The Democratic field for the 2020 U.S. presidential race emerged as the biggest and most diverse of any party primary in recent history.
With over 20 candidates at the field’s peak, it was hard for many months to keep track of who was in the running. Here is a breakdown of all the Democratic contenders and a running list of those who have already ended their quests.
This is a brief look at candidates’ backgrounds and stated proposals, and is not meant to be comprehensive. We urge readers to further explore the candidates at length.
Our list will be updated regularly as the party heads toward its July 13-16 national convention in Milwaukee, so check back to see how the Democratic field shifts.
Who’s In The Running:
Former Vice President Joe Biden
Biden announced his candidacy in April 2019 after months of speculation. He steadily led the race for the Democratic nomination in early polling, even as several women accused him of inappropriate and unwanted touching. Biden has also faced renewed criticism over his handling of Anita Hill’s sexual harassment allegations against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in 1991 when Biden was Senate Judiciary Committee chair.
Despite the controversies, Biden has declared himself “the most qualified person” to be president. He served for 36 years in the Senate and eight years as vice president under President Barack Obama. Biden lists tackling income inequality, defending the Affordable Care Act and pursuing a “humane immigration policy” as some of his platform proposals.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (Hawaii)
Gabbard became the first Samoan American and first Hindu member of Congress when she was elected to the House of Representatives in 2013. She previously served in the Hawaii House of Representatives and on the Honolulu City Council. During that time, she also enlisted in the Hawaii Army National Guard and was deployed to Iraq from 2004 to 2005 and to Kuwait from 2008 to 2009.
The four-term congresswoman, who has been criticized for receiving campaign donations from arms dealers, has pointed to “the issue of war and peace” as motivation for her decision to run. Other policy positions Gabbard noted upon announcing her campaign included supporting “Medicare for All,” criminal justice reform and environmental advocacy.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
Sanders announced in February 2019 that he would make another bid for the White House after losing the Democratic nomination in 2016 to Hillary Clinton. The independent senator from Vermont promised his second presidential bid would be a “continuation of what we did in 2016,” noting that many of the progressive policy proposals from his campaign “are now part of the political mainstream.”
An independent who caucuses with the Democrats, Sanders has long been considered one of the most progressive members of the Senate. His platform calls for “Medicare for All” and a $15 minimum wage. He also advocates for free college tuition, lowering the costs of prescription drugs and passing the Green New Deal to combat climate change.
Who’s Dropped Out
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.)
Warren announced she’s ending her bid for the White House two days after Super Tuesday, when she failed to win a single primary contest and finished in a disappointing third place in her home state of Massachusetts.
Warren first joined Congress in 2013 after a long career as an academic studying bankruptcy and personal finance. Before ever being elected to public office, she served in a number of advisory roles and helped Obama oversee the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2010.
Warren has called for a more aggressive form of liberal politics that would include bolstering unions, outlawing gerrymandering, cracking down on corporate money in politics and championing the middle class. Some of her policy proposals included breaking up huge tech companies like Amazon and Google, investing $100 billion to fight the opioid crisis, and making two-year and four-year public colleges free.
Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg
The billionaire businessman suspended his campaign and endorsed Biden after a paltry performance on Super Tuesday, in which he won only the American Samoa caucuses.
He officially entered the 2020 presidential race in late November, joining a large cohort of Democrats already competing for the party’s nomination.
Bloomberg said in his announcement that he believed his experience “in business, government, and philanthropy will enable me to win and lead.”
A longtime registered Republican, Bloomberg has been an outspoken critic of Trump since the 2016 presidential election. He re-registered as a Democrat in October 2018, almost 20 years after he left the party.
Bloomberg served three terms as mayor of New York City with a mixed legacy that included erasing the city’s budget deficit and instituting the controversial “stop-and-frisk” police initiative, which disproportionately affected the city’s people of color.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.)
Klobuchar ended her presidential bid and endorsed Biden a day before Super Tuesday.
She was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006 after serving as a county prosecutor. The three-term Minnesota senator received national attention for her measured response to belligerent outbursts from Brett Kavanaugh during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing.
Klobuchar has spoken publicly about her experience growing up with a father who was addicted to alcohol. She has proposed a $100 billion plan to combat drug and alcohol addiction. The senator has also said she would support expanding Medicare, rejoining the Paris climate deal and reforming Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg
After two successful primary contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, Buttigieg dropped out of the race the day after the South Carolina primary, where fellow moderate Biden won in a landslide.
A military veteran and former Rhodes scholar, Buttigieg served as the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, from 2012 to the end of 2019. He is openly gay and devoutly Christian and has admonished Vice President Mike Pence and other evangelicals for backing Trump.
Though largely unknown outside of South Bend before 2019, Buttigieg captured national attention and raked in millions of dollars in donations. The former mayor was running on a platform that highlighted defending LGBTQ rights, combating climate change with a Green New Deal, protecting reproductive rights and investing in veterans’ mental health.
Hedge fund manager Tom Steyer
Steyer dropped out of the race after Biden secured a victory in the South Carolina primary, days before Super Tuesday.
Steyer told his supporters that he was suspending his campaign because he could not see a “path to winning.”
“I was in this race to talk about things that I care the most about,” Steyer said, nodding to his efforts to address racial injustice and climate change.
He also said any Democrat in the race would be better than the current administration.
“Every Democrat is a million times better than Trump,” he said. “Lindsey Graham’s a disaster. He’s a disaster for the people here.”
Steyer, a billionaire, is the largest individual donor in Democratic politics. After telling Politico in January 2019 that he would not run ― instead focusing on his multimillion-dollar effort to impeach Trump ― Steyer announced in July that he’d changed his mind.
He had previously said he was content with the landscape of candidates challenging the president, particularly Sen. Elizabeth Warren for her economic message and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee for his environmental one. But he believed he could do better, The Atlantic reported. In particular, the outlet noted, Steyer said he could challenge Trump on his image as a self-made businessman.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick
Patrick, a former two-term Massachusetts governor, dropped out the day after he failed to break the 1% mark in the New Hampshire primary.
“The vote in New Hampshire last night was not enough for us to create the practical wind at the campaign’s back to go on to the next round of voting. So I have decided to suspend the campaign, effective immediately,” he said in a statement.
Patrick entered the field late in the process, announcing his candidacy on Nov. 14, just one day before the filing deadline for the New Hampshire primary.
Anonymous sources told both The Associated Press and The New York Times that Patrick was concerned the existing Democratic presidential candidates weren’t capable of uniting the party in a bid to unseat President Donald Trump. The 63-year-old currently works as a managing director at Bain Capital.
Patrick previously declared he wouldn’t seek the presidency. He told CBS he reversed course because “you can’t know if you can break through if you don’t get out there and try.”
Businessman Andrew Yang
Yang ended his campaign as the first Democratic primary in the country came to close in New Hampshire in February 2020.
“I am so incredibly proud of this campaign and what we’ve accomplished together,” Yang told his reporters on the night of the primary in Manchester. “We have touched and improved millions of lives and moved this country we love so much in the right direction. And while there is great work left to be done — you know I am the math guy — it is clear tonight from the numbers that we are not going to win this race.”
The entrepreneur vowed to support the candidate who won the Democratic nomination, but warned that Trump wasn’t the main problem in the U.S.
Yang is a businessman and philanthropist who founded Venture for America, a nonprofit fellowship program that places recent graduates in two-year apprenticeships with startups.
The successful tech entrepreneur is running on a platform of universal basic income with the tagline “let’s put humanity first.” He has proposed a $1,000-a-month stipend for all U.S. citizens to help ease financial anxiety for the underemployed as the economy moves increasingly toward automation. He is also a proponent of universal Medicare and statehood for Puerto Rico.
Sen. Michael Bennet (Colo.)
Bennet also ended his campaign after the polls closed for the New Hampshire Democratic primary in February 2020.
“I am going to do absolutely everything I can do as one human being to make sure that Donald Trump is a one-term president,” Bennet told his supporters as the polls closed. “I will support the nominee of my party no matter who it is.”
Bennet’s campaign plans were initially thwarted when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. But the three-term senator announced his presidential run in May 2019 after his office said he was successfully treated.
The Colorado senator said he will focus on increasing wages, protecting young undocumented immigrants and overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, among other platform initiatives.
Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.)
Booker suspended his campaign in mid-January, saying he no longer saw a path to his victory.
“Our campaign has reached the point where we need more money to scale up and continue building a campaign that can win ― money we don’t have, and money that is harder to raise because I won’t be on the next debate stage and because the urgent business of impeachment will rightly be keeping me in Washington,” Booker wrote in an email to supporters.
He was first elected to the Senate in 2013, becoming the first Black U.S. senator from New Jersey. Booker had previously served two terms as mayor of Newark. The junior senator is on the Judiciary Committee and gained national prominence for his tough questioning in Senate hearings, including during the 2018 confirmation hearing for now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Author Marianne Williamson
Williamson dropped out of the race on Jan. 10, 2020, saying she didn’t want her campaign to diminish the success of other progressive candidates leading the polls in early states.
“I stayed in the race to take advantage of every possible effort to share our message,” she said. “With caucuses and primaries now about to begin, however, we will not be able to garner enough votes in the election to elevate our conversation any more than it is now.”
Touted as Oprah’s spiritual adviser, Williamson is probably best known for her popular self-help books and spiritually themed talks. She ran an unsuccessful campaign for Congress in 2014 and has repeatedly spoken out against the Trump administration and what she deems the “spiritual and moral rot” in Washington.
Former West Virginia state Sen. Richard Ojeda
Ojeda announced he was folding his campaign less than two weeks after he vacated his West Virginia state Senate seat to run. He was the first Democratic candidate to drop out of the race.
An Army veteran and pro-coal populist Democrat, Ojeda announced his presidential run in November 2018 after losing a congressional race against Republican Carol Miller. But in January 2019, the former state senator said he couldn’t in good conscience ask people to donate “to a campaign that’s probably not gonna get off the ground.”
Rep. Eric Swalwell (Calif.)
After a three-month campaign that failed to gain traction, Swalwell announced in July last year that he was exiting the presidential race and shifting his focus to running for reelection to the House.
Swalwell was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2013, and before that, served for three years on the city council of Dublin, California. The congressman launched his presidential campaign in April 2019. Swalwell focused on gun violence during his brief run and was the only candidate to favor buybacks of assault weapons.
Former Sen. Mike Gravel (Alaska)
Gravel dropped out of the race in early August 2019 and endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard.
Perhaps best known for reading the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional Record, Gravel said he had hoped to push the Democratic field to the left. But the former Alaska senator’s campaign was unorthodox from the start. His 17-year-old campaign manager at one point insisted “the senator does not want people to vote for him.”
Former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper
A self-proclaimed moderate Democrat, Hickenlooper folded his campaign in mid-August 2019 after participating in two Democratic primary debates over the summer.
“Today, I’m ending my campaign for president,” he said in a videotaped statement on Aug. 15. “But I will never stop believing that America can only move forward when we work together.
The announcement came as the former Colorado governor appeared unlikely to qualify for the September primary debate. Hickenlooper did not immediately announce his plans, but he said he would give thought to a run for Senate in 2020 against Sen. Cory Gardner (R).
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee
Inslee dropped out of the race on Aug. 21 last year, as he looked unlikely to qualify for the September debates. “It’s become clear that I’m not going to be carrying the ball, I’m not going to be the president, so I’m withdrawing tonight from the race,” he told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.
The Washington governor ran the first major presidential campaign centered entirely on combating climate change. Inslee had proposed a “massive, full-scale mobilization of our federal government” toward “100% clean energy” that would involve investing in renewable energy, creating zero-emissions standards for cars and buildings, and working toward carbon-neutral energy.
“Look, I’ve been fighting climate change for 25 years, and I’ve never been so confident of the ability of America now to reach critical mass to move the ball,” Inslee told Maddow. “I believe we are going to have a candidate to fight this battle and inspire the people I met across the country.”
Rep. Seth Moulton (Mass.)
Moulton dropped out of the race on Aug. 23, 2019, saying he would instead run for reelection to Congress and campaign his “ass off for whoever wins our nomination in 2020.”
“Today, I want to use this opportunity, with all of you here, to announce that I am ending my campaign for president,” he said in a prepared statement. “Though this campaign is not ending the way we hoped, I am leaving this race knowing that we raised issues that are vitally important to the American people and our future.”
Moulton, an Iraq War veteran, was first elected to Congress in 2014. The congressman led an unsuccessful effort to remove Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) as House speaker in 2018 after Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Moulton advocated for stricter gun laws, including banning civilians from owning military-style weapons. The congressman also supports the legalization of cannabis, enacting the Green New Deal and protecting voting rights. He has said he would seek to grant statehood to Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.)
“It’s important to know when it’s not your time and to know how you can best serve your community and country,” she said in a video. “I believe I can best serve by helping to unite us to beat Donald Trump in 2020.”
The New York senator and former attorney framed her campaign as a fight to return to “America’s values,” highlighting her anti-Trump record and past political advocacy and legislation. She spotlighted her pro-bono law work for women and children and said she would work toward affordable child care, defend abortion rights and curb gun violence.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio
De Blasio dropped out of the race on Sept. 20, 2019, saying, “It’s clearly not my time.”
The New York City mayor had joined an already-crowded Democratic field in May and failed to gain traction as a candidate. Upon exiting the race, de Blasio said he would support whoever becomes the Democratic nominee. But he added: “I do believe we need a progressive.”
Rep. Tim Ryan (Ohio)
“I got into this race in April to really give voice to the forgotten people of our country. I look forward to continuing that fight,” the Ohio congressman said in a Twitter announcement.
Ryan also didn’t make the cut for the September debate, as he struggled to gain traction in a Democratic field of over 20 candidates.
The congressman announced his bid for the White House in April, citing acrimonious partisanship and the decline of American manufacturing among his reasons to run.
Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (Texas)
O’Rourke dropped out of the race in early November as his polling numbers and fundraising dwindled in a crowded Democratic field. He endorsed Biden a day before Super Tuesday.
In a blog post explaining his decision, the former Texas congressman said dropping out was “in the best interests of this party as we seek to unify around a nominee; and it is in the best interests of the country.”
O’Rourke gained prominence with an underdog U.S. Senate race in 2018 that ended in his defeat against incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz. He had previously served in the House since 2013. O’Rourke touted his fierce criticism of the war on drugs and support for the Dream Act and pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam
Messam launched his campaign in March, saying he believed he was the best Democratic candidate to beat Trump because “mayors get the job done.” Messam was elected mayor of Miramar, located about 20 miles north of Miami, in 2015. He previously served on the city commission, and before that, started a “climate-conscious” construction company with his wife Angela.
The mayor highlighted eliminating student loan debt as one of his top priorities, along with strengthening gun control laws and repealing tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.
Former Rep. Joe Sestak (Pa.)
Sestak withdrew from the 2020 presidential race on Dec. 1 after failing to qualify for any of the Democratic debates.
The three-star admiral announced his decision in an email, telling supporters that he couldn’t fairly continue to seek contributions for a campaign that hasn’t shown viability.
“Without the privilege of national press, it is unfair to ask others to husband their resolve and to sacrifice resources any longer,” he said.
Sestak was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in a Republican-dominated district in 2006, and he served two terms. He held positions on the Armed Services Committee and the Education and Labor Committee, and served as vice chairman of the Small Business Committee.
He was the director of defense policy on the National Security Council under President Bill Clinton in the mid-1990s, and before that, he spent roughly three decades in the Navy.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock
Bullock dropped out of the race in early December after his campaign, which emphasized limiting the influence of money in politics, failed to gain traction.
Bullock was the lone Democratic candidate who had won a statewide office in a state that voted for Trump in 2016, a fact he used to argue that he could win over Republican voters to defeat Trump in 2020.
“I entered this race as a voice to win back the places we lost, bridge divides and rid our system of the corrupting influence of Dark Money,” Bullock said in a statement. “While the concerns that propelled me to enter in the first place have not changed, I leave this race filled with gratitude and optimism, inspired and energized by the good people I’ve had the privilege of meeting over the course of the campaign.”
Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.)
Harris exited the race in early December 2019, saying her decision was based on her campaign’s financial struggles.
“My campaign for president simply doesn’t have the financial resources we need to continue,” the California senator said in an email to supporters. “I’m not a billionaire. I can’t fund my own campaign. And as the campaign has gone on, it’s become harder and harder to raise the money we need to compete.”
Harris served as the California attorney general for six years before being elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016 as the first Indian American and just the second Black woman to serve in the body. A former prosecutor, Harris gained national attention for her tough questioning of Attorney General William Barr and Kavanaugh in Senate hearings.
Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro
Castro bowed out of the race in early January 2020, barely a month before the Iowa caucuses. The former secretary of housing and urban development and mayor of San Antonio, Texas, was the only Latino candidate running, a point he emphasized in a video announcing his withdrawal.
“What we’re staring at is a DNC debate stage with no people of color on it,” Castro said in a filmed statement. “That does not reflect the diversity of our party or our country. We need to do better than that.”
Castro’s proposed “People First” platform emphasized law enforcement reform with a focus on policing and immigration, in addition to a plan for education. As a descendant of Mexican immigrants, Castro distinguished himself from the Democratic field by committing to overhauling the immigration process, including decriminalizing unauthorized border crossing.
The candidate also pledged to recommit the U.S. to the Paris climate agreement as his first action in office.
Former Rep. John Delaney (Md.)
Delaney dropped out in late January 2020, days before the Iowa caucuses. He said in a statement that internal analyses showed his support wasn’t enough to meet the 15% viability threshold needed in Iowa caucus precincts, but it was strong enough to take away from other like-minded Democratic candidates.
Delaney was the first Democrat to announce his 2020 campaign, entering the field in July 2017 ― more than a year before any other candidate. The former businessman and three-term congressman has a net worth of over $230 million from founding two major financial firms.
Delaney pledged to only endorse bipartisan legislation in the first 100 days of his presidency, debate congressional leaders four times a year and create a Climate Corps as part of a national service program for recent high school graduates.
Lydia O’Connor, Sara Boboltz, Andy Campbell, Ryan Grenoble, Hayley Miller and Paige Lavender contributed to this report.
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