WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The historically large field of Democratic presidential candidates vying to take on Republican President Donald Trump in next November’s U.S. election got a bit smaller on Sunday as former Pennsylvania congressman Joe Sestak said he would drop out.
FILE PHOTO: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Senator Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Kamala Harris pose before the start of at the 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential debate in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 12, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo
TOP DEMOCRATIC CONTENDERSFour candidates have separated themselves thus far from the restof the field among Democratic voters.
JOE BIDENBiden, the early Democratic front-runner in opinion polls,entered the race in April, launching his bid with a swipe atTrump. Biden, 77, served eight years as President Barack Obama’svice president and 36 years in the U.S. Senate. He stands at thecenter of the Democratic debate over whether the party’sstandard-bearer should be a veteran politician or a newcomer,and whether a liberal or a moderate has a better chance ofdefeating Trump. Biden, who frequently notes his “Middle-ClassJoe” nickname, touts his working-class roots and ability to workin a bipartisan fashion. Some fellow Democrats have criticizedhim for his role in passing tough-on-crime legislation in the1990s. Trump’s request that Ukraine’s president investigateBiden and his son Hunter Biden is at the center of aDemocratic-led impeachment inquiry against the president.
ELIZABETH WARRENThe 70-year-old U.S. senator from Massachusetts is a leader ofthe party’s liberals and a fierce critic of Wall Street. She wasinstrumental in creating the federal Consumer FinancialProtection Bureau after the 2008 financial crisis. Her campaignhas surged in recent months, equaling Biden in some polls. Shehas focused her campaign on a populist anti-corruption message,promising to fight what she calls a rigged system that favorsthe wealthy. She has released an array of policy proposals oneverything from a Medicare For All healthcare plan to breakingup big tech companies to implementing a wealth tax on therichest Americans. Warren has sworn off political fundraisingevents to back her campaign.
BERNIE SANDERSThe U.S. senator from Vermont lost the Democratic nomination in2016 to Hillary Clinton but is trying again. For the 2020 race,Sanders, 78, is fighting to stand out in a field of liberalsrunning on issues he brought into the Democratic Partymainstream four years ago. Sanders suffered a heart attack whilecampaigning in Nevada in October, but there has been littleimpact so far on his support. His proposals include free tuitionat public colleges, a $15-an-hour minimum wage and universalhealthcare. He benefits from strong name recognition and anunmatched network of small-dollar donors.
PETE BUTTIGIEGThe 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, emerged fromvirtual anonymity to become one of the party’s brightest stars,building momentum with young voters. A Harvard Universitygraduate and Rhodes scholar, he speaks seven languagesconversationally and served in Afghanistan with the U.S. NavyReserve. He touts himself as representing a new generation ofleadership needed to combat Trump. Buttigieg would be the firstopenly gay presidential nominee of a major American politicalparty. Recent polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, which hold thefirst nominating contests in February, put him ahead of theother leading candidates, even though his national standing islower.
TRYING TO BREAK THROUGHThe rest of the Democratic field is a mix of seasonedpoliticians, wealthy business people and others looking to breakinto or regain their toehold in the top tier of contenders.
KAMALA HARRISThe first-term U.S. senator from California would make historyas the first black woman to gain the nomination. Harris, 55, thedaughter of immigrants from Jamaica and India, announced hercandidacy on the holiday honoring slain civil rights leaderMartin Luther King Jr. She supports a middle-class tax credit,the Green New Deal and marijuana legalization. Her track recordas San Francisco’s district attorney and California’s attorneygeneral has drawn scrutiny in a Democratic Party that has grownmore liberal in recent years on criminal justice issues. She sawa significant bounce in the polls after a clash with Biden overracial issues during the first Democratic debate in June but hassince seen her numbers drop back down.
MICHAEL BLOOMBERGFormer New York City mayor and billionaire media mogul MichaelBloomberg, 77, formally announced his candidacy last Sunday. Themove was an about-face for Bloomberg, who had said in March thathe would not make a run for the White House. Ranked by Forbes asthe eighth-richest American, with an estimated worth of $53.4billion, Bloomberg will have the advantage of being able toself-finance his campaign and pour millions of dollars intoadvertising and hiring staff. He has won allies in theDemocratic Party with his advocacy and philanthropy on climatechange and in fighting gun violence. Bloomberg served as mayorof New York, the largest U.S. city, from 2002 to 2013.
ANDREW YANGThe New York entrepreneur and former tech executive is focusinghis campaign on an ambitious universal income plan. Yang, 44,wants to guarantee all Americans between the ages of 18 and 64 a$1,000 check every month. The son of immigrants from Taiwan,Yang supports the Medicare for All proposal, which is based onthe existing government-run Medicare program for Americans aged65 and older, and has called automation the biggest threatfacing U.S. workers. His campaign has released more than 100policy ideas, including eclectic proposals like creating aninfrastructure force called the Legion of Builders andDestroyers.
AMY KLOBUCHARThe U.S. senator from Minnesota was the first moderate in theDemocratic field. Klobuchar, 59, gained national attention whenshe sparred with Brett Kavanaugh during his Supreme Courtnomination hearings last year. On the campaign trail, the formerprosecutor and corporate attorney has said she would improve onthe Affordable Care Act, popularly known as Obamacare, by addinga public option, and is taking a tough stance against risingprescription drug prices.
CORY BOOKERBooker, 50, a U.S. senator from New Jersey and former Newarkmayor, gained national prominence in the fight over Kavanaugh’sSupreme Court nomination. Booker, who is black, has made racerelations and racial disparities in the criminal justice systema focus of his campaign. He embraces progressive positions onhealthcare coverage for every American, the Green New Deal andother key issues, and touts his style of positivity overattacks.
TULSI GABBARDThe Samoan-American congresswoman from Hawaii and Iraq warveteran is the first Hindu to serve in the U.S. House ofRepresentatives and has centered her campaign on her anti-warstance. Having previously worked for her father’s anti-gayadvocacy group and drafting relevant legislation, she laterapologized for her past views on same-sex marriage. Gabbard’spopulist, anti-war approach has won her fans among the far leftand the far right, and she engaged in a Twitter war with HillaryClinton, who she called the “personification of the rot” afterClinton suggested Gabbard was being groomed for a third-partyrun at the presidency. Gabbard, 38, slammed Trump for standingby Saudi Arabia after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
JULIAN CASTROObama’s secretary of housing and urban development would be thefirst Hispanic to win a major U.S. party’s presidentialnomination. Castro, 45, whose grandmother immigrated to Texasfrom Mexico, has used his family’s personal story to criticizeTrump’s border policies. Castro advocates universalprekindergarten, supports Medicare for All and cites hisexperience to push for affordable housing. He announced his bidin his hometown of San Antonio, where he once served as mayorand as a city councilman. In the third Democratic debate inSeptember, Castro drew jeers from the audience for an attack onBiden that was perceived as questioning the former vicepresident’s memory as a way to draw attention to his age.
TOM STEYERA billionaire environmentalist and force in Democraticfundraising over the past decade, Steyer said in January he wasfocusing on his efforts to get Trump impeached and Democratselected to Congress. Steyer, 62, reversed course in July, sayingother Democrats had good ideas but “we won’t be able to get anyof those done until we end the hostile corporate takeover of ourdemocracy.”
JOHN DELANEYThe former U.S. representative from Maryland became the firstDemocrat to enter the 2020 race, declaring his candidacy in July2017. Delaney, 56, says that if elected, he would focus onadvancing only bipartisan bills during the first 100 days of hispresidency. He is also pushing for a universal healthcaresystem, raising the federal minimum wage, and passing gun safetylegislation. A former business executive, Delaney isself-funding much of his campaign.
MICHAEL BENNETBennet, 55, a U.S. senator from Colorado, has based hispolitical career on improving the American education system. Hepreviously ran Denver’s public schools. Bennet is not well knownnationally but has built a network of political operatives anddonors helping elect other Democrats to the Senate. During thepartial U.S. government shutdown in January, he garnerednational attention criticizing Republicans for stopping the flowof emergency funds to Colorado.
STEVE BULLOCKMontana’s Democratic governor, re-elected in 2016 in aconservative state that Trump carried by 20 percentage points,has touted his electability and ability to work across partylines. Bullock, 53, has made campaign finance reform acornerstone of his agenda. He emphasizes his success in forgingcompromises with the Republican-led state legislature on billsto expand the Medicaid healthcare funding program for the poor,increase campaign finance disclosures, bolster pay equity forwomen, and protect public lands.
MARIANNE WILLIAMSONThe 67-year-old best-selling author, motivational speaker andTexas native believes her spirituality-focused campaign can healthe United States. A 1992 interview on Oprah Winfrey’s show ledWilliamson to make a name for herself as a “spiritual guide” forHollywood and a self-help expert. She is calling for $100billion in reparations for slavery to be paid over 10 years, guncontrol, education reform, and equal rights for lesbian and gaycommunities.
DEVAL PATRICKPatrick is a late entry, launching his candidacy just daysbefore early-state filing deadlines. The 63-year-old formerMassachusetts governor said he was seeking to draw in Americanswho felt left behind and to bridge a party he saw split between”nostalgia” or “big ideas” that left other voices out. Thestate’s first African-American governor, Patrick was creditedwith implementing Massachusetts’ healthcare reform plan andtackling pension reform, transportation and the minimum wage. In2014, Obama said Patrick would make “a great president or vicepresident,” although Patrick has said the former president wasremaining neutral in the current race.
THE REPUBLICANSTrump is the clear favorite to win the Republican nomination,and there has been criticism among his opponents that partyleadership has worked to make it impossible for a challenger.Still, the incumbent will face at least two rivals.
DONALD TRUMPThe 73-year-old real estate mogul shocked the politicalestablishment in 2016 when he secured the Republican nominationand then won the White House. He faces an impeachment inquiry inthe House of Representatives focusing on his request thatUkraine carry out investigations that could benefit himpolitically. After running as an outsider in 2016, Trump is nowfocusing his policy message on the strong economy, whilecontinuing the anti-immigration rhetoric that characterized hisfirst campaign as he seeks re-election. He continues to drawenthusiastic crowds at raucous political rallies as he assailsDemocrats and the news media.
JOE WALSHA former congressman, Walsh, 57, has become a vocal critic ofTrump, who he argues is not a conservative and is unfit forpublic office. Walsh won a House seat from Illinois as acandidate of the Republican Party’s fiscally conservative TeaParty movement in 2010, but was defeated by Democrat TammyDuckworth in his 2012 re-election bid. After leaving Congress,he became a Chicago-area radio talk-show host.
BILL WELDThe 74-year-old former Massachusetts governor ran unsuccessfullyfor vice president in 2016 as a Libertarian. He has been apersistent critic of Trump, saying when he launched his 2020campaign that “the American people are being ignored and ournation is suffering.”
Reporting by Ginger Gibson, Joseph Ax, Tim Reid, Sharon Bernstein, Amanda Becker, Trevor Hunnicutt, Diane Bartz and Susan Heavey; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien, Leslie Adler, Will Dunham and Peter Cooney Reporting by Diane Bartz