More than 450 candidates have already registered with the Federal Election Commission to run for president in 2020.
The election is still more than 600 days away, but the Democratic playing field is starting to look crowded. Here are the people officially running and the people dropping hints that they probably will.
President Donald Trump
Some pundits thought political outsider Donald Trump might not like his job in the Oval Office, but he wasted no time registering to run for re-election. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, then-Deputy Press Secretary, told reporters, “Of course he’s running,” in June 2017. In February 2018, conservative-outlet Drudge Report confirmed it. Brad Parscale, who led Trump’s digital strategy in 2016, will be his campaign manager.
Qualifications: Trump graduated from University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business with a bachelor’s degree in economics. He previously starred in a reality television show and made millions of dollars in real estate dealings. As President, he’s passed a tax bill that effectively lowered taxes for about 80% of Americans, according to the Tax Policy Center, nominated two conservative judges that were confirmed to the Supreme Court and has seen the unemployment rate remain low.
Rationale: From a historical angle, Trump’s a shoo-in for the 2020 GOP nomination. Only one elected president before him, Franklin Pierce, wanted but did not receive his party’s nomination to run for a second term.
Controversies: While Trump has benefitted from that stable economy — among other achievements — the Administration has taken countless hits for Trump’s former associates, his tweets and his policies. Two years after the election, he has not released his tax returns, his second Supreme Court pick was accused of sexual assault and his EPA chief resigned amid piling ethics complaints. His Administration has been sued over an immigration policy that separated migrant children from their families and has watched Trump’s former colleagues face charges and indictments for foreign lobbying, tax fraud and lying to federal officers.
Sen. Kamala Harris
Sen. Kamala Harris announced she was running for President on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. “This is a moment in time that I feel a sense of responsibility to stand up and fight for the best of who we are,” she said during an appearance on “Good Morning America.”
Qualifications: Harris studied political science and economics at Howard University and subsequently earned a law degree from University of California Hastings College. She spent several years as a deputy district attorney and then as district attorney in San Francisco, before she was elected California’s attorney general in 2010. Harris easily won her Senate race against fellow Democrat Loretta Sanchez in 2016.
Rationale: Harris is a member of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, which held hearings ahead of then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s full Senate confirmation vote. There, she asked him tough questions in line with her history as a prosecutor: “Are you willing to ask the White House to authorize the FBI to investigate the claims against you?” she asked. “Are you willing to ask the White House to conduct an investigation by the FBI to get to whatever you believe the bottom of the allegations that have been levied against you?” she repeated, adding, “I don’t want to debate with you how they do their business, I’m just asking are you willing to ask the White House to conduct such an investigation?”
“Say yes or no and then we can move on,” she finally stated, though Kavanaugh deflected each time.
If elected, Harris would be the first female African-American and first Indian-American president, as well as the first woman to hold the highest title in the country. The Senator is off to a good start in the financial department — in her first day of campaigning, Harris raised approximately $1.5 million dollars.
Controversies: Harris is a successful politician today because of her past as a prosecutor, but that could do her disservice too. Some in the criminal justice community have expressed concerns that her actions as a California district attorney and attorney general disproportionately affected marginalized communities. Since announcing her candidacy, she’s publicly addressed the criticisms. “I was the attorney general of California for two terms and I had a host of clients that I was obligated to defend and represent,” she said. “I couldn’t fire my clients, and there were unfortunately situations that occurred where my clients took positions that were contrary to my beliefs.”
Sen. Cory Booker
Sen. Cory Booker announced he was running for president in a video message posted to his Twitter account on Feb. 1. “We are better when we help each other,” he says in the footage. “I believe that we can build a country where no one is forgotten, no one is left behind; where parents can put food on the table; where there are good paying jobs with good benefits in every neighborhood; where our criminal justice system keeps us safe, instead of shuffling more children into cages and coffins; where we see the faces of our leaders on television and feel pride, not shame.”
Qualifications: Booker, 49, received his bachelor’s degree from Stanford and his law degree from Yale. In between, he was also awarded a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford. After graduating from law school, he moved to Newark, New Jersey, where he started a legal nonprofit for low-income families. He was first elected to city council at age 29, and went on to become mayor in 2006. In 2013, he won a special election to the U.S. Senate, and the following year was elected to a full six-year term. As the state’s junior Senator, Booker has landed coveted positions on the Senate Judiciary and Foreign Relations committees.
Rationale: Booker routinely sponsors bills that aim to alleviate poverty, expand affordable access to healthcare and raise the minimum wage. Raised by two civil rights activists, Booker is a staunch defender of equality — especially among African-Americans, Latinos and women. “Generations of heroic Americans have made our nation more inclusive, more expansive, and more just,” he said while addressing the Democratic National Convention in 2016. “Our nation wasn’t founded because we all look alike or prayed alike or descended from the same family tree. But our founders, in their genius, in this, the oldest constitutional democracy on the planet Earth, they put forth the idea that all are created equal, that we have inalienable rights.”
Like Sen. Kamala Harris, Booker garnered broader name recognition for questions he asked during then-Supreme Court Nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings about the sexual assault allegations lodged against him by Christine Blasey Ford. “So sir, let’s just be clear,” Booker started. “You have problems with the senators that are up here and how we conducted it; but, you’re not saying in any way that she is a political pawn, a political operative. You have sympathy for her. She is talking about a sexual assault. Is that correct?” Moments later, Booker doubled down: “Do you wish that she never came forward?” To which Kavanaugh responded, “Senator, I did not do this.”
If elected, Booker could be the first unmarried person elected President since the 1800s. However, he recently confirmed he has a girlfriend.
Controversies: While at Stanford, Booker wrote a column in his college newspaper describing an incident with a young woman that took place when he was 15. “After having my hand pushed away once, I reached my ‘mark,’” he wrote. “The next week in school she told me that she was drunk that night and didn’t really know what she was doing.” Booker, then a peer counselor, wrote that if he was going to advocate against sexual misconduct, he had to own up to his own mistakes. “When I hesitated in writing this column, I realized I was basking in hypocrisy,” it reads. “So instead I chose to write and risk.”
Sen. Amy Klobuchar
Sen. Amy Klobuchar announced she was running for president at a rally in her home state of Minnesota on Feb. 10. “We are all tired of the shutdowns and the showdowns, of the gridlock and the grandstanding,” she said, less than a month after the longest government shutdown in history ended at an impasse. “Our nation must be governed not by chaos, but by opportunity.”
Qualifications: Klobuchar studied political science at Yale and law at the University of Chicago. After law school, she worked as a corporate lawyer before being elected a county attorney where she focused on prosecuting violent criminals. In 2006, she became the first woman elected to represent Minnesota in the U.S. Senate. She has since won re-election twice.
Rationale: Like several of the Senators she’s vying against for the Democratic nomination, Klobuchar is a member of the powerful Senate Judiciary committee that oversaw the confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh. As the daughter of a man who struggled with alcohol addiction, asking the Supreme Court nominee about his alcohol use hit particularly close to home.
“Drinking is one thing, but the concern is about truthfulness, and in your written testimony, you said sometimes you had too many drinks,” she said. “You’re saying there’s never been a case where you drank so much that you didn’t remember what happened the night before, or part of what happened?”
Kavanaugh quipped back: “You’re asking about, you know, blackout,” he said. “I don’t know. Have you?”
In addition to her committee memberships, Klobuchar is also known for her popularity in Minnesota. She beat her last Republican challenger by more than 20 points. According to Morning Consult, she’s also the third most popular Senator with a 60% approval rating.
Controversies: Klobuchar has one of the highest staff turnover ratings among her Senate colleagues. According to recent HuffPost and BuzzFeed articles, some former staffers have accused her of being difficult to work with. Other employees, quoted in the HuffPost article, said the Senator had high expectations that pushed them to be better, and that the allegations were symptomatic of sexism. An unnamed campaign spokesperson told both publications that Klobuchar values the people she works with: “Senator Klobuchar loves her staff ― they are the reason she has gotten to where she is today.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Sen. Elizabeth Warren officially announced her candidacy at a Feb. 9 rally in Lawrence, Massachusetts. She had previously announced an exploratory committee. “It won’t be enough to just undo the terrible acts of this administration,” she told the crowd gathered in her home state. “We can’t afford to just tinker around the edges — a tax credit here, a regulation there. Our fight is for big, structural change.”
Qualifications: Warren earned degrees from the University of Houston and Rutgers Law School. Before her political career, Warren taught law at several schools, including the University of Houston, the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard. In 2012, she successfully beat incumbent Sen. Scott Brown, who had replaced Sen. Ted Kennedy after his death. She’s served as a Senator since then, winning re-election in 2018. She’s also known for advocating for the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which enforces rules for financial institutions, and for her progressive stances issues like student loan reform and corporate capitalism.
Rationale: Warren thinks she can help rebuild the middle class. In the video announcing the foundation of her exploratory committee, she discusses her childhood in Oklahoma, and how her mom had to find a minimum wage job after her dad suffered a heart attack. After he recovered, he eventually became a janitor. Her father “raised a daughter who got to be a public school teacher, a law professor and a senator. We got a real opportunity to build something,” Warren says in the video. “Working families today face a lot tougher path than my family did.”
Controversies: Warren released the results of a DNA test in attempt to debunk claims that she was not part Native American. She had faced pushback on the topic during previous election cycles after it was discovered she was listed as a minority in staff directories when she taught law. The report confirmed Native American genes were in her pedigree, but that the relative could have been from six to 10 generations ago. Some have criticized the connection as too distant to be of note.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand announced she is forming an exploratory committee to seek the Democratic nomination for President on CBS’s “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.”
Qualifications: Gillibrand attended undergrad at Dartmouth and law school at UCLA. Before running for public office, Gillibrand clerked for the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and practiced private law in New York City. She served in the House of Representatives beginning in 2007, and was appointed to the Senate in 2009 after Hillary Clinton vacated the seat to become Secretary of State.
Rationale: Gillibrand cited institutional racism, greed and corruption in Washington as barriers the future Democratic nominee will have to overcome in order to accomplish legislation that bolsters hard-working Americans. “I believe that anybody who wants to work hard enough should be able to get whatever job training they need to earn their way into the middle class,” she said during her announcement. Her platform might include postal banking — legislation she sponsored in 2018 that would require U.S. Post Offices to offer basic financial services, like checking accounts. “I’m going to run for president of the United States, because as a young mom, I’m going to fight for other people’s kids as hard as I would fight for my own,” the New York Senator said on the show.
Controversies: Gillibrand has become more progressive over the last decade. When she was appointed to fill Hillary Clinton’s vacant seat, she opposed any sort of amnesty for undocumented immigrants, according to the New York Times. Gillibrand also used to have an “A” rating from the NRA, though the pro-gun rights group has since downgraded it to an “F.” These ideological shifts could prove problematic to progressive voters in primaries that are likely to be heated.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard broke down barriers when she became the first Samoan-American and first Hindu elected to Congress. Before her election in 2012, she served in the Hawaiian Army National Guard — first in Iraq and then Kuwait. Before that, Gabbard became the youngest woman ever elected in the state, when she won a Hawaii House seat at age 21. On Jan. 24, Gabbard officially announced her bid to become America’s first female president with a campaign video.
Qualifications: After being homeschooled for most of her life, Gabbard studied business at Hawaii Pacific University and graduated in 2009. Gabbard does not have an advanced degree, but does have experience serving on Honolulu’s city council, in Hawaii’s state legislature, in the Army National Guard and as a congresswoman.
Rationale: Gabbard has recently visited crucial states like Iowa and New Hampshire. She also wrote a book slated to be published this spring. Unlike Trump, Gabbard has wartime experience. She actually left Hawaii’s House in order to serve in Iraq. “I stepped down from the legislature where I served, and headed to a war zone,” she said at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. “As a combat veteran, I know the costs of war.”
Controversies: Gabbard is only 37, and has limited congressional experience in comparison to other Democrats expected to enter the ring. Other than her age, she’s also faced criticism for helping her father’s anti-gay organization, the Alliance for Traditional Marriage, around the early 2000s. The organization ran a successful campaign to give the state legislature power to “reserve marriage to opposite-sex couples”. There is evidence the group also supported conversion therapy, according to web archives. If elected, she’d be the youngest President in America’s history.
You might know Julián Castro’s name from his previous roles as San Antonio’s mayor, or his more recent stint as former President Barack Obama’s Housing and Urban Development Secretary.
Qualifications: Castro graduated from Stanford University and Harvard Law School. Like Gabbard, he’s known for starting in politics at a young age. He became San Antonio’s youngest councilman in 2001 when he was 26. After one unsuccessful attempt, Castro was elected as San Antonio’s Mayor in 2009. In 2012, he became the first Latino to deliver the Democratic National Committee’s keynote address. He was named HUD Secretary in 2014 and was reportedly considered as a running mate by 2016 Democratic Nominee Hillary Clinton. Under Obama, Castro helped launch the ConnectHome initiative, which expanded affordable broadband internet access to public housing recipients in 27 cities.
Rationale: The native Texan has said he thinks he can be the “antidote to Trump” on hot-button issues like immigration. While speaking to a crowd of supporters in San Antonio, less than 200 miles from the southern border, Castro said the crisis America faces is one of leadership. “Donald Trump has failed to uphold the values of our great nation,” he said. “We have to have border security … but there’s a smart, and a humane way to do it. And there is no way in hell that caging children is keeping us safe.”
Controversies: The Office of the Special Counsel found that Castro violated the Hatch Act when he appeared to advocate for and against presidential candidates during an interview leading up to the 2016 election. “Now, taking off my HUD hat for a second and just speaking individually, it is very clear that Hillary Clinton is the most experienced, thoughtful, and prepared candidate for President that we have this year,” he had told Yahoo News anchor Katie Couric during the interview that took place at HUD’s broadcast studio. Castro later apologized for the indiscretion.
Sen. Sherrod Brown
Sen. Sherrod Brown has not officially declared he’s running, but he is seriously thinking about it. “I haven’t had this dream to be President my whole life or even as a kid or any time,” Brown told the Cincinnati Enquirer in November. “I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t considering it.” His wife, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Connie Schultz, said the couple will “know within the next two months.” On Jan. 15, he announced a tour of three states with early primaries.
Qualifications: The Ohio Democrat received a bachelor’s degree from Yale and two Master’s degrees from Ohio State University. Before being elected to the Senate in 2006, Brown served as a state legislator, Ohio’s secretary of state, and a member of the House of Representatives for seven terms.
Rationale: Brown is a liberal Democrat and avid proponent of American manufacturing. He’s led opposition movements against the North American Free Trade Agreement and has argued for reform on Wall Street to protect individuals over corporations. A former public school teacher, one of Brown’s priorities is funding education and job training. His approval rating in Ohio, a crucial swing state that has been swinging more red than blue, is strong. In a recent favorability poll matching up Brown and Trump, Brown bested the sitting commander-in-chief, 48% to 42% in his home state. He thinks his brand of Midwestern liberalism could help sway blue collar voters who picked Trump in 2016: “Whether you swipe a badge or punch a clock, whether you work on a salary, whether you’re raising kids — I don’t think Washington gets the dignity of work,” he said in November.
Controversies: Brown’s first wife had alleged she feared for her safety and the safety of their children when they were getting divorced in the late 1980s. When GOP operatives tried to use his divorce papers for political gain in Brown’s most recent re-election campaign, his first wife pushed back against the claims: “I was proud to support Sherrod in 2006 and 2012 — just as I am this time around. Anyone who suggests he is not an honorable man is just wrong,” she said.
Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced he’s seriously considering a presidential run in 2020. “We’re living at a most fragile time,” Schultz said during a Jan. 27 “60 Minutes interview.” “Not only the fact that this President us not qualified to be the President, but the fact that both parties are consistently not doing what’s necessary on behalf of the American people and are engaged every single day in revenge politics.”
Qualifications: Schultz grew up in blue collar household, becoming the first in his family to graduate from college after studying communications at Northern Michigan University. Post graduation, Schultz worked in sales and marketing at Xerox before rising through the ranks at a home-goods company that Starbucks bought supplies from. He lobbied for Starbucks to hire him and proceeded to rise through their ranks too, eventually becoming CEO in 1987.
Rationale: If Schultz runs in 2020, he says it will be as a “centrist independent.” He’s previously donated more than $100,000 to Democratic campaigns, but he’s also criticized the direction in which Established Democrats are moving. “It concerns me that so many voices within the Democratic Party are going so far to the left,” he told CNBC last June. Schultz could appeal to fiscally conservative but socially liberal voters.
Controversies: Schultz has never been elected to public office. He’s also faced criticism for directives advanced by Starbucks under his leadership. In 2015, in the midst of national allegations of police brutality, Schultz tried to tackle race relations by having baristas scribble “race together” on Starbucks cups. One Starbucks executive received so much negative feedback about the initiative that he temporarily deleted his Twitter account to get away from it. Schultz himself has said he dreams big — sometimes, too big. “It may be a weakness in me: I’m always wondering what I’ll do next. Enough is never enough,” he wrote in his 2012 book, “Pour Your Heart into It.”
Pete Buttigieg, the popular mayor of South Bend, Indiana, announced he was launching a presidential exploratory committee on Jan. 23. “The show in Washington right now is exhausting. The corruption, the fighting, the lying, the crisis. It’s got to end,” he said in a campaign video posted to social media. “Right now, our country needs a fresh start.”
Qualifications: Buttigieg, pronounced “boot-edge-edge,” graduated from Harvard and went on to become a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, where he studied philosophy, politics and economics. At age 29, Buttigieg became the youngest mayor of a U.S. city with a population larger than 100,000. Buttigieg is also a Naval Reserve veteran, having served for seven months in Afghanistan in 2014.
Rationale: In his first mayoral election, Buttigieg won nearly three-fourths of the votes in South Bend. In his bid for re-election, he achieved 80% against his Republican challenger. Before his mayoral campaigns, Buttigieg did economic and environmental consulting work for McKinsey & Company, according to the Center for Public Integrity. “Right now, our country needs a fresh start,” Buttigieg said in his campaign announcement video. If elected, he’d be the first openly gay President and, currently 37 years old, he’d be the first millennial President.
Controversies: Buttigieg is educated, accomplished and well-liked in his community, but he has had some unsuccessful endeavors. In 2010, he ran for Indiana state treasurer and lost. In 2017, he made an unsuccessful bid for chair of the Democratic National Committee, eventually dropping out after indicating he didn’t have enough votes. Some may argue he doesn’t have enough political experience compared to the Senators and other prominent Democrats expected to run in 2020.
Rep. John Delaney
Rep. John Delaney doesn’t have the strongest national name recognition, nor has he been in Congress that long (elected 2012). Perhaps that is why he announced his 2020 campaign so early — July of 2017, early — to get ahead of better known Democratic competitors.
Qualifications: Delaney earned a bachelor’s degree from Columbia and a law degree from Georgetown. He also launched two companies that were traded on the New York Stock Exchange. The Democrat won his first election in 2012 after significant redistricting changes were made to Maryland’s map. As a member of Congress, Delaney has introduced legislation that would end partisan gerrymandering — a political tactic that arguably helped him get his job representing Maryland’s 6th district in the first place.
Rationale: Delaney spent the better part of 2018 visiting crucial electoral states. While he’s not the only politician to have done so, he appears to be one of the only Democrats to have been forthcoming about why he’s visiting. Honesty is the best policy, Delaney told Politico. “We know they’re thinking about running for president or they’re planning on running for president, and we ask them that question directly, and they lie to us. And so our first introduction to them is based on a dishonest moment,” he said someone told him.
Controversies: Not many people outside of Delaney’s home state knows who he is. Even though he had visited Iowa more than 10 times in the last year, only about half of the likely Democratic caucus-goers knew who he was, Politico reported. Further, his views are more moderate than some of the other likely Democratic contenders. “I’m a big believer in the private economy and market forces, but I also believe there’s a role for government in setting the rules of the road and helping take care of the most vulnerable,” he said in 2017.
Candidates who have dropped out
These candidates have dropped out after announcing formal campaigns or exploratory committees.
Ojeda is a retired Army major, former Democratic state senator and failed West Virginia congressional candidate. He entered the race in November of 2018, only to announce he was dropping out in January of 2019. “When I was a child my grade school teachers told us all that anyone in America could grow up and become President. I now realize that this is not the case,” his public Facebook post read.
Qualifications: Unlike the current commander-in-chief, Ojeda has more than 20 years of military experience. On Jan. 14, he resigned from his post as a state senator in West Virginia, where he started gaining national notoriety for making a series of impassioned speeches advocating for teacher raises. He went on to lead the state’s teacher strike, which did help them secure them better pay.
Rationale: Ojeda didn’t attend Ivy League schools, hail from a political dynasty or make millions as a businessman, but he thought he could represent the millions of Americans who also fall outside those categories. “We have not had people that have really fought for the working-class citizens in this country,” he said, regarding his decision to run.
Controversies: Other than being relatively unknown in areas outside of West Virginia, Ojeda admitted to voting for Trump in 2016, which could have upset Democrats who abhor him. He also said he regrets the vote, which could have upset conservative Trump supporters who may have considered a Democrat like Ojeda.
This post will be updated as individuals elect to enter and exit the race.