The 2020 Democratic Primary Cheat Sheet

What to expect in the most important election of our lives

With 2018 coming to an end, we can begin to look forward to the next Presidential election. Politicians will soon be announcing their candidacies, most likely early in 2019. The Democratic primary is shaping up to be a highly contested race. We could see well over ten candidates throwing their hat into the ring.

Throughout the primary, I will be providing my insights and analysis. In this piece, I will provide readers with a little preview of what to expect. I will give a brief background of each candidate, including their strengths, weaknesses, and current probability of winning the primary. I’ll try to aggregate polling, prediction markets, and other economic and social indicator. Once all of the candidates have announced their campaigns, I plan to release a set of power rankings bi-weekly. Also, I will be writing specifically about various candidates and issues.

Let’s take a look at the field!

Bernie Sanders, U.S. Senator from Vermont

Here is your front-runner for the Democratic nomination. As the media tries to ignore Sanders once again, he will go into the primary with the most loyal base and is more established than any other candidate outside of Joe Biden, if he runs. Since the 2016 election, nobody has fought harder for Americans and he has managed to shift the entire Democratic party to the left, helping elect the likes of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He forced Amazon to pay their workers a minimum of $15/hour and his bill to stop funding the war in Yemen has passed the Senate. Medicare for All is now the preferred health care approach of the majority of Americans. Bernie has also repeated the need for a Green New Deal and infrastructure investment. If you care about policy and workers, Bernie will be your guy.

Strengths: Established base of support, Big wins on policy during Trump Presidency, Responsible for shifting the party left, Runner-up in 2016

Weaknesses: Age(will be 79 on election day), Party insiders will likely choose another candidate as a favorite, Has struggled with minority voters in the past

PredictIt Odds of Winning Nomination: 16%

Joe Biden, Former Vice President

Leading in the early 2020 polls is former Vice President, Joe Biden. As with Bernie, he has strong name recognition but also is older than almost all other candidates. Biden has already ran for President twice before and lost. He would probably have the benefit of President Obama campaigning for him and that can’t be understated. However, there is a reason that Biden has lost pretty quickly in the past. He has a tendency to commit gaffes and say things that don’t sit well with voters. Biden does have a strong personality and appeals to Midwest voters which could bode well in a potential matchup with Donald Trump. Will Biden emerge as the establishment favorite in his third attempt?

Strengths: Leads in early polls, High name recognition, Probable Obama support, Appeals to Midwest voters

Weaknesses: Age(77 on election day), Democratic party has shifted left, Anti-establishment sentiment still exists

PredictIt Odds of Winning Nomination: 14%

Beto O’Rourke, U.S. Congressman from Texas

One of the biggest stories in the 2018 midterms was the campaign of Beto O’Rourke in Texas. He took Ted Cruz to the brink but ultimately came up short. He raised a record level of money, almost all from small donors. Beto spoke with great passion on many issues which reminded some of a young Barack Obama. He did not back down from his liberal positions when confronted, even in deep-red Texas. However, O’Rourke may not be as progressive as he led on during the campaign. He recently voted to rollback some of the Dodd-Frank protections. A quick look at his campaign website also reveals that he is quite centrist on many issues. He has appealed to many in the Democratic base across the country. He may take as a sign to run for President.

Strengths: Charismatic speaker, Strong fundraising base, Speaks Spanish

Weaknesses: Lost to Ted Cruz, Straddles the line on many issues, May struggle in Midwest

PredictIt Odds of Nomination: N/A

Kamala Harris, U.S. Senator from California

Many pundits consider Kamala Harris the favorite going into the primary. Although she doesn’t have great name recognition at the moment, she will soon find herself near the top of the pack if she decides to run. The potential of electing the first African-American woman to the Presidency is alone good enough to make her a contender. She developed somewhat of a profile during the Kavanaugh hearings as well. As a former prosecutor, she has what it takes to beat Trump. Harris has already met with many big donors within the Democratic party and may emerge as the establishment pick over Joe Biden. It remains to be seen where she will come down on a lot of important issues. She did sign on as one of the cosponsors for Bernie’s Medicare for All bill.

Strengths: Big donors seem willing to back her, Will appeal to minority voters, Supports Medicare for All, Leads in prediction markets

Weaknesses: Low name recognition, Declined as Attorney General to prosecute Steven Mnuchin

PredictIt Odds of Winning Nomination: 17%

Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Senator from Minnesota

Amy Klobuchar is quietly climbing the chart in the prediction markets. She is highly regarded by her peers in Congress and had a viral moment with Brett Kavanaugh at his confirmation hearing. Klobuchar may be a bit more centrist than most other candidates in the race but that could play well in the Midwest, where she has consistently done well. She won her recent re-election quite easily. In a primary that may have at least four women running for President, Klobuchar will have to gain the attention of voters early. She will have to outlast Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Strengths: Strong support in her state, Had most authentic moment at Kavanaugh hearings, No baggage

Weaknesses: More centrist than most Democrats, Hasn’t signed onto Medicare for All, Low name recognition

PredictIt Odds of Winning Nomination: 11%

Elizabeth Warren, U.S. Senator from Massachusetts

Once considered a possible favorite for 2020, her early polling for the nomination and against Donald Trump are underwhelming. That can change as the campaign continues. Warren is a fairly good orator and has a solid progressive record. She is known for standing up to big business and Wall Street, something that will play well with voters. It may be difficult for Warren to find a path in the primary, however. If Bernie decides to run, he will scoop the majority of progressive voters. Also a challenge is that many view her as an easy target for Donald Trump. She was baited into releasing a DNA test after Trump continued to call her “Pocahontas”. The whole ordeal has mostly backfired on her. I do think there is potential for her campaign to catch fire but as of right now, it is an uphill battle.

Strengths: Strong progressive record, Well known by voters, Has taken on Wall Street

Weaknesses: Tough path if Bernie runs, Early polling vs. Trump is underwhelming

PredictIt Odds of Winning Nomination: 10%

Cory Booker, U.S. Senator from New Jersey

Everyone under the sun has believed that Cory Booker will run for President for a number of years now. The question is, however, does he even have a chance to win? Booker finds himself in a large field of candidates that overlaps with him on policy. How will he separate himself from Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Joe Biden? His recent moves to cosponsor Medicare for All and halt donations from big donors seems politically motivated, as did his walkout on the Kavanaugh proceedings. He received tons of money in the past from Wall Street and the pharmaceutical industry, which seems like tough bargain to sell voters. Booker may be able to sell himself as someone who will fight for the voters and take on Trump. Maybe he’ll surprise everyone but for a now, he is a longshot.

Strengths: Could gather establishment support, Recent pivot on progressive issues could help, Fundraising ability

Weaknesses: Similar candidate to others in race, History of donations from Financial and Big Pharma industries

PredictIt Odds of Winning Nomination: 9%

Kirsten Gillibrand, U.S. Senator from New York

Since the start of the Trump presidency, Kirsten Gillibrand has been considered the most anti-Trump politician in the Senate. She has voted against Trump more than any other Senator. She has increased her profile from being a leader in the #MeToo movement and led the charge to remove Al Franken from office, a move both praised and disliked by various Democrats. Gillibrand is from New York and with that comes donations from Wall Street. She may be seen as too close with the financial industry. She has signed on to Medicare for All, however. She may be seen as a crafted politician, much in the way Hillary Clinton was perceived. Gillibrand started her career as a fairly conservative politician while continuing to move to the left each election cycle. She may struggle to gather enough attention in the early stages of the primary with similar candidates in the race. Will voters flock to her instead of Amy Klobuchar or Kamala Harris?

Strengths: Viewed as most Anti-Trump Senator, A fresh face to the party, Leader in the #MeToo movement

Weaknesses: Close ties to Wall Street, Perceived as polished politician, Similar candidates in race

PredictIt Odds of Winning Nomination: 6%

Who Else?

I will end the main candidate profiles there. Those eight seem to be the front-runners to run and win in 2020. Others considering a run are Julian Castro, Sherrod Brown, Chris Murphy, Micheal Bloomberg, Steve Bullock, and yes, Hillary Clinton. Richard Ojeda, the Democrat from West Virigina that voted for Trump in 2016 has already declared he is running for President. He recently lost his race for Congress. We’ll keep a close eye on him but unlikely he can gain national following.

This is a huge election for Democrats. Which way will the party go? Although, they have moved left finally after Trump, will voters go for somebody like Bernie Sanders? A revert to somebody like Joe Biden could be a bad sign for progressives within the party. Rising stars like Beto O’Rourke and Kamala Harris are intriguing but it remains to be seen how they will govern if elected.

The primary will come down to health care, climate change, and finding a way to connect with the working class. Is Medicare for All a dealbreaker now for Democrats? Will other candidates be as bold as Bernie when it comes to free public college and raising the minimum wage to $15/hour? Democratic voters may no longer accept the center-left approach that President Obama championed. I’m looking forward to hearing the debates.

M.A. in Applied Economics. I'm here to talk about economics, politics, and life. Follow me here and on Twitter @FrankLukacovic

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