The United States is preparing for what some are describing as the most anticipated presidential race in decades. In addition to those that have already announced their candidacies, there is a sizeable group who many expect are likely to run on the Democratic side. President Trump, who announced his bid for re-election in February of last year, is not expected to face any challengers from his own party. However, there is speculation surrounding possible challenges from the former Senator from Arizona, Jeff Flake, and Trump’s former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley. If either were to win the nomination of the Republican Party, this would be a historic event as the only time a sitting President lost his own parties’ primary election was in 1852 in the case of President Franklin Pierce, the fourteenth President.
“A third-party candidate may split the vote between the Democratic nominee on the ballot, potentially shifting the balance in favour of Trump.”
There is a growing resentment towards the sheer size of the Democratic pool, as many feel the saturation will increase Trump’s chances of winning re-election. This resentment came to the fore last week when billionaire and former Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz, announced the possibility of his campaign to run as a centrist-independent. A third-party candidate may split the vote between the Democratic nominee on the ballot, potentially shifting the balance in favour of Trump. In the meantime, potential candidates must battle it out to win the Democratic nomination before being pitted against the presumptive Republican nominee, President Trump. A tumultuous primary process is on the cards; the backgrounds, experiences and policy beliefs of each of these diverse potential candidates are likely to come into question.
Of the major contenders for the Democratic nomination, Kamala Harris, the current junior Senator from California, announced her candidacy on 21st January of this year. Harris, the second ever black woman elected to the Senate in 2016, has a decorated background in the judicial system, having been elected the District Attorney for San Francisco and later as the Attorney General for California. She garnered significant mainstream attention from her tough questioning of Brett Kavanaugh and several of Trump’s other judicial nominees. Harris has already come under scrutiny due to her mixed record as a prosecutor, which some view as out of step with the values of the current Democratic Party.
“In 2018, Warren landed in hot water as she responded to Trump’s insults by posting a video online showing her DNA results linking to the possibility of Native American heritage, which was seen as a mis-step across the aisle.”
Elizabeth Warren, a progressive leader and a current Senator of Massachusetts, announced her intention to run in late 2018. Formerly a Harvard Law Professor, Warren played a prominent role in enhancing regulation following the financial crisis of 2007/2008. Warren’s profile rose in 2016 when she was the keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention, and a frequent campaigner for Hillary Clinton. Warren is a frequent target of President Trump due to her claims of Native American heritage. Trump has often mockingly referred to her as ‘Pocahontas’. In 2018, Warren landed in hot water as she responded to Trump’s insults by posting a video online showing her DNA results linking to the possibility of Native American heritage, which was seen as a mis-step across the aisle.
Beto O’Rourke rose to prominence in his 2018 Senate race against Ted Cruz in Texas, a notoriously conservative state. O’Rourke lost the race, but by a much smaller margin than expected. His universal appeal and enigmatic way of speaking projected him onto the national stage, and many believe he is preparing to run. Julián Castro, the 44-year-old former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration, is also in the race. Cory Booker, a sitting Senator from New Jersey, announced his campaign last week. All three have been compared to Barack Obama, as they are relatively young blood in the Democratic Party possibly emulating his meteoric rise to power. All three will face the problem of having low name recognition and lack of experience, as their time on the political stage has been relatively short. However, support for the three candidates in polling thus far indicates a desire for a fresh face to lead the party to victory, with O’Rourke polling in front of both Castro and Booker.
Kirsten Gillibrand announced her intent to run in January on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. A leader for women’s equality and reformation in sexual violence policies, Gillibrand filled Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat in 2009. Gillibrand came under criticism from the Democratic Party following her decision to call on former Senator Al Franken to resign after being accused of inappropriate sexual misconduct. Gillibrand has also been criticized for her former moderate stance on gun legislation and immigration policy.
“Both are expected to announce their decisions soon, however both face the same problem; they are old, white men.”
Currently polling above all other potential candidates in the Democratic field are two of the most recognisable names in American Politics, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. Former Vice President Biden, 79, has indicated that he believes he is the most qualified candidate for the role. Sanders, 77, an independent expected to run as a Democrat, has a broad support base following his unsuccessful 2016 campaign. Both have been key figures in Democratic politics for decades and surpass the name recognition and favorability ratings of all other candidates. Both are expected to announce their decisions soon, however both face the same problem; they are old, white men. Many argue that a party as diverse as the Democratic Party needs a leader who is more representative of today’s America. Supporters of Biden argue that his unrivalled experience is required to steer the country out of these murky political waters by defeating Trump. Sanders supporters argue that the socialist changes Bernie stands for are a change in the status quo that is long overdue and desperately required. However, the question being posed to many is: ‘are Americans ready for socialism?’
Whoever the nominee is, the Democratic Party will need someone that they can stand behind wholeheartedly. What is undoubtable is that whoever the Democratic nominee for President will be, they will need to be able to stand up to President Trump in what is set to be a nasty and vitriolic Presidential campaign, as was seen in 2016. That is, of course, if President Trump is not impeached before 2020 following the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Trump Campaign and their efforts to collude with Russia.