With the results of the first Caucuses Imminent, Fraser Innes takes a look at who’s in the running to be at the top of the Democratic ticket for President in November.
The current front runner is amount the most experienced of all the candidates in the race, after winning the 1972 Senate election in a shock result, he spent 36 years in the Senate building up a wealth of experience chairing both the Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees, the experience of the latter helped him onto Obama’s ticket in 2008. The former Vice-President spent his eight years in the White House as a councillor to the President, as well as using his extensive experience in Congress to manage the legislature and was instrumental in encouraging Arlen Spencer to move across the floor to join the Democrats. However, his experience is not all good, his well documented association with segregationists as recently as the 70s, the re-emergence of which has undermined his progressive credentials. His gaffes have stopped both of his previous presidential runs long before this point but this time it seems to be sticking. His positions sit him firmly in the political centre, but his high profile has allowed him to streak into a lead in the polls that has him in the driving seat to be the top name on the ticket this time round.
Runner up last time round, Bernie Sanders too has a wealth of experience in the Congress. Serving for Vermont in a career spanning both houses since 1991, Sanders has never actually sat with the Democratic caucus – instead choosing to run and as an independent, consistent since his first political run in 1981 when he defeated the Democratic incumbent to become Mayor of Burlington. While in Congress the self-proclaimed Democratic Socialist stuck to his values with GovTrack rating him the second least conservative Senator. In his 2016 run he came from no where to be the only challenger to what initially seemed like a coronation for Hilary Clinton. This raised profile not only made this race a lot easier to launch as he leads some polls in early voting states, but it has also inspired political challengers into a greater fold in the Democratic Party, with progressive darling and highest profile freshman representative Alexandria Ocasio Cortez being a former Bernie 2016 volunteer. As more candidates drop out, Bernie could pick up from those on the left or with large grassroots support which could allow for a left-wing populist nominee to radically shift the party or perhaps the US as a whole for years to come.
Unlike those above, Warren does not have a particularly extensive Congressional career, having only won her second term as Senator for Massachusetts in the 2018 midterms. She does however have a respected career as a professor of law. Her research into bankruptcy and middle-class personal finance and rose to become one of the most respected and most cited professors in her field during her tenure as professor at Harvard Law School, at the time the only one to have gone to a public law school. In the late 1990s and early 2000s she took on a number of advisory and oversight roles for the federal government including many suggestions she should be nominated as the first chair of Consumer Finance Protection Bureau however the position instead went to a former Ohio Attorney General. While she is running on a strongly left-wing platform, her party allegiance has not held still for her life being a formerly registered Republican who held rather laissez-faire economic views but has moved to the left as she believed the republicans no longer stood for a free and fair market. Her campaign has been slipping back in the polls as at one point she led all contenders, however not even her New York Times endorsement has stopped this decent as she appears to be falling back into fourth.
Bloomberg’s first million was made as a partner at an investment bank, but his billions were made in his own company creating a computerised system for stock brokers. It has also branched out into television news among other industries. Politically, he first ran for mayor of New York in 2002 after abandoning his previous Democratic affiliation to be on the Republican ticket. Midway through his second term as mayor he became an Independent and convinced the majority Democrat City Council to extend the term limits as Mayor so he could run for a third term which he won on the Republican voting line. In 2018 he re-affiliated as a Democrat but said he wouldn’t run in 2020 as long as the Democrats nominated someone who could beat Trump. Unsatisfied with the slate of options he entered the race very late in mid November.
The Bloomberg campaign is very unusual in its approach, by not taking donations and instead being funded by Bloomberg personally, he cannot reach the donations threshold to take part in events. This, in combination with his late entry, has stopped him getting on a number of early voting ballots and is instead focusing on “Super Tuesday” (3rdMarch) spending huge amounts in states voting then and polling fairly well as a result. His views on issues are very much in the political centre – if not to the right of it – and his current run at the Democratic nomination seems more guided by House of Cards style pragmatism and ruthless desire to further his own gains than any political changes since his GOP New York Mayorship.
Pete Buttigieg is one of the most qualified candidates in the race, certainly in terms of education. He graduated for Harvard University magna cum laude before earning a first-class degree from Pembroke College, Oxford for PPE while on a Rhodes Scholarship. During this time, he also received job offers to work for the campaigns of John Kerry and Barack Obama. After graduating University, Buttigieg worked as a management consultant before being overwhelmingly elected as Mayor of his hometown South Bend. He held this role for eight years until the start of this year, except for a short period of time when, in his role as an Intelligence Officer for the US Naval Marines, he was deployed to Afghanistan where he earned a Joint Service Commendation Medal. As Mayor, he helped reduce unemployment and brought investment to the city, however, he was criticised for allowing gentrification. He is running for president on broadly centrist policies and while he stands next to no chance in becoming the nominee, don’t be surprised if you see him on the ticket to become the first openly gay Vice-President.
- Andrew Yang: The Asian-American serial entrepreneur has gained significant attention in the media for his novel policy for universal basic income and his internet following who call themselves the “Yang Gang”. There have been complaints from his campaign about the debates with Yang not being called upon as often as other candidates.
- Amy Klobuchar: The senior US Senator from Minnesota is serving her third term in Congress and is running on a moderate and pragmatic platform: for instance dismissing the Green New Deal as unrealistic to achieve within the time frame and calling for compromise. She has also been criticised for some of her decisions as a county attorney.
- Tom Steyer: Another billionaire, this time without any previous elected office and is basing a large amount of his campaign around issues of environmentalism. He has gained varying support from State to State due to extremely large amount of spending of his personal wealth on advertisements in a few states. Unlike Bloomberg he has also received donations from the public allowing him to perform fairly well in the debates.
- Tulsi Gabbard: The House representative from Hawaii and former US Army Major, Gabbard is a member of the Progressive Caucus and is running on a progressive platform: however she met with Trump very early in his presidency as well as meeting Bashar al-Assad in Syria. Her previous defence of Putin’s behaviour in the past and favourable coverage on Russian State TV has led her to be accused of being a Russian agent, a claim she is suing Hilary Clinton for suggesting.
- Michael Bennet: Bennet has represented Colorado in the Senate for more than ten years and has focused his campaign on improving America’s education. He can also be seen as a compromise moderate candidate having been a member of a “gang of eight” who negotiated a bipartisan immigration proposal which passed the senate but failed to pass the house. This proposal would have allowed for both a border fence and a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
- Deval Patrick: The former two-term Massachusetts Governor and ex-Assistant Attorney General made a late entry into the race after initially saying that he wouldn’t run due to the stress on his family. This late change of heart seems to have done very little to improve his chance of victory, and he has cancelled campaign events due to only two people showing up. Furthermore, even his huge ad spending in New Hampshire has done virtually nothing to improve his polling numbers.