Previewing the 2020 Presidential Election

If you thought you could forget about politics for a while now that the midterms are over, think again. The first stages of the 2020 election have already begun in the form of the “invisible primary,” where potential candidates analyze the race and attempt to sway party leaders and donors to their side.

There are as many as two dozen potential candidates on the Democratic side—a few of whom have already announced their intention to run. So far, candidates who’ve already declared they’re running include Maryland Congressman John Delaney, West Virginia State Senator Richard Ojeda and New York entrepreneur Andrew Yang. Although none of these candidates will likely end up winning, the fact that the 2020 primary field is already almost as large as the 2016 field foreshadows a potentially massive list of candidates vying for the chance to take on Donald Trump.

Speaking of Trump, he’s the only Republican who says he’s running, however a number of Republicans have expressed an interest in running against him in the primary. These include outgoing senators Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, as well as John Kasich, outgoing governor, who has also floated the idea of running as an independent with Democrat John Hickenlooper, a fellow outgoing governor. In my opinion, anyone who runs against Trump in the primary will be absolutely demolished—no chance at all. Anywhere between 81 percent and 88 percent of Republican voters approve of Trump’s performance. As for the split-ticket idea, if the goal is to spoil the election in favor of the Democrats, then it will surely succeed, but no Republican is going to be president in 2020 except for Trump—barring extreme circumstances (looking at you, Mueller).

But let’s go back to the Democratic side. As we said, there are as many as two dozen potential candidates, and the media has been speculating for months who will actually run. To make this easier, we’re going to separate the potential candidates into three tiers.

The first tier is made up of candidates who have a large national profile, who have taken actions that presidential candidates usually take and who have expressed at least some interest in running (this is not an exhaustive list, don’t @ me). This includes Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Sherrod Brown and former Vice President Joe Biden. These are candidates who’ve written books, who’ve travelled to Iowa and New Hampshire (the first two primary states) and who’ve been open in building their national brands and organizations. The only question is which of these candidates will ultimately decide to run.

The second tier of candidates are those with smaller national profiles, but who’ve gotten their name into the mainstream by holding some lower elected office or catching the media’s attention. These include John Delaney and Richard Ojeda—who I mentioned before—as well as Congressman Tim Ryan, outgoing governors Terry McAuliffe, John Hickenlooper and Steve Bullock. Former NYC mayor, Michael Bloomberg; New Orleans mayor, Mitch Landrieu; Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti; and former Obama-staffer, Julian Castro, as well as failed U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke are also included in this tier. The eventual winner of the primary is unlikely to come from this group, but it’s still entirely possible. Obama was considered a low-tier candidate in 2008 and he ended up winning. However, the number of candidates from this group who end up running will probably only determine how large the primary field is—thus how split the vote is between the more well-known candidates.

The third tier of candidates are those that have no real business becoming POTUS, in my opinion, and basically are only in the conversation because of the media. These include Michael Avenatti, Tom Steyer, Mark Cuban, Howard Schultz, Oprah and Dwayne Johnson. Right now, it looks like Avenatti and Steyer may very well run, which should make the primaries more interesting at least.

The 2020 elections are already shaping up to be even more crowded than 2016, and maybe even more raucous with Trump looking at a potential attempt to primary him and the Democrats having an extremely wide field to choose from. In my view, if the Republicans were smart they would try to primary Trump, however it seems like any such challenge would fail. If the Democrats were smart and wanted to be sure they could defeat Trump, I think they would nominate Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren and stay away from corporate Democrats and candidates in the third tier.