The Zombie Campaign

Joe Biden is the least formidable front-runner ever. Will it matter?

Vice President Joe Biden at a campaign rally in Philadelphia on May 18, 2019. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Inevitably, he arrives late, by SUV or van. The former vice-president is thin and, yes, he’s old. He dresses neatly and always in blue. Staff envelop him. There’s the body man, the advance man, the videographer, the photographer, the digital director, the traveling chief of staff, the traveling press secretary, the local press secretary, the adviser, the other adviser, the adviser’s adviser, the surrogate, the other surrogate, and the bodyguard.

The looming presence of the last guy, Jim, is especially important for optics. Jim is tall and official-looking. He greets the world chest-first, his hands resting in a dignified clasp, his expression even, his mouth unmoving. Most people assume that he’s a Secret Service agent. Which he was.

But ex-VPs don’t get security for life the way ex-presidents do. Most people don’t know that, not even the politically savvy types who attend these sorts of things. And that’s all for the best, because Jim — or whatever local guy they’ve got filling in for him in Iowa or New Hampshire or Nevada or wherever else — is a necessary component of the vibe they’re trying to generate here, the Big Presidential Energy, if you will, that powers this production.

And it is a production. This is true even when the event is small, which it often is, because the stakes never are — Joe Biden speaking off the cuff is something the entire campaign seems focused on preventing at all costs. Inside the community center or union hall or college auditorium, the stage is crafted just so. The red and blue letters — each roughly the size of a 9-year-old — spell IOWA 4 BIDEN. The American flag is stretched taut and stapled to the plywood. The lawn sign is stapled to the lectern. The delicate panes of teleprompter glass angle to meet his hopeful gaze, so that he may absorb the programmed speech as he peers out at his audience, which usually skews quite old and white, unless he’s in South Carolina.

This first part — the reading of the speech — he almost always gets right. Even when he makes changes, rearranging the order of the words, skipping over a few, adding others, how could he not get it right? He’s been delivering some version of it for more than 40 years and living it for longer. He could deliver it in his sleep, if he ever sleeps. It’s like my father always said: Joey, a job is about more than just a paycheck. It’s about your dignity. It’s about being able to look your child in the eye and say, “It’s gonna be okay …” There is an undercurrent of shame that pulses throughout, this idea that the unequalness of our society is embarrassing for those who have access to less, rather than embarrassing for those who have more than anyone could need.

Folks … Not a joke! He’s always saying something rather solemn, about cancer or immigration, and then adding, “Not a joke!” as if anyone thought it might be. I’m being serious here … Come on … The bottom line is … I’m not kidding around … The fact of the matter is … Barack and me … Folks … Folks … Folks … folks … folks … folks … folks … folks … folks … folks … FOLKS … folks … FoLkS … fOlKs … F. O. L. K. S. …

And this next part — the greeting of the voters — he gets right, too. In this context, he possesses an almost mystical quality that, for whatever reason, does not come across when filtered through the kaleidoscope of newsprint or television. It’s the way he focuses his eyes, which are as blue as the seas, except for (yikes) that time the left eye filled with blood on CNN a few weeks back.

He is swarmed. Women reach out to him, linking their arms in his. He bows his head and lifts their hands to his mouth for a kiss and, later, when you ask them if that makes them uncomfortable, they look at you like you have three heads. This is the best day of their lives. Are you insane? There are men, too, who embrace him, wrapping their hands around his neck. He calls every male-presenting human he encounters “man.” I watched him call a baby “man.” As in, Hey! How­areya, man?! He is as skilled a selfie-taker as any influencer, and in the span of 30 or 40 minutes, he snaps hundreds, leaning his body against the rope that separates him from the crowd, straining it one, two, three feet forward. He really does connect with every living being this way, talking about their jobs or their health care as he listens, sometimes crying with them, whispering in their ears, taking their phone numbers and promising to call them. He does, in fact, do that. Everybody is Joe Biden’s long-lost friend. Every baby is Joe Biden’s long-lost child. A little girl in Iowa City called him her uncle Joe. On the Fourth of July in the town of Independence, he took off, running through the parade like a dingo with somebody’s newborn. As hard as it might be to believe that anything in this realm could not be bullshit, it’s simply true that this isn’t.

His own loss is staggering in its scale and cruelty: Neilia, his wife, and Naomi, his infant daughter, killed in a car crash. Beau, his oldest son, who survived that crash with his brother, Hunter, killed decades later by brain cancer. And it’s as though in that loss he’s gained access to an otherwise imperceptible wavelength on which he communicates in this way, with the eyes and the hands.

“I don’t know how to describe it, but sometimes some people would walk up with a lot of emotion in their face, and without even hearing their story, he could connect with them,” John Flynn, who served as Biden’s senior adviser in the White House, said. “He would know it was either one thing or another, and he would just know how to approach them and to get them to gently open up if they wanted to. And if they didn’t want to, he just said, ‘Hey, I’m with you, and I’m there for you. I feel your pain.’ ”

Chris Coons was an intern for Biden in the Senate and is now a United States senator from Delaware himself. He told me about Loretta Wootten, a former colleague who in January went into a coma after a car crash that killed her husband. “I went to visit Loretta when she regained consciousness, and she looks at me, and she says, ‘Does Joe know I’m here?’ That’s her first sentence. I said, ‘I don’t know. I mean, he’s running for president.’ And, she says, ‘I just would love to hear from him.’ The next time I see him, I say, ‘Do you remember Loretta Wootten?’ and he smiles and he says, ‘Of course.’ I said, ‘Well, Loretta’s husband was just killed in a car accident, and she’s in recovery.’ And he gets this look, and he turned to someone and said, ‘Get me a piece of paper.’ And he writes out this page-long, heartfelt message to her, hands it to me, and says, ‘Please get this to her.’ When I delivered that to her, she wept with joy.”

I have witnessed this kind of connection at nearly all of the countless events I’ve attended in a half-dozen states in the six months since Biden announced his campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination. If he ever does sleep, surely Joe Biden dreams as he proselytizes, of an unbroken America, its ideals and reputation restored, where everybody is folks and folks have everything they need and maybe some of what they want, where the field is just even enough that nobody is ashamed of their own place on it, and where the president isn’t an idiot but where you can easily deal with the idiots by kicking the shit out of them out back in a parking lot or something. Crucially, in this dream, Joe Biden is the president.

A campaign event in New Hampshire in October. Photo: M. Scott Brauer

The pitch goes like this: Joe Biden ought to be the nominee because he’s electable, a meaningless concept if recent history is any guide, and presidential, that wonderful word — the thing Donald Trump could never be even though he literally is president — despite the fact that Biden, who appears by almost any measure to be a good man, a man whose lone sin in life is ego (and does that even count anymore?), has spent a half-century grasping for this position and watching it slip through his fingers.

To anyone paying attention — the army of political professionals more wired to observe shortcomings than are those likely to actually vote for him or for anyone else — it looks, unmistakably, like it’s happening again. His vulnerabilities are close to the surface. There’s the basic fact of his oldness and the concerns, explicit or implicit, about his ability to stay agile and alive for four more years. This was true of Biden, who is 76, even more than it was true of Bernie Sanders, who is the oldest candidate at 78, up until Sanders had a heart attack while campaigning in Nevada earlier this month. (It’s not true at all of Elizabeth Warren, who is 70 but seems a decade younger. And it’s not exactly true of Trump, who is 73 and really just seems crazy, not old.)

But it’s not just his age itself. It’s his tendency to misspeak, his inartful debating style, and — most of all — his status as a creature from another time in the Democratic Party, when the politics of race and crime and gender were unrecognizably different. It’s not just that the Joe Biden of yesteryear sometimes peeks out from behind the No. 1 Obama Stan costume. It’s that the Joe Biden of today is expected to hold his former self accountable to the new standards set by a culture that’s prepared to reject him. And though he’s the party Establishment’s obvious exemplar, he can’t seem to raise any money — spending more in the last quarter than he brought in and moving into the homestretch with less than $9 million in the bank (roughly a third of what Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders has on hand). For political reporters, marveling every day at just how well this isn’t going, watching Biden can feel like being at the rodeo. You’re there because on some level you know you might see someone get killed.

Yet Biden is still the front-runner. Volatile and potentially worthless as they may be, it’s what the polls say. Biden leads the field on average by a handful of percentage points, though his lead has trended steadily downward, from a high of 33 in May to 20 in June to 11, and then to 9.9, and 6.6, and 5.4, according to RealClearPolitics. In the whole campaign, there has only been one day — October 8 — when he slipped to second place, an average of 0.2 points behind Warren. He’s also the front-runner in South Carolina, Nevada, California, Texas, North Carolina, and Florida. “There is this sense of hanging on. And perhaps he can. But that’s generally not the way the physics of these things work,” former Obama adviser David Axelrod told me. “Generally, you’re either moving up or moving down. Warren is clearly moving up. There’s no sign that he is.”

Biden is aware that it’s not going well. But it’s not apparent that he knows how to fix it. Recently, according to his staff, his anxieties have manifested more visibly. If he begins to question something small, he spirals, eventually questioning everything. Should he be saying this in his speech? Wait, should he be giving this speech at all? Should he even be focusing on this group? Is this even the right position? He freaks out over minor stuff on the trail that staffers don’t believe he should be concerning himself with and yet is unable to make strategic adjustments. But the staff concern themselves with unimportant matters, too, running what they think is a general-election campaign when they need to be running a primary. Inside the campaign, the Biden brain trust seems to exist more to comfort the candidate than to compel him, and strategy meetings inevitably devolve into meandering, ruminative roundtables that feel purposeless except to fill time in the day. Nobody will tell the candidate in plain terms what they think he needs to change. Not that Biden really listens anyway.

Some on the campaign still believe he can win, in part because they believe he should win. But even to them, the path to a collapse seems clear: Biden loses in Iowa and New Hampshire, where his leads have been steadily declining for months and where, recently, Elizabeth Warren has overtaken him, and then, as a result, loses his sheer aura of electability, too. But inside the campaign, they reportedly see another path, though it might not seem, at first, an optimistic one: Okay, so he loses Iowa and then New Hampshire, but so what? Because he is who he is and represents what he represents — the embodiment of both the white-working-class model of the electorate and the glow of the Obama years — he can weather the losses and march to victory through Super Tuesday and beyond. “Their theory is a long, twilight struggle where they accumulate delegates everywhere as minority voters start playing a larger role,” Axelrod said. “But in reality, it’s tough to be a winner when you keep losing or at least appear to be.”

Biden would obviously like you to think about his age as experience, but another way of thinking about experience is as a record. He’s got a long one. When he was elected to the Senate, Pete Buttigieg was still a decade away from birth. There’s a lot of material, then, for Biden’s critics to work with. All sorts of stuff that doesn’t age well, or doesn’t quite compute, in this season of absolutism: Anita Hill and allegations that he violated the personal space of several women, controversy over his crusade against busing as a desegregation measure and his eagerness to work with segregationist lawmakers. Last week, after Biden attacked Trump for calling his impeachment a “lynching,” video emerged of Biden calling Bill Clinton’s impeachment the same thing. If it was relevant to American political life at any point since Richard Nixon was president, Biden probably said something about it, but it’s new to many younger voters and activists and talking heads now.

Many of them treat Biden’s talking as yet another symptom of his age, but Biden has always been like this. “His major defect is that he goes on and on and on,” Orrin Hatch told the Washington Post in 1986, when Biden was 43. To say he overcame his childhood stutter would be a bad joke, like one of those I BEAT ANOREXIA T-shirts they sell on the Jersey boardwalk in size XXXL.

In Des Moines, in August, he told a crowd, “Poor kids are just as bright and just as talented as white kids.” Realizing what he’d done, he tried to correct himself. “Wealthy kids,” he said, “black kids, Asian kids. No, I really mean it, but think how we think about it.” Two weeks later, in Keene, New Hampshire, he said, “I love this place. Look, what’s not to like about Vermont in terms of the beauty of it? And what a neat town. This is sort of a scenic, beautiful town.” (When he returned to New Hampshire the following month, a protester held a sign that read WELCOME TO VERMONT, JOE.) And so on.

Biden is cocooned by family, longtime advisers, and former White House staff. His wife Jill, Val, Mike Donilon, Ted Kaufman, Bruce Reed, Annie Tomasini, Tony Blinken, Steve Ricchetti, Ron Klain. But beyond that small circle, veterans are harder to find on his campaign. Biden is chronically slow to make decisions, and his late entry into the race, which came months after many of his competitors, was an additional challenge to staffing the campaign. Many working at Biden headquarters in Philadelphia have no experience on a presidential campaign, and some have never worked on any campaign at all; even those closest to the candidate address him, deferentially, as “sir.”

“Some of these folks who have never worked on a presidential before are like, ‘Okay, I’m working for the former vice-president!’ They don’t really feel like it’s slipping,” one senior campaign adviser told me. “There’s such reverence for getting to work for the vice-president that I think, for some of those folks, there’s a mentality of How could we possibly lose? He’s who he is. I don’t think they see that that’s not all it’s gonna take.” (Yes, even Biden’s staff say “folks” the way others say “like” or “um.”)

For many of these staffers, the campaign feels like it should be a coronation. Joe Biden 2020 isn’t a labor of love or ideology. It’s about the proper order of things. It’s about who’s entitled to what. It’s the vehicle by which the Democratic Party Establishment arrives once more to power, the displaced Obama and Clinton professionals reinstalled at the levers. If the Republic is spared in the process — which everybody genuinely wants, sure! — that’s a plus. And it’s great branding. When it comes to the enthusiasm voters wear on their sleeves for Warren or Sanders, the Biden campaign strikes a cool, dismissive pose, as if it could be believed that a candidate for president weren’t preoccupied with such metrics.

The activist wing of the party is a lost cause to Biden just as he’s a lost cause to them. When they show up at his speeches to confront him or protest in support of the Green New Deal, something I’ve witnessed twice in New Hampshire, he attempts to formulate what he surely believes is a respectful response, and yet they don’t think it’s enough, because nothing that he says could be enough because of who he is. Can you blame anyone under the age of 30 for their cynicism, for their hostility?

“Internally, there was always this idea that there would be some point when he wasn’t No. 1,” one senior campaign adviser swears. “To some extent, people were prepped for that. There isn’t a culture inside the campaign right now like, This is a done deal and we’ve lost. The culture is, This is getting real. People are still reacting to that. The question is: Does this now change our strategy and our culture? That’s where we are right now, figuring out what this new stature means.”

Where they are, if you’re keeping track, is slumped. And it’s a strange dynamic — the most qualified candidate in the race, surrounded by entitled staff who don’t understand that they have to fight for the nomination, or even the presidency, but without a real case to make beyond a Democratic succession that would amount to an Obama restoration. “He has no center,” as one person close to the Biden family put it. “He’s literally only a politician. That’s who he is. That’s all he is. Biden is fundamentally a toadie. He’s just political. He needs to kiss ass? He’ll kiss ass.”

“They have him in the candidate-protection program,” Axelrod says. “I don’t know if you can do that. I don’t know if you can get through a whole campaign that way. Either he can hack it or he can’t hack it. If you’re worried the candidate can hurt himself talking to a reporter, that’s a bad sign.” (Biden declined to be interviewed for this story.)

For his part, Biden is consumed with his endorsements, another sign of his perhaps outdated political instincts; getting insiders to declare their support meant something when powerful political machines controlled the primary process, but it has much less relevance to presidential politics today. And the only endorsement that could matter hasn’t materialized. President Barack Obama has remained silent on the 2020 primary even as he saw it fit to involve himself in Canadian affairs, endorsing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. A senior White House official, reflecting on Biden’s weakness, told me Biden should have never even entered the race without knowing he’d have the former president’s support.

Of course, that was always less of a sure thing than it might have seemed. In 2016, Obama went all-in for Hillary, even as his vice-president contemplated a run. In the early stages of this race, he didn’t just avoid aligning himself with Biden but gestured toward other candidates, including unlikely contender Deval Patrick, the former governor of Massachusetts, possibly to discourage his former veep from running.

And then there’s Hunter Biden himself, who was going to become an issue one way or another. The 49-year-old son of privilege and tragedy, he has had struggles with addiction and run-ins with the law that have been well-documented. The campaign did its best to control the subject, cooperating with a tell-all interview over the summer in which Hunter candidly discussed his drug use and his relationship with his brother’s widow. This is sometimes how flacks think they’ll get ahead of a story: You neuter the shock value by delivering the shock yourself. But when your son is a central character in an impeachment saga likely to preoccupy all of Washington and political news for six months, it’s a hard thing to get ahead of, especially when you don’t really seem to want to engage.

“It’s sort of bewildering,” Axelrod says. “I guess I understand it from a familial, psychological sense. It would just be so much better if he stated the obvious: Even Hunter has said he exercised poor judgment. He won’t even say what his kid said. It’s an obvious question as to why the rules that he’s going to apply in the future didn’t apply in the past. All this was foreseeable … You can’t say, ‘He did nothing wrong,’ and, ‘He’ll never do it again.’ Those things don’t go together. Biden can be stubborn. I think his stubbornness is showing here.” All of that said, Axelrod added, “what Trump is doing is loathsome and outrageous because there’s no evidence that Biden did anything wrong or that Hunter did anything wrong.”

In a certain sense, impeachment creates for Biden what he wanted all along: a direct competition with Trump. Looked at it one way, it’s a story about how the president of the United States was so worried about his formidable opponent that he risked his entire presidency, and even broke the law, to try to stop him. But in other ways, it’s exactly what Biden hoped to avoid: a focus on his most troubled child, the last remaining member of his first family, and the privilege his political and celebrity status affords. Even if he didn’t do anything “wrong,” Trump is right that there’s a swamp, though he doesn’t realize he’s its ugliest creature, and impeachment is a daily reminder that Biden swims there, too. Who could withstand an entire year of character assassination by the president, who is aided by a political media that projects his every statement to the world?

Former vice-president Joe Biden.
Photo: Mark Peterson/Redux/Mark Peterson/Redux

At the Iowa State Fair in August, as candidates took to the stage to deliver their stump speeches and answer questions from the Des Moines Register, I stood off to the side with a few members of the press. We craned our necks downward to squint at a zoomed-in photo of the side of Joe Biden’s head. There, just behind the ear, is where you can supposedly observe the scar from a face-lift, one of many cosmetic procedures Biden is rumored to have had.

The dramatic change to Biden’s appearance is a matter of preoccupation for Biden-watchers. In the timeline of images from throughout his career, you can observe as he grows older and then younger and then older but somehow more elegant and alert. His hair is white now but thicker than it was in the 1980s. He’s thinner, but his cheeks are fuller than they were in 2008. To be honest with you, he looks good. He’s almost 77!

This is also a minor obsession of the White House, as you can probably imagine. Privately, Trump has marveled at the “work” Biden has had done and the fact that, in his opinion, he doesn’t look any better for it. Those who know him say the president is against plastic surgery (by which I assume they don’t mean breast implants) and, especially, bad plastic surgery, and he considers it an all-too-common tragedy when someone has their face inexpertly altered.

A senior White House official who regularly discusses the campaign with Trump was describing how his view of Biden has evolved since the winter. It was then, before Biden declared, that the campaign began conducting polling and sharing the results with Trump himself. The internal numbers were as bad as the external. Biden destroyed Trump. The president’s anxieties only grew as Biden became a more popular topic on cable news. “It was easy to get caught up,” this official said. “The president saw that it’s easier to picture Joe Biden up on the debate stage than some of the others.”

Over time, as Biden formally waded into the race, and the president saw the reality of the candidate as opposed to the idea of Vice-President Joe Biden, he grew less concerned, according to the senior White House official. Biden was no longer “the guy he was worried about.” And one of the reasons was, in Trumpian fashion, “his look.” Though the official adds a few more items to the list as well: “His cadence. His inability to speak. His small crowds.”

Trump has also commented on Biden’s wardrobe choices, wondering why he’d wear Ralph Lauren polo shirts on the campaign trail that show off his graying chest hair and skinny arms. (Trump himself wears polo shirts almost exclusively while golfing).

Inside the White House and the reelection campaign, the true believers know how to decode Trump’s bitchy nicknames for his competitors. As iconic as “Crooked Hillary” and “Lyin’ Ted” may be, his crowning achievement remains “Low Energy,” his characterization of Jeb Bush. “Sleepy Joe” is considered Trump’s attempt at a 2020 remake of “Low Energy,” and it’s all about emphasizing Biden’s age.

In September, somebody had the bright idea to stage an afternoon event under the open sky at the Indian Creek Nature Center in sunny Cedar Rapids. It was the day after news of the whistle-blower broke, but Biden stuck to the event’s topic, climate change, addressing all the usual themes. Then faces began turning upward to the birds overhead. Somebody from Showtime’s The Circus told me the birds were bald eagles, but at the time I thought they looked like hawks, which, I guess, is a sort of glass-half-empty or -half-full dilemma. Eventually, word of the alleged bald eagles made its way to Biden, and with a look of optimism, he turned his face to the sky. He grew emotional. He said that at the Lake House, Beau used to sit by the water and watch the bald eagles fly overhead. The night Beau died, in 2015, Biden said he watched an eagle take off from the lake, circle in the sky, and then fly away. He hadn’t seen another bald eagle since that night, he said, until now. Looking at the bird, he said, “Maybe that’s my Beau.”

Biden wrote a book about his grief, and about his son, called Promise Me, Dad. Therein, he tells a similar story, but with a different bird. That night, he wrote, “Jill spotted a white egret at the far edge of the water.” She told her husband that, as he lay dying, she whispered to Beau to go to the dock, “his happy place,” with his brother. “We watched the egret for twenty minutes, until it finally took flight,” Biden wrote. “The two of us sat in silence as the egret circled overhead repeatedly, slowly gaining altitude, until it finally headed away to the south, beneath the clouds, and gradually disappeared from sight. ‘It’s a sign from God,’ Jill said. ‘Beau being at the lake one last time, and heading for heaven.’ ”

Anne Kearns is an 84-year-old grandmother of 16 and retired professor. For 58 years, she has lived in the modest blue house with black shutters on North Washington Avenue in Scranton, Pennsylvania, where Joe Biden lived during the first decade of his life.

“He calls this ‘the Homestead,’ ” she told me last Sunday. We were sitting in the living room, surrounded by framed photos of her large family and one photo of Biden, propped up on the TV stand. For most of his career, Biden was among the least-wealthy members of Congress, an attractive bullet point that he continues to note even after amassing a fortune in his post–White House life. He often claims that “they” call him “Middle-Class Joe.” (As far as I can tell, he is the only person who calls himself this.) But he’s always had a weakness for grand old houses, even before he could really afford them, and an odd habit of referring to his properties by nicknames: North Star (for the Delaware village in which it was located), the Station (his once-bustling home in Wilmington), and the Lake House (self-explanatory). What does Anne call the Homestead in which she lives? “Well, nothing,” she said, laughing.

You could tell the story of Biden’s astonishingly long political career through Anne and through this house.

She first learned there was an interesting man who had once lived here in 1972, when she saw Biden’s ads on TV. At the time, he was running for the U.S. Senate against Cale Boggs, a powerful Republican who had won seven consecutive elections in Delaware, climbing from Congress to the governor’s mansion and ultimately to the Senate. Boggs was 63, and Biden, who at 29 wouldn’t even be eligible to serve in the office he was seeking until two weeks after Election Day, used his seniority against him. “We need some new thinking,” read one of Biden’s advertisements. “He understands what’s happening today,” read another. “My husband said to me — he watched him all the time on TV — and he’d say, ‘Ah, he’s going to be something someday,’ ” Anne said.

In 1988, when Biden was running for president the first time, reporters and authors began knocking on Anne’s door. A boy who lived down the street brought her a signed photo Biden had addressed to her, thanking her for her cooperation in this strange endeavor.

By her count, Biden himself has visited the Homestead six times over the years, once privately with his late mother, who refused to get out of the car despite Anne assuring her that the visit was not a disturbance, and other trips with the media and even Hillary Clinton.

“He came another time with Terry Moran from Nightline, and they walked across the street. At that time, I had a leg done, and so my niece was sitting where you are” — she gestured to my chair — “and she said, ‘I think that’s Joe Biden coming.’ I thought, No, he was here two weeks ago. My nephew stood up, and he said, ‘Anne, it is Joe Biden.’ They had left a message on my phone and I didn’t hear it.”

In 2008, the Obama-Biden campaign staged a formal event here with 400 people plus Secret Service sweeping through and rows of seating set up next door for reporters. Biden went upstairs to his old bedroom and signed the wall. Anne keeps photos from that day in an album underneath the television, and in them, Biden can be seen writing in black Sharpie, I AM HOME — JOE BIDEN 9 * 1 * 08. By then, Biden had served in the Senate for 25 years and run for president twice — once disastrously, ending in a plagiarism scandal, and once unremarkably, ending in a vice-presidential campaign.

The whole neighborhood, Anne said, took pride in him, supported him. Even the old lady across the street, whose sons told her she wasn’t allowed to speak to reporters or let them into the house anymore, still loves Joe Biden.

Age isn’t just a weakness for Biden. There are a lot of old people in America, and many of them really like the former vice-president. They don’t see a doddering, out-of-touch, exhausted man, as the 20- and 30- and 40-somethings who cover the campaign and dominate social media do. They look at him and see, well, a statesman from the popular recent administration who has moved to the left as the party has, if not quite as much as his younger rivals. These are the people that really vote in elections, and, to them, that all seems pretty good. “I worry when I read that he is even with somebody. I just read a piece this morning that he’s even with the Warren lady,” Anne said.

“I really think he’d be wonderful in getting us back with the people that are overseas. I think he’s wonderful dealing with people. I would definitely support him. I think he knows what’s going on with all those people … He’s a wonderful man. He really is wonderful, and he cares about people.”

A few days after I left the Homestead, Biden gave a speech at the Scranton Cultural Center. At the last minute, he decided to make an unplanned stop on North Washington Avenue. As photographers snapped away from the sidewalk, Anne answered the door. Biden wrapped her in a hug.

CNN Poll: Biden’s lead in Democratic primary hits widest margin since April

WASHINGTON (CNN) Former Vice President Joe Biden’s lead in the race for the Democratic nomination for president has rebounded, and now stands at its widest margin since April, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS.

Biden has the support of 34% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters, his best showing in CNN polling since just after his campaign’s formal launch on April 25.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont are about even for second, with 19% and 16%, respectively. Behind them, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Kamala Harris of California each have 6% support, with Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke each at 3%.
Biden’s rise comes largely from a consolidation of support among his core backers, and doesn’t appear to harm any individual opponent. Warren and Sanders hold about even with their standing in the last CNN poll in September, and no other candidate has seen a shift of more than 2 points in that time.
But Biden has seen big spikes in support among moderate and conservative Democrats (43% support him now, up from 29% in the September poll), racial and ethnic minorities (from 28% among all nonwhites in September to 42% now) and older voters (up 13 points since September among those 45 and older) that outpace those among younger potential Democratic voters (up 5 points among those younger than 45).
The gains come as Biden’s time as vice president is put under the spotlight by President Donald Trump and his allies. Trump is facing an impeachment inquiry by the House of Representatives over allegations that he pressured the Ukrainian government to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, as well as the 2016 US election in return for releasing hundreds of millions in congressionally mandated defense funding meant for Ukraine. Hunter Biden was on the board of a Ukrainian natural gas company while Biden was vice president. There is no evidence that either Biden did anything wrong in Ukraine.
The poll suggests that although Biden’s October debate performance did not blow away the audience (15% who watched or followed news about it said he had done the best job in the debate, well behind Warren’s 28% — but better than most on the stage), the arguments he made on health care, foreign policy and the economy may have boosted his standing with the potential Democratic electorate.
Asked which candidate would best handle a range of top issues, Biden leads the way on four of the six issues tested in the poll. He holds a massive edge over the field on foreign policy (56% say he would handle it best, well ahead of Sanders at 13% and Warren at 11%), and tops the next closest candidate by nearly 20 points on the economy (38% Biden, 19% Sanders, 16% Warren). Biden also outpaces the rest of the field as most trusted on immigration (29% Biden, 16% each Warren and Sanders) and gun policy (27% vs. 13% Sanders and 11% Warren, with O’Rourke close at 9%).
Biden doesn’t hold a significant edge on the critical issue of health care (31% Biden, 28% Sanders, 17% Warren) but he’s surged 13 points on the issue since June, when he lagged behind Sanders. Neither Sanders’ nor Warren’s numbers on the issue have moved significantly in that time.
And Biden now runs even with Sanders at 26% as best able to handle the climate crisis. Warren is at 18% on that issue. The results mark increases for Biden and Sanders, who were each at 19% on handling the climate in June.
The former vice president’s advantages on the issues come as he emphasizes an approach that appears to align with the preferences of most potential Democratic voters. A 53% majority say they want the nominee to advocate policies that have a good chance of becoming law, even if the changes aren’t as big, vs. 42% who prefer advocating big changes even if they have less of a chance of becoming law.
Among those voters who prefer an approach that prioritizes policies with a better chance of becoming law, 38% support Biden for the Democratic nomination, 17% Warren and just 8% Sanders. On the other side, it’s nearly a three-way split, with 27% behind Biden, 24% Sanders and 21% Warren.
About 1 in 5 potential Democratic voters say they watched last week’s debate among 12 Democratic candidates, and those who watched it came away with a different assessment than those who mainly followed news about the debate. Overall, among everyone who either watched or followed news coverage on the debate, 28% say Warren had the best night, 15% Biden, 13% Sanders, 11% Buttigieg, 4% Klobuchar and 2% Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, with the rest at 1% or less. Among those who say they watched it, though, Warren remains on top at 29%, but 21% say Buttigieg had the best night, then 13% Biden, 11% Sanders, 10% Klobuchar and 4% Booker, with everyone else at 1% or less
And those who watched the debate seem to have more favorable views of the lesser-known candidates who were seen as having good nights than do those who followed coverage. Among debate watchers, 74% have a favorable view of Buttigieg, vs. 54% among those who followed news instead. Booker’s favorability rating is 80% among those who watched, vs. 55% among those who followed coverage, and Klobuchar’s favorability stands at 56% among watchers vs. 36% among those who followed news.
Warren tops the list of candidates who potential Democratic voters say they want to hear more about: 31% name her, 24% Buttigieg, 23% Harris, 18% Booker, 17% Sanders, 16% Biden, 13% Klobuchar, 11% O’Rourke and 10% businessman Andrew Yang.
Majorities of potential Democratic voters say they would at least be satisfied with any of the top three becoming the party’s nominee, with about 4 in 10 saying they’d be enthusiastic about Biden (43%), Warren (41%) or Sanders (39%). Fewer would feel as excited should Buttigieg become the party’s nominee (27% enthusiastic).
Registered voters generally give Biden, Warren, Sanders and Buttigieg large advantages over President Donald Trump in hypothetical general election matchups. Biden leads the President by 10 points, 53% to 43%, with Sanders up 9 (52% to 43%) and Warren up 8 (52% to 44%). Buttigieg holds a 6-point edge, 50% to 44%.
The CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS from October 17 through 20 among a random national sample of 1,003 adults reached on landlines or cellphones by a live interviewer, including 424 registered voters who are Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points. For results among potential Democratic voters, it is plus or minus 5.8 points.
The study was conducted for CNN via telephone by SSRS, an independent research company. Interviews were
conducted from October 17-20, 2019 among a sample of 1,003 respondents. The landline total respondents were
352 and there were 651 cell phone respondents. The margin of sampling error for total respondents is +/- 3.7 at
the 95% confidence level. The design effect is 1.47.More information about SSRS can be obtained by visiting Question text noted in parentheses was rotated or randomized. Unless otherwise noted, results
beginning with the March 31-April 2, 2006 survey and ending with the April 22-25, 2017 survey are from surveys
conducted by ORC International. Results before March 31, 2006 are from surveys conducted by Gallup.
Interviews were conducted among a representative sample of the adult population, age 18 or older, of the United
States. Members of demographic groups not shown in the published crosstabs are represented in the results for
each question in the poll. Crosstabs on the pages that follow only include results for subgroups with a minimum
n=125 unweighted cases. Results for subgroups with fewer than n=125 unweighted cases are not displayed and
instead are denoted with “SN” because samples of that size carry larger margins of sampling error and can be too
small to be projectable with confidence to their true values in the population.

2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries

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2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries

← 2016
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1,885 of 3,769[a] pledged delegate votes needed to win the presidential nomination at the convention‘s first ballot.[1]
(2,268 of all 4,535[b] delegate votes needed to win any subsequent ballots at a contested convention)[1]

Previous Democratic nominee
Hillary Clinton

The 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries and caucuses will be a series of electoral contests organized by the Democratic Party to select the approximately 3,769[a] pledged delegates to the Democratic National Convention. Those delegates shall, by pledged votes, elect the Democratic nominee for president of the United States in the 2020 U.S. presidential election.[2] The elections are scheduled to take place from February to June 2020 in all fifty U.S. states, the District of Columbia, five U.S. territories, and Democrats Abroad.

Independently of the result of primaries and caucuses, the Democratic Party will—from its group of party leaders and elected officials—also appoint 765[b] unpledged delegates (superdelegates) to participate in its national convention. In contrast to all previous election cycles, superdelegates will no longer have the right to cast decisive votes at the convention’s first ballot for the presidential nomination (limiting their voting rights to either non-decisive votes on the first ballot or decisive votes for subsequent ballots on a contested convention).[2][3][4]

The field of major Democratic presidential candidates in the 2020 election peaked at more than two dozen. As of October 24, 2019, 18 major candidates are seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020. The October 15, 2019 Democratic presidential debate in Westerville, Ohio featured 12 candidates, setting a record for the highest number of candidates in one presidential debate.



After Hillary Clinton‘s loss in the previous election, many felt the Democratic Party lacked a clear leader.[5] There remained divisions in the party following the 2016 primaries which pitted Clinton against Bernie Sanders.[6][7] Between the 2016 election and the 2018 midterm elections, Senate Democrats have generally shifted to the political left in relation to college tuition, healthcare, and immigration.[8][9] The 2018 elections saw the Democratic Party regain the House of Representatives for the first time in eight years, picking up seats in both urban and suburban districts.[10][11]

Soon after the 2016 general election, the division between Clinton and Sanders supporters was highlighted in the 2017 Democratic National Committee chairmanship election between Tom Perez and Keith Ellison.[12] Perez was narrowly elected chairman and subsequently appointed Ellison as the Deputy Chair, a largely ceremonial role.[8][9]

The 2020 field of Democratic presidential candidates peaked at more than two dozen candidates. According to Politifact, this field is believed to be the largest field of presidential candidates for any American political party since 1972;[c] it exceeds the field of 17 major candidates that sought the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.[14] In May 2019, CBS News referred to the field of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates as “the largest and most diverse Democratic primary field in modern history”.[15] As of October 24, 2019, 18 major candidates are seeking the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.[16] The October 15, 2019 Democratic presidential debate in Westerville, Ohio featured 12 candidates, setting a record for the highest number of candidates in one presidential debate.[17][18]

Reforms since 2016[edit]

On August 25, 2018, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) members passed reforms to the Democratic Party’s primary process in order to increase participation[19] and ensure transparency.[20] State parties are encouraged to use a government-run primary whenever available and increase the accessibility of their primary through same-day or automatic registration and same-day party switching. Caucuses are required to have absentee voting, or to otherwise allow those who cannot participate in person to be included.[19]

The new reforms also regulate how the Democratic National Convention shall handle the outcome of primaries and caucuses for three potential scenarios:[2][4]

  1. If a single candidate wins at least 2,268 pledged delegates: Superdelegates will be allowed to vote at first ballot, as their influence can not overturn the majority of pledged delegates.
  2. If a single candidate wins 1,886–2,267 pledged delegates: Superdelegates will be barred from voting at first ballot, which solely will be decided by the will of pledged delegates.
  3. If no candidate wins more than 1,885 pledged delegates: This will result in a contested convention, where superdelegates are barred from voting at the first formal ballot, but regain their right to vote for their preferred presidential nominee for all subsequent ballots needed until the delegates reach a majority.

The reforms mandate that superdelegates refrain from voting on the first presidential nominating ballot, unless a candidate via the outcome of primaries and caucuses already has gained enough votes (more than 50% of all delegate votes) among only the elected pledged delegates. The prohibition for superdelegates to vote at the first ballot for the last two mentioned scenarios, does not preclude superdelegates from publicly endorsing a candidate of their choosing before the convention.[4]

In a contested convention where no majority of minimum 1,886 pledged delegate votes is found for a single candidate in the first ballot, all superdelegates will then regain their right to vote on any subsequent ballot necessary in order for a presidential candidate to be nominated (raising the majority needed for such to 2,267 votes).[2][4]


Major candidates in the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries have either: (a) served as Vice President, a member of the cabinet, a U.S. Senator, a U.S. Representative, or a Governor, (b) been included in a minimum of five independent national polls, or (c) received substantial media coverage.[21][22][23][24][25][26]

More than 250 candidates who did not meet the above-referenced criteria to be deemed major candidates also filed with the Federal Election Commission to run for president in the Democratic Party primary.[27]

Current candidates[edit]

The following list of current candidates includes major candidates that have filed with the Federal Election Commission to run for president in the 2020 Democratic primary, have officially announced their respective candidacies, and have not withdrawn their candidacies. As of October 24, 2019, the total number of current candidates is 18.

Name Born Experience Home state Campaign
Announcement date
Michael Bennet by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Michael Bennet
November 28, 1964
(age 54)
New Delhi, India
U.S. senator from Colorado (2009–present) Flag of Colorado.svg
Michael Bennet 2020 presidential campaign logo.svg

Campaign: May 2, 2019
FEC filing[28]


Joe Biden
November 20, 1942
(age 76)
Scranton, Pennsylvania
Vice President of the United States (2009–2017)
U.S. senator from Delaware (1973–2009)
Candidate for President in 1988 and 2008
Flag of Delaware.svg
Joe Biden 2020 presidential campaign logo.svg

Campaign: April 25, 2019
FEC filing[30]

Cory Booker by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Cory Booker
April 27, 1969
(age 50)
Washington, D.C.
U.S. senator from New Jersey (2013–present)
Mayor of NewarkNew Jersey (2006–2013)
Flag of New Jersey.svg
New Jersey
Cory Booker 2020 Logo.svg

Campaign: February 1, 2019
FEC filing[32]

Steve Bullock by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Steve Bullock
April 11, 1966
(age 53)
Missoula, Montana
Governor of Montana (2013–present)
Attorney General of Montana (2009–2013)
Flag of Montana.svg
Steve Bullock 2020 presidential campaign logo.svg

Campaign: May 14, 2019
FEC filing[34]

Pete Buttigieg by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Pete Buttigieg
January 19, 1982
(age 37)
South Bend, Indiana
Mayor of South BendIndiana (2012–present) Flag of Indiana.svg
Pete for America logo (Strato Blue).svg

Exploratory committee: January 23, 2019
Campaign: April 14, 2019
FEC filing[37]

Julian Castro 2019 crop.jpg
Julián Castro
September 16, 1974
(age 45)
San Antonio, Texas
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (2014–2017)
Mayor of San AntonioTexas (2009–2014)
Flag of Texas.svg
Julian Castro 2020 presidential campaign logo.svg

Exploratory committee:
December 12, 2018
Campaign: January 12, 2019
FEC filing[39]

John Delaney 2019 crop.jpg
John Delaney
April 16, 1963
(age 56)
Wood-Ridge, New Jersey
U.S. representative from MD-06 (2013–2019) Flag of Maryland.svg
John Delaney 2020 logo.svg

Campaign: July 28, 2017
FEC filing[41]

Tulsi Gabbard August 2019.jpg
Tulsi Gabbard
April 12, 1981
(age 38)
Leloaloa, American Samoa
U.S. representative from HI-02 (2013–present) Flag of Hawaii.svg
Tulsi Gabbard 2020 presidential campaign logo black.svg

Campaign: January 11, 2019
FEC filing[43]

Kamala Harris April 2019.jpg
Kamala Harris
October 20, 1964
(age 55)
Oakland, California
U.S. senator from California (2017–present)
Attorney General of California (2011–2017)
Flag of California.svg
Kamala Harris 2020 presidential campaign logo.svg

Campaign: January 21, 2019
FEC filing[45]

Amy Klobuchar 2019 (cropped).jpg
Amy Klobuchar
May 25, 1960
(age 59)
Plymouth, Minnesota
U.S. senator from Minnesota (2007–present) Flag of Minnesota.svg
Amy Klobuchar 2020 presidential campaign logo.svg

Campaign: February 10, 2019
FEC filing[47]

Wayne Messam by Marc Nozell (cropped).jpg
Wayne Messam
June 7, 1974
(age 45)
South Bay, Florida
Mayor of MiramarFlorida (2015–present) Flag of Florida.svg
Wayne Messam 2020 presidential campaign logo.png

Exploratory committee:
March 13, 2019
Campaign: March 28, 2019
FEC filing[49]

Beto O'Rourke April 2019.jpg
Beto O’Rourke
September 26, 1972
(age 47)
El Paso, Texas
U.S. representative from TX-16 (2013–2019) Flag of Texas.svg
Beto O'Rourke 2020 presidential campaign logo.svg

Campaign: March 14, 2019
FEC filing[51]

Bernie Sanders July 2019 (cropped).jpg
Bernie Sanders
September 8, 1941
(age 78)
Brooklyn, New York
U.S. senator from Vermont (2007–present)
U.S. representative from VT-AL (1991–2007)
Mayor of Burlington, Vermont (1981–1989)
Candidate for President in 2016
Flag of Vermont.svg
Bernie Sanders 2020 logo.svg

Campaign: February 19, 2019
FEC filing[53]

Joe Sestak (48641414726) (cropped).jpg
Joe Sestak
December 12, 1951
(age 67)
Secane, Pennsylvania
U.S. representative from PA-07 (2007–2011) Flag of Pennsylvania.svg

Campaign: June 22, 2019
FEC filing[55]

Tom Steyer by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Tom Steyer
June 27, 1957
(age 62)
Manhattan, New York
Hedge fund manager
Founder of Farallon Capital
Flag of California.svg
Tom Steyer 2020 logo (black text).svg

Campaign: July 9, 2019
FEC filing[57]

Elizabeth Warren by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Elizabeth Warren
June 22, 1949
(age 70)
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
U.S. senator from Massachusetts (2013–present)
Special Advisor for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (2010–2011)
Flag of Massachusetts.svg
Elizabeth Warren 2020 presidential campaign logo.svg

Exploratory committee:
December 31, 2018
Campaign: February 9, 2019
FEC filing[59]

Marianne Williamson (48541662667) (cropped).jpg
Marianne Williamson
July 8, 1952
(age 67)
Houston, Texas
Founder of Project Angel Food
Independent candidate for U.S. House from CA-33 in 2014
Flag of California.svg
Marianne Williamson 2020 presidential campaign logo.svg

Exploratory committee:
November 15, 2018
Campaign: January 28, 2019
FEC filing[61]

Andrew Yang by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Andrew Yang
January 13, 1975
(age 44)
Schenectady, New York
Founder of Venture for America
Flag of New York.svg
New York
Andrew Yang 2020 logo.png

Campaign: November 6, 2017
FEC filing[63]


Beside these major candidates, more than 250 other candidates who did not meet the above-referenced criteria to be deemed major candidates also filed with the Federal Election Commission to run for president in the Democratic Party primary.[65] Other notable candidates who have not suspended their respective campaigns include:

Candidates who withdrew from the race before the 2020 primaries[edit]

The candidates in this section were major candidates who withdrew or suspended their campaigns before the 2020 Democratic primary elections began.

Candidate Born Experience State Campaign
Article Ref.
MAJ Richard Ojeda.jpg
Richard Ojeda
September 25, 1970
(age 48)
Rochester, Minnesota
West Virginia state senator from WV-SD07 (2016–2019) Flag of West Virginia.svg
West Virginia
November 11, 2018 January 25, 2019 Campaign
FEC filing[77]
Eric Swalwell (48016282941) (cropped).jpg
Eric Swalwell
November 16, 1980
(age 38)
Sac City, Iowa
U.S. representative from CA-15 (2013–present) Flag of California.svg
April 8, 2019 July 8, 2019
(running for re-election)
Eric Swalwell 2020 presidential campaign logo.svg
FEC filing[80]

Mike Gravel
May 13, 1930
(age 89)
Springfield, Massachusetts
U.S. senator from Alaska (1969–1981)
Candidate for President in 2008
Flag of California.svg
April 2, 2019
Exploratory committee: March 19, 2019–
April 1, 2019
August 6, 2019
(co-endorsed Sanders and Gabbard)[83]
Gravel Mg web logo line two color.svg
FEC filing[84]
John Hickenlooper by Gage Skidmore.jpg
John Hickenlooper
February 7, 1952
(age 67)
Narberth, Pennsylvania
Governor of Colorado (2011–2019)
Mayor of DenverColorado (2003–2011)
Flag of Colorado.svg
March 4, 2019 August 15, 2019
(running for U.S. Senate)[86]
John Hickenlooper 2020 presidential campaign logo.png
FEC filing[87]
Jay Inslee by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Jay Inslee
February 9, 1951
(age 68)
Seattle, Washington
Governor of Washington (2013–present)
U.S. representative from WA-01 (1999–2012)
Flag of Washington.svg
March 1, 2019 August 21, 2019
(running for re-election)[90]
Jay Inslee 2020 presidential campaign logo.svg
FEC filing[91]
Seth Moulton August 2019.jpg
Seth Moulton
October 24, 1978
(age 41)
Salem, Massachusetts
U.S. representative from MA-06 (2015–present) Flag of Massachusetts.svg
April 22, 2019 August 23, 2019
(running for re-election)[94]

FEC filing[95]
Kirsten Gillibrand August 2019.jpg
Kirsten Gillibrand
December 9, 1966
(age 52)
Albany, New York
U.S. senator from New York (2009–present)
U.S. representative from NY-20 (2007–2009)
Flag of New York.svg
New York
March 17, 2019
Exploratory committee: January 15, 2019–
March 16, 2019
August 28, 2019 Gillibrand 2020 logo.png
FEC filing[98]
Bill de Blasio by Gage Skidmore.jpg
Bill de Blasio
May 8, 1961
(age 58)
Manhattan, New York
Mayor of New York CityNew York (2014–present) Flag of New York.svg
New York
May 16, 2019 September 20, 2019 Bill de Blasio 2020 presidential campaign logo.svg
FEC filing[101]
Tim Ryan (48639153698) (cropped).jpg
Tim Ryan
July 16, 1973
(age 46)
Niles, Ohio
U.S. representative from OH-13 (2013–present)
U.S. representative from OH-17 (2003–2013)
Flag of Ohio.svg
April 4, 2019 October 24, 2019
(running for re-election)[104]
FEC filing[105]

The following notable individuals who did not meet the criteria to become major candidates have terminated their respective campaigns:

Potential major candidates[edit]

The persons listed in this section have, as of October 22, 2019, reportedly considered presidential bids within the past six months and would be major candidates.

Declined to be candidates[edit]

These individuals have been the subject of presidential speculation, but have publicly denied or recanted interest in running for president.

Political positions of candidates[edit]


In December 2018, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) announced the preliminary schedule for 12 official DNC-sanctioned debates, set to begin in June 2019, with six debates in 2019 and the remaining six during the first four months of 2020. Candidates are allowed to participate in forums featuring multiple other candidates as long as only one candidate appears on stage at a time; if candidates participate in any unsanctioned debate with other presidential candidates, they will lose their invitation to the next DNC-sanctioned debate.[192][193]

If any debates will be scheduled to take place with a location in the first four primary/caucus states (IowaNew HampshireNevada, and South Carolina), the DNC has decided such debates, at the earliest, will be held in 2020.[192] The DNC also announced that it would not partner with Fox News as a media sponsor for any debates.[194][195] Fox News had last held a Democratic debate in 2003.[196] All media sponsors selected to host a debate will as a new rule be required to appoint at least one female moderator for each debate, to ensure there will not be a gender skewed treatment of the candidates and debate topics.[197]

Debate schedule
Debate Date Time
Viewers Location Sponsor(s) Moderator(s) Ref(s)
1A Jun. 26, 2019 9–11 pm ~24.3 million
(15.3m live TV; 9m streaming)
Arsht Center,
Miami, Florida
NBC News
Jose Diaz-Balart
Savannah Guthrie
Lester Holt
Rachel Maddow
Chuck Todd
1B Jun. 27, 2019 9–11 pm ~27.1 million
(18.1m live TV; 9m streaming)
2A Jul. 30, 2019 8–10:30 pm ~11.5 million
(8.7m live TV; 2.8m streaming)
Fox Theatre,
Detroit, Michigan
CNN Dana Bash
Don Lemon
Jake Tapper
2B Jul. 31, 2019 8–10:30 pm ~13.8 million
(10.7m live TV; 3.1m streaming)
3 Sep. 12, 2019 8–11 pm 14.04 million live TV Health and Physical Education Arena,
Texas Southern University,
Houston, Texas
ABC News
Linsey Davis
David Muir
Jorge Ramos
George Stephanopoulos
4 Oct. 15, 2019 8–11 pm 8.34 million live TV Rike Physical Education Center,
Otterbein University,
Westerville, Ohio
The New York Times
Erin Burnett
Anderson Cooper
Marc Lacey
5 Nov. 20, 2019 9–11 pm TBA Tyler Perry Studios,
The Washington Post
Rachel Maddow
Andrea Mitchell
Ashley Parker
Kristen Welker
6 Dec. 19, 2019 TBA University of California, Los Angeles,
Los Angeles, California
TBA [217]
7 Jan.–Apr. 2020 TBA

Primary election polling[edit]

The following graph depicts the evolution of the standing of each candidate in the poll aggregators since December 2018.

Source of poll aggregation Date
Others Undecided[e]
270 to Win Oct 29, 2019 Oct 22 – 28, 2019[f] 27.6% 21.8% 18.2% 7.4% 5.4% 2.6% 2.0% 2.0% 1.8% 4.8%[g] 6.4%
RealClear Politics Oct 29, 2019 Oct 17 – 27, 2019 27.5% 21.7% 17.7% 7.2% 5.3% 2.5% 2.2% 2.0% 1.8% 4.8%[h] 7.3%
The Economist Oct 25, 2019 [i] 25.0% 24.3% 15.1% 6.6% 5.3% 2.8% 1.9% 2.1% 1.3% 3.8%[j] 11.8%
Average 26.7% 22.6% 17.0% 7.1% 5.3% 2.6% 2.0% 2.0% 1.6% 4.6%[k] 8.5%



Richard Ojeda 2020 presidential campaign Eric Swalwell 2020 presidential campaign Mike Gravel 2020 presidential campaign John Hickenlooper 2020 presidential campaign Jay Inslee 2020 presidential campaign Seth Moulton 2020 presidential campaign Kirsten Gillibrand 2020 presidential campaign Bill de Blasio 2020 presidential campaign Tim Ryan 2020 presidential campaign Andrew Yang 2020 presidential campaign Marianne Williamson 2020 presidential campaign Elizabeth Warren 2020 presidential campaign Tom Steyer 2020 presidential campaign Joe Sestak 2020 presidential campaign Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign Beto O'Rourke 2020 presidential campaign Wayne Messam 2020 presidential campaign Amy Klobuchar 2020 presidential campaign Kamala Harris 2020 presidential campaign Tulsi Gabbard 2020 presidential campaign John Delaney 2020 presidential campaign Julián Castro 2020 presidential campaign Pete Buttigieg 2020 presidential campaign Steve Bullock 2020 presidential campaign Cory Booker 2020 presidential campaign Joe Biden 2020 presidential campaign Michael Bennet 2020 presidential campaign


John Delaney was the first major candidate to announce his campaign, two and a half years before the 2020 Iowa caucus.

In the weeks following the election of Donald Trump in the 2016 election, media speculation regarding potential candidates for the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries began to circulate. As the Senate began confirmation hearings for members of the cabinet, speculation centered on the prospects of the “hell-no caucus”, six senators who went on to vote against the majority of Trump’s nominees. According to Politico, the members of the “hell-no caucus” were Cory BookerKamala HarrisKirsten GillibrandBernie SandersJeff Merkley, and Elizabeth Warren.[218][219] Other speculation centered on then-Vice-President Joe Biden making a third presidential bid following failed attempts in 1988 and 2008. Biden had previously served as U.S. senator from Delaware (1973–2009).[220]


Entrepreneur Andrew Yang was the second major Democratic candidate to announce his campaign.

In August 2018, Democratic Party officials and television networks began discussions as to the nature and scheduling of the following year’s debates and the nomination process.[223] Changes were made to the role of superdelegates, deciding to only allow them to vote on the first ballot if the nomination is uncontested.[224] The Democratic National Committee (DNC) announced the preliminary schedule for the 12 official DNC-sanctioned debates, set to begin in June 2019, with six debates in 2019 and the remaining six during the first four months of 2020.

On November 6, 2018, the 2018 midterm elections were held. The election was widely characterized as a “blue wave” election. Mass canvassing, voter registration drives and deep engagement techniques drove turnout high. Despite this, eventual presidential candidates U.S. Representative Beto O’Rourke of Texas and State Senator Richard Ojeda of West Virginia both lost their respective races.[225]


  • August 25: The Democratic Party began planning debates[223] and eliminated first ballot decisive votes for superdelegates.[224]




Rep. Tulsi Gabbard announced her candidacy on January 11, 2019.

Sen. Kamala Harris launched her bid on January 21, 2019.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren launched her bid on February 9, 2019

Sen. Bernie Sanders launched his second campaign on February 19, 2019.

Rep. Beto O’Rourke launched his bid on March 14, 2019.

Mayor Pete Buttigieg launched his campaign on April 14, 2019.

Former Vice President Joe Biden launched his third campaign on April 25, 2019.










  • September 4: A Climate Crisis Town Hall was held by CNN at New York City, New York.[301]
  • September 7: New Hampshire state convention: 19 candidates were in attendance and addressed the delegates.[302]
  • September 8: The Asian American Pacific Islanders Progressive Democratic Presidential Forum was held at Orange County, California by AAPI Victory Fund and by Asian Americans Rising.[303][304]
  • September 12: The third official debate took place in Houston, Texas at Texas Southern University,[305] aired on ABC and Univision.[306]
  • September 19–20: A Climate Forum was held in Washington, D.C. by MSNBCGeorgetown University, and Our Daily Planet.[307]
  • September 20: Bill de Blasio dropped out of the race.[103]
  • September 21: The Iowa People’s Presidential Forum was held in Des Moines, Iowa by Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement Action Fund and People’s Action.[308]




Primary and caucus calendar

Democratic primary and caucus calendar by currently scheduled date
March 3 (Super Tuesday)
March 10
March 17
March 24
April 4–7
April 28
No scheduled 2020 date

The following primary and caucus dates have been scheduled by state statutes or state party decisions, but are subject to change pending legislation, state party delegate selection plans, or the decisions of state secretaries of state:[324]

The 57 states, districts, territories, or other constituencies with elections of pledged delegates to decide the Democratic presidential nominee, currently plan to hold the first major determining step for these elections via 50 primaries[l] and seven caucuses (Iowa, Nevada, Wyoming, and four territories).[324] The number of states holding caucuses decreased from 14 in the 2016 nomination process to only three in 2020.[330][331]

National convention

The 2020 Democratic National Convention is scheduled to take place in MilwaukeeWisconsin on July 13–16, 2020.[332][333][334]

In addition to Milwaukee, the DNC also considered bids from three other cities: HoustonTexas;[335] Miami Beach, Florida;[336] and DenverColorado. Denver, though, was immediately withdrawn from consideration by representatives for the city, who cited scheduling conflicts.[337]


Campaign finance

This is an overview of the money being raised and spent by each campaign for the entire period running from January 1, 2017 to September 30, 2019, as it was reported to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Total raised are the sum of all individual contributions (large and small), loans from the candidate, and transfers from other campaign committees. The last column, Cash On Hand (COH), has been calculated by subtracting the “spent” amount from the “raised” amount, thereby showing the remaining cash each campaign had available for its future spending as of September 30, 2019. In total the candidates have raised $476,284,606.

 Withdrawn candidate
Candidate Campaign committee (January 1, 2017 to September 30, 2019)
Total raised Ind. contrib. ≤$200
(as % of
Debt Spent COH
Bennet[338] $5,622,066 $4,910,561 34.12% $0 $3,758,466 $1,863,600
Biden[339] $37,785,261 $37,634,586 35.09% $0 $28,797,633 $8,987,628
Booker[340] $18,494,485 $15,513,702 27.82% $704,999 $14,270,696 $4,223,789
Bullock[341] $4,372,420 $4,359,670 32.59% $0 $3,006,276 $1,366,144
Buttigieg[342] $51,549,046 $51,462,291 47.48% $0 $28,170,528 $23,378,518
Castro[343] $7,625,531 $7,596,670 65.70% $0 $6,593,158 $672,333
Delaney[344] $27,198,228 $2,428,051 12.87% $10,593,250 $26,672,210 $548,061
Gabbard[345] $9,095,133 $6,543,517 64.43% $0 $6,596,642 $2,138,491
Harris[346] $36,940,238 $35,505,962 40.07% $991,069 $26,397,546 $10,542,692
Klobuchar[347] $17,516,388 $13,908,190 39.81% $0 $13,836,795 $3,679,592
Messam[348] $93,818 $93,818 29.76% $0 $62,666 $31,146
O’Rourke[349] $18,184,975 $17,483,014 51.94% $10,825 $15,122,336 $3,347,455
Sanders[350] $74,373,436 $61,456,335 69.64% $0 $40,639,360 $33,734,560
Sestak[351] $374,196 $366,293 23.12% $0 $169,634 $204,561
Steyer[352] $49,645,132 $2,047,433 72.41% $0 $47,021,989 $2,623,142
Warren[353] $60,339,647 $49,788,337 64.20% $0 $34,622,273 $25,717,674
Williamson[354] $6,125,025 $6,120,438 62.62% $48,921 $5,401,293 $723,732
Yang[355] $15,207,803 $15,140,993 66.25% $0 $8,840,508 $6,357,361
de Blasio[356] $1,417,610 $1,417,571 10.01% $0 $1,374,237 $43,374
Gillibrand[357] $15,919,261 $6,278,791 31.52% $0 $14,364,212 $1,555,049
Gravel[358] $330,059 $330,059 97.58% $0 $229,180 $100,879
Hickenlooper[359] $3,508,448 $3,385,459 16.63% $75,000 $3,500,980 $7,468
Inslee[360] $6,922,717 $6,911,292 50.00% $0 $6,631,300 $291,417
Moulton[361] $2,246,778 $1,497,325 22.87% $182,328 $2,187,344 $59,433
Ojeda[362] $119,478 $77,476 62.91% $44,373 $117,476 $2,002
Ryan[363] $1,315,130 $1,261,140 33.76% $28,225 $1,156,781 $158,349
Swalwell[364] $2,602,439 $892,373 38.14% $10,398 $2,593,289 $9,150

See also


  1. Jump up to:ab The overall number of pledged delegates is subject to change as possible penalty/bonus delegates (awarded for each states scheduled election date and potential regional clustering) are not yet included.[1]
  2. Jump up to:ab The number of extra unpledged delegates (superdelegates), who after the first ballot at a contested convention participates in any subsequently needed nominating ballots (together with the 3,769 pledged delegates), was expected to be 765 as of August 2019, but the exact number of superdelegates is still subject to change due to possible deaths, resignations, accessions, or potential election as a pledged delegete.[1]
  3. ^ Prior to the electoral reforms that took effect starting with the 1972 presidential elections, the Democrats used elite-run state conventions to choose convention delegates in two-thirds of the states, and candidates for the presidential nominee could be elected at the national convention of the party without needing to participate in any prior statewide election events.[13] Twenty-nine Democratic candidates announced their presidential candidacies prior to the 1924 Democratic National Convention,[14] and a record of 58 candidates received delegate votes during the 103 nominating ballots at that 17-day-long convention. In the post-reform era, over three-quarters of the states used primary elections to choose delegates, and over 80% of convention delegates were selected in those primaries.[13] For more information, see McGovern–Fraser Commission.
  4. Jump up to:abcd This individual is not a member of the Democratic Party, but has been the subject of speculation or expressed interest in running under this party.
  5. ^ Calculated by taking the difference of 100% and all other candidates combined
  6. ^ 270 to Win reports the date each poll was released, not the dates each poll was administered.
  7. ^ Gabbard with 2.0%; Steyer with 1.0%; Bennet and Castro with 0.6%; Williamson with 0.4%; Delaney with 0.2%; Bullock, Messam and Sestak with 0.0%
  8. ^ Gabbard with 1.5%; Steyer with 1.0%; Bennet and Castro with 0.7%; Ryan with 0.6%; Williamson with 0.3%; Bullock with 0.0%
  9. ^ The Economist aggregates polls with a trendline regression of polls rather than a strict average of recent polls.
  10. ^ Gabbard with 1.2%; Castro with 0.7%; Williamson and Steyer with 0.5%; Bennet with 0.4%; Delaney with 0.3%; Bullock with 0.2%; Messam and Sestak with 0.0%
  11. ^ Gabbard with 1.6%; Steyer with 0.8%; Castro with 0.7%; Bennet with 0.6%; Williamson with 0.4%; Delaney and Ryan with 0.2%; Bullock with 0.1%; Messam and Sestak with 0.0%
  12. ^ 5 out of 50 primaries are not state-run but party-run. “North Dakota Firehouse caucuses” is the official name of their event, but it’s held as a party-run primary and not a caucus in 2020. Democrats Abroad likewise conduct their election as a party-run primary, with their pledged delegates allocated at later conventions solely on basis of the proportional result of their party-run primary. The last three states with party-run primaries are Alaska, Kansas and Hawaii.[329][330]

References …