presidential candidates
presidential candidates

Who Will Run for President in 2020? Here Are the Frontrunners

The future of the Oval Office is as unclear as it's ever been, but a few likely options have emerged.
October 12, 2018
22 mins read

The last few weeks of the news cycle have been filled with talk about the upcoming midterms and the war between democrats and Republicans to see who will get control of the House of Representatives. In the midst of this upheaval, there has been little talk about presidential candidates for either party. And yet, there are still plenty of candidates looking into running — as of May 2017, 129 people had already signed up to run for the highest office, one of them being President Donald Trump.

While it may seem early to be considering candidates for the 2020 election, the decision to run for president is a decision that is years in the making. Presidential candidates have to go through an arduous election process that lasts far longer than just the months before the general election. Many presidential candidates announce that they are running the year before the election year, which is coming up in only a few months in 2019. Even before that announcement, they have to ensure that they have enough funding and sponsors to make it through the campaigning process.

Primaries and caucuses begin at the start of the election year, after party debates that occur the previous summer. Finally, presidential debates between the top candidates that have made it through to that point occur in the final months before Election Day.

Based on this, it is likely that everyone who will run for president has already made their decision, or is at least close to making one. There are a couple candidates in each party who seem to be front-runners, as of now.


After the end of Barack Obama’s second term, leadership for the Democratic party was left wide open. Hillary Clinton attempted to take the reins from the man she lost to in the 2008 primaries, but ultimately failed, and the party has been somewhat fractured between far-left liberals and the moderate establishment liberals. Whoever the democrats eventually choose as their nominee will need to attempt to broker a compromise between those two sides.

Currently, some of the top choices for presidential candidates include Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker.

Joe Biden

As Obama’s vice president, many thought Biden would become the next leader of the party and one of the stronger presidential candidates. He is an experienced politician who served around 35 years as a senator for Delaware. During that time, he chaired several important committees, including Foreign Relations and Judiciary. Biden has already tried running for president twice without much success, once in 1988 and again in 2008, before being chosen as Obama’s running mate.

The former vice president has gone back and forth on whether or not he will run for president in 2020. In July, he was leading polls regarding democratic primaries, and the Washington Examiner reports that Biden claimed he would make up his mind by January.

Biden, despite his political experience, may not be the ideal candidate. While well loved by central democrats, the candidate is a white male who is already 75. The Democratic party seems to be turning away from old white men, so Biden may not have much of a chance.

In addition, during his time as the Senate Judiciary Committee chair, Biden presided over current Justice Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings. Thomas was accused by Anita Hill of sexual assault. During Hill’s testimony to the Senate, Biden was one of the all-white, all male senators who questioned Hill and Thomas, both of whom were African American. Many Democratic senators like Biden were against Thomas, who was a Bush nominee, but did not want to oppose a possible African-American justice. Biden eventually voted against Thomas, but also chose not to allow other witnesses who also claimed that Thomas had assaulted them.

It’s hard not to see the comparisons to the current controversy over Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford. If Biden is unable to show true remorse over his actions during the Hill-Thomas hearings, he will be a tenuous choice for a democratic nominee.

Bernie Sanders

Sanders is another presidential candidate with considerable political experience. He served in the House of Representatives for 16 years before moving to the Senate, where he’s been serving for almost 11 years. Sanders is also the longest-serving Independent politician in history — wherein lies one of the problems with him.

Sanders is famous for running for Senate in an odd way. In the past, he has run for the Democratic nomination in his state, and then declined the nomination once he won and eventually ran as an independent. He seemingly does this to make it difficult for another democrat to go against him. Sanders is also far-left compared to the establishment Democrats, who currently make up most of the party, including the party leadership. As the number of young, liberal people involved in politics increases, that may change, but it could be difficult for Sanders to win the nomination currently.

Just like Biden, Sanders is another white, elderly male, coming in at 77 years old. The party is trying to turn away from these sort of nominees and introduce some diversity to its ranks, so Sanders has that going against him.

There is a fairly good chance that Sanders will be be in the running in 2020 — at least, he hasn’t denied any rumors about running. When asked by Stephen Colbert on “The Late Show” if he would be willing to say that he would not run, Sanders declined the comment, to applause from the audience.

Elizabeth Warren

Warren is new to the political scene, at least in comparison to some other presidential candidates. She joined the Senate in 2013, and has been serving as a Massachusetts senator ever since. She has done quite a bit of work with the economy and was an assistant to the president and a special advisor to the secretary of the treasury under Obama. She is considered fairly progressive, and the fact that she is a woman could help her. Warren recently confirmed that she was considering a presidential bid after the controversy surrounding Kavanaugh and Senate Republicans.

Warren, too, is on the older side at 69 years old. Unfortunately, the Democratic party seems to have quite a few older presidential candidates on its hand, despite the fact that a good portion of the electorate is interested in electing a fresh face.

Kamala Harris

Harris is also not yet a political veteran, although she has a fair amount of experience, having served as the attorney general of California for six years before becoming one of the senators from California in 2017. Harris is of Jamaican and Indian descent and is only 53 years old, young by political standards.

As the LA Times commented, Harris’s biggest challenge will be developing an identity outside of California. But, luckily for her, many people have drawn comparisons between Harris and Obama, something that should help her in the primaries. The LA Times also quoted Claremont McKenna College professor John Pitney, who made this observation about Harris: “Whenever she enters a room, all heads turn… It’s the same kind of quality that Reagan had and Bill Clinton and a few others have.”

Harris is exactly what many democrats seem to be looking for — a diverse, fresh-faced, progressive female candidate. Many see Harris as tough and dedicated to fighting Trump, so it seems that she has a solid chance of being a top contender for the democratic nomination.

Harris has joined the group of people who are not ruling out a potential presidential bid.

Cory Booker

Booker is another younger member of the party at only 49-years-old. He has been one of the senators from New Jersey for nearly five years. Booker has an impressive background, from his attendance at Stanford, Oxford and Yale, to the hunger strike he staged to bring attention to issues in Newark that won him his council seat.

Booker is less progressive than some of his younger colleagues, and is considered a centrist, much like Clinton. Due to his centrist views, he could potentially garner support from establishment democrats and some left-leaning Republicans.

The Daily Intelligencer ran a profile on Booker, where journalist Jonathan Van Meter sat down with the senator to talk about various issues. Meter emphasized the fact that Booker is all about love, and wrote about the happy atmosphere in his office. Meter also reported that Booker will make a presidential bid, quoting him saying, “Of course the presidency will be something I consider. It would be irresponsible not to.”

However, Booker’s trademark earnestness could get him into trouble with a cynical public. As Meter wrote, many people think that Booker’s demeanor is somewhat fake and are not willing to follow his love of love.

Booker can be very attractive to people who are tired of the Trump-era negativity. However on the other hand, he’s been criticized by democrats for his willingness to do whatever he thinks must be done, without questioning it. He’s worked closely with Wall Street and Republicans, both groups that are commonly distrusted by progressive democrats. Booker is seemingly not willing to be completely partisan on every issue, something that can be irksome to the more ideologically pure Democratic electorate.


The Republican party is also lacking in leadership right now. Trump, as the current president, is the default leader, but he’s unpopular among some Republican leaders. At the same time, the incumbent candidate is probably the Republican’s best shot to keep the presidency in 2020.

It’s possible that other politicians, such as Mitt Romney, Jeff Flake, John Kasich and Ben Sasse, will become presidential candidates as well, but it’s not too common for party members to challenge a sitting president.

President Trump

There is almost no explicable reason at the moment that Trump will not run for reelection, unless he is impeached before then (which is also unlikely). He has already signed up as one of the first presidential candidates and has started to run campaign ads.

Despite his political blunders and his unpopularity among much of the public, Trump is still the current leader of his party, with an approval rating, as of Sept. 30, of 42 percent, which is not particularly bad. At the same point during Obama’s presidency, Obama was only at 45 percent.

There is a silent majority of people who still approve of what Trump is doing and what he stands for, so it would be foolish to think that he would not run for reelection. Plus, the most recent polls show that 87 percent of Republicans approve of what Trump is doing, so the Republican base still seems content with their current figurehead.

Mitt Romney

Earlier this year, Romney announced that he would be coming out of retirement to run for the junior senate seat in Utah. Many are baffled by the idea that the former presidential nominee would want to serve as a new senator when that would mean he was “less free to voice his criticisms of the White House,” according to Allan Smith and Eliza Relman Business Insider.

This seemingly random campaign could be Romney’s way of inserting himself back in politics in order to run for president in 2020. Some think that he will only run if Trump doesn’t, while others believe Romney will challenge Trump directly.

Of course, he may not have a good chance of winning the Republican nomination, as Business Insider reports. GOP veterans like John McCain’s former deputy campaign manager, Reed Galen, said that the Republican party “as it’s currently constituted would not vote for Romney over Trump.”

Plus, in June, Romney stated publicly that he thought Trump would easily clinch the GOP nomination and be reelected, so it would be odd if Romney were to end up running for president.

Jeff Flake

Flake has been in government for 17 years, first as a member of the House of Representatives and then as one of the senators from Arizona. He is one of the few major Republican politicians who have spoken out openly against Donald Trump. Flake made a name for himself in the news recently regarding Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings when he called for an FBI investigation into Kavanaugh. However, Flake is still a strict conservative and votes in line with much of Trump’s agenda.

Flake recently announced that he would not be seeking reelection during these midterms despite only having served one Senate term, which led many to believe that it could be a signal that the politician is planning on becoming a presidential candidate. The senator has stated publicly that he believes someone should challenge Trump during the primaries, but also said that he doesn’t “see that happening in [his] case,” as CNBC’s Jacob Pramuk reports. Flake also said that he believes the current Republican party is synonymous with Trump’s party, which he claims cannot be the case if the GOP wants “to be a major political force in the future.”

The Arizona senator could have a difficult time in the primaries when face to face with the Republican, pro-Trump electorate, as Flake has found himself in Trump’s line of fire in the past.

John Kasich

Kasich is another possible challenger to the current president. The current governor of Ohio and former representative for Ohio has made it clear that he is not a fan of Trump. After Kasich’s failure to garner more than one electoral vote in the 2016 nomination process, Kasich refused to attend the Republican National Convention and never endorsed Trump. Kasich also has been vocal about his disapproval of Trump’s trade policies. The president and the Ohio governor have even had Twitter wars.

The politician has not been forthcoming with concrete details on whether or not he will be running for president, but he has not ruled out the option yet. However, it’s somewhat unlikely that Kasich could actually beat Trump during the primaries. As the Daily Beast points out though, Kasich could negatively impact the number of people who vote for Trump, causing Trump to lose the general election.

Ben Sasse

Sasse is one of the younger possible presidential candidates and one of the most inexperienced as well, with only four years as one of the senators from Nebraska. He has also been vocal when it comes to Trump; the senator from Nebraska was the first sitting senator to say that he would not support Trump in the 2016 election. Sasse has accused the current president of not following the Constitution, and has also called him a “megalomaniac strongman.”

Bill Kristol, a Republican operative, has said that he is looking to find a challenger for Trump, and Sasse was listed as one of his options. Given Sasse’s dislike of Trump, it would not be out of the question for him to consider a presidential bid.


The problem with many of the candidates from both sides is that they are not universally popular, even among their own parties. Both major parties are somewhat fractured after the 2016 election, and in order for a successful nominee to be chosen, democrats and Republicans need to determine what their party platform will be. Will the democrats become increasingly progressive and alienate centrists like Booker? Will the Republicans continue to mobilize under Trump’s platform or will they start to become more centrist?

As of this moment, the most likely nominee from the list of Republican presidential candidates is Trump, once again assuming that he is still in office by the time of the election. The democratic nomination still seems to be up for grabs. However, it seems more and more likely that the Democratic party will move away from older politicians like Biden and Sanders towards the younger generation, like Harris and Booker.

There will be more presidential candidates joining the fray soon, and this potential list of presidential candidates could be outdated by next week. There are quite a few other up and coming democrats, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Senator Amy Klobuchar and Stormy Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti. The Republicans appear slightly more set in stone, but it’s possible that Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan, Mike Pence or even Kanye West could end up being significant competitors for the Oval Office.

So, for right now, all that’s left to do is wait things out until at least after the midterm elections, where people should have a better idea of the political climate going into the year before Election Day.

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