2020 Democratic Primary Rankings

With Senator Elizabeth Warren’s recent announcement that she will seek the Democratic nomination for President, the 2020 Democratic primary has begun in earnest. Other lesser-known candidates are jumping in too, including Hawaii congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard and former Sec. Julian Castro. Which candidates (declared or not) are most likely to win the Democratic primary for President?

1. Vice President Joe Biden

The former Vice President and Senator from Delaware is enormously popular nationally, particularly in the Rust Belt areas of Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio which cost Clinton the election in 2016. Biden has led polling surveys for the Democratic primary thus far and is widely seen as the Democrats’ best chance to defeat Trump in 2020. The only factor standing in the way of a potential run is his age; Biden is 76. Should he choose to run, however, Biden would start as a heavy favorite.

2. Senator Amy Klobuchar

The three-term Senator from Minnesota won re-election in 2018 by a wide margin, cementing her long-time popularity in her home state. Like Biden, Klobuchar has a special appeal to many of the white voters in the Midwest who voted for Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016. Trying to win back some of these voters will be a key part of Democrats’ 2020 strategy. In addition, Democrats in 2018 nominated more female candidates to higher office than ever before. It’s possible this trend will continue in 2020. Klobuchar is well-positioned to win the Democratic primary, especially if Biden chooses not to run.

3. Senator Bernie Sanders

The independent Senator from Vermont was the primary challenger to Hillary Clinton in 2016, establishing a base of passionate progressive voters. It’s unclear if those same voters would support a 2020 candidacy with other noted progressives in the race, but most opinion polling at this point finds him in 2nd place. He’d compete for some of the same Obama-Trump voters as Biden and Klobuchar, however. Additionally, he has become a highly divisive figure thanks to his refusal to actually join the Democratic Party and lackluster support for Hillary Clinton in 2016. If Democrats are looking for a left-winger who stands a chance against Trump, this is their best bet.

4. Representative Beto O’Rourke

This former congressman and 2018 Senate candidate from Texas almost defeated incumbent Senator Ted Cruz, fueling excitement about a potential presidential candidacy. He enjoyed unprecedented support, winning more votes than any other Democrat from Texas ever before. His relative youth contrasts him with an aging group of Democratic candidates, but he’s largely untested as a political leader. If he does run, it’s anyone’s guess whether he will be able to reignite the energy behind his previous campaign. Democrats may be looking for someone a little more conventional (read: boring) this cycle.

5. Senator Kamala Harris

This freshman Senator from California is expected to declare a presidential bid in the coming weeks. She’ll start out with solid support in her home state, likely affording her an early advantage in delegates. She can also expect strong support from the African-American community, although this is likely to be complicated by candidacies from other African-American politicians. She also has the potential to bridge the gap between the party’s establishment and progressive wings, thanks to her strong support of progressive policies and alignment with the party establishment. However, her backing her candidacy may be a bridge too far for pragmatists.

6. Senator Elizabeth Warren

Beloved by the progressive wing of the party, Warren is the only major declared candidate in the race so far. However, the Senator is mired in controversy over a scandal involving her Native American ancestry and is a frequent target of the President on Twitter. It’s possible that these qualities may endear her to certain groups of voters, but Democrats primarily concerned with defeating Trump are likely to reject her candidacy. Still, she’s got a head start over many of her other rivals with her early bid.

7. Sec. Julian Castro

The former Mayor of San Antonio and Sec. of Housing and Urban Development under President Obama recently announced his campaign for President. He starts with little name recognition, never having served in Congress or a governor’s mansion. However, Castro would become the first Hispanic president if elected, strengthening him among Latino voters. If Castro can mobilize Hispanic voters (which have the lowest voter turnout among all demographic groups), he stands a chance at an upset victory.

8. Senator Sherrod Brown

Senator Brown won re-election handily last year in the Rust Belt state of Ohio while other Democrats failed to win statewide. He’s likely the only Democratic candidate with a chance of winning back the prototypical swing state, a factor which Democrats will consider when evaluating his candidacy. He’s also aligned with the incumbent president on trade issues, which should bolster his support among Obama-Trump voters. However, he’s competing for the same core constituency of working-class white voters as many other candidates, lacking serious support outside of this group.

Honorable Mentions

  • Senator Cory Booker (NJ)

  • Governor Steve Bullock (MT)

  • Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (NY)

  • Governor Jay Inslee (WA)

  • Mayor Michael Bloomberg (NY, former)