown Mayor of South Bend, Indiana rocket from 18th place to third in the democratic primary? With sharp political instincts, genuine decency and authenticity, and a knack for creating viral moments.
The biggest key to his success has been his uncanny ability to answer any question about politics or policy in an intelligent way that explains complicated ideas and values in a way that everyone can understand.
The biggest barrier for Buttigieg to overcome is that the vast majority of support so far has come from white voters. This could be because non-white voters have yet to hear about Pete, or it could be because his message is not resonating with them.
If he can built out his coalition, Pete has a excellent pathway to the nomination.
1. Joe Biden
Leading in the polls and breaking records in his first day in fundraising, the former Vice President is arguing that the country’s soul is in danger after two years of a Trump administration that has used division to rally its base.
Democrats’ darling in the polls
Biden’s early lead isn’t just because of name recognition. Democrats genuinely adore Joe, and his approval rating in the party is frequently higher than 80%.
Biden’s head to head numbers against Trump are consistently better than any other Democrat and some polls show him winning nationally by double digits.
Biden has his skeptics, and they point to his weak performance in the 2008 primary. However, it’s clear that he has grown significantly as a politician and campaigner with his eight years in the limelight. There is also a big difference in entering the race as a Senator that most Americans don’t know versus entering as one of the best Vice Presidents in history.
Logan Phillips is a political aficionado who worked on President Obama’s schedule as a White House Intern, trained volunteers to Get Out the Vote for Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and advocated for Congress to expand affordable housing programs. Logan was a Fellow for the Eisenhower Institute, where he worked on national security and briefed the Director of the NGA on Food Insecurity in West Africa. He is in his first year at Columbia University, and is pursuing his Masters in International Affairs.