WASHINGTON (Sinclair Broadcast Group) — With Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., entering the 2020 Democratic presidential race Friday and just over a year between now and the Iowa caucus, the field of candidates vying for the chance to challenge President Donald Trump has begun to take shape, and it is already pretty crowded.
“It’s very clear whenever there’s an open seat at the top of the ticket for one of these parties, you’re going to get a feeding frenzy of very talented candidates,” said Alvin Tillery, director of the Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy at Northwestern University.
He expects Booker will be a formidable campaigner with a strong social media game, but of the approximately 10 candidates who have announced their intentions, Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., may be the front-runner after an effective launch that even Trump has praised.
“You bring California to the table in a Democratic primary and presidential election, you’re bringing a lot,” Tillery said.
Harris has drawn criticism this week after endorsing the elimination of the private health insurance system, and Republicans have branded many other ideas embraced by top candidates as extreme. Democrats acknowledge a general leftward tilt on some issues, but they say it reflects a generational shift in the party.
“It’s definitely stacked more heavily toward the left than it has been in a while,” said Democratic strategist Hamza Khan, founder of the Pluralism Project.
However, he noted there are some conservative and moderate Democrats like former Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., in the mix. Given the diversity of gender, race, age, and ideology among the contenders, Khan said the eventual nominee must stress inclusiveness and bring younger, diverse voices into the party.
“It’s going to be important for Democrats to find a candidate who can appeal to the growing millennial and Generation Z base,” he said.
It is perhaps ironic, then, that all eyes are on one of the oldest potential candidates.
“Everyone’s still waiting for the 800-pound gorilla on the Democratic side, which would be Vice President Joe Biden,” Tillery said.
Biden, 76, told CNN this week, “I don’t think there’s any hurry” to make an announcement, but he has indicated he is near a decision. Democrats are eager to see who is in and who is out in the weeks ahead, but they also recognize they are 12 months away from anyone casing a vote.
“The field is off to a very fast start with some very credible candidates, but it will be another six months until everyone gets in and we get a true sense of how they stack up against each other,” said Democratic strategist Craig Varoga.
Khan agreed that it is very early in the game, but candidates still need to be careful because mistakes made now could hobble them in what will be an extremely competitive race for the nomination.
“It matters enough that you don’t make a fool of yourself,” he said.
Here’s where things stand:
Sen. Cory Booker: The New Jersey senator and former Newark mayor kicked off his campaign Friday morning ahead of trips to Iowa, South Carolina, and New Hampshire in February.
Pete Buttigieg: The youngest candidate eying a 2020 campaign, the openly gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana announced last Wednesday he intends to run. Buttigieg is a former Rhodes scholar and a military veteran who ran unsuccessfully for chair of the Democratic National Committee after the 2016 election. He is already highlighting a generational change in American leadership as a campaign theme.
Julian Castro: Castro, who served as Housing and Urban Development secretary under President Barack Obama, formally announced his campaign to become the nation’s first Latino president on Jan. 12. He launched an exploratory committee a month earlier, and his twin brother, Rep. Joaquin Castro, had already publicly confirmed he would run.
John Delaney: Delaney was the first prominent Democrat to announce a 2020 campaign in July 2017. He just completed his third term representing Maryland’s 6th District in the House and he has held hundreds of campaign events in Iowa and New Hampshire. He remains relatively unknown on the national stage, though.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: Hawaii Rep. Gabbard confirmed she planned to run in a CNN interview on Jan. 11, and she formally kicked off her bid two weeks later. She has already faced criticism from progressives for her past views on same-sex marriage and Islamic extremism.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: The New York senator announced on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” last month that she is launching an exploratory committee for a presidential campaign. "As a young mom, I'm going to fight for other people's kids as hard as I would fight for my own," she told Colbert.
Sen. Kamala Harris: California Sen. Harris, the state’s former attorney general, announced on “Good Morning America” on Martin Luther King Jr. Day that she intended to seek the Democratic presidential nomination. More than 20,000 people attended her official campaign launch event on Oakland on Jan. 27.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren: Sen. Warren of Massachusetts announced the launch of her exploratory committee on Dec. 31, raising nearly $300,000 in online donations on the same day. She said on social media Thursday she will make “a BIG announcement” about 2020 on Feb. 9, presumably at a formal kickoff event for her campaign.
Marianne Williamson: Author Marianne Williamson, a spiritual adviser to Oprah Winfrey who ent