Midterm elections: Which Democratic candidates could challenge Trump in the 2020 presidential race?

Despite the president's best efforts, Republicans lose House after popular vote defeat

Tom Embury-Dennis
Wednesday 07 November 2018 16:53 GMT
What do the midterms mean for Trump?

After winning the House of Representatives from the Republicans, the focus for Democrats now moves onto the presidential election.

Despite Donald Trump hailing Tuesday’s midterms results as a “very big win” – his party increased their majority in the senate – Republicans lost the popular vote by up to seven percentage points.

With the Democratic Party apparently in the ascendency, who will emerge to lead it into 2020 and take on Mr Trump?

Here we take a look at some of the leading contenders:

Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren
Senator Elizabeth Warren (Reuters)

Disparagingly called “Pocahontas” by Mr Trump, the Massachusetts senator already appears set to run, after she released a DNA test widely seen as an attempt to end doubts about her claims to Native American heritage.

But the move to stop Mr Trump’s attacks did not go well, with many seeing the results – she has an indigenous relative six to 10 generations ago – as proof she should never have claimed the identity as her own.

Nevertheless, the 69-year-old has made a name for herself by taking on big banks and was previously touted as a potential candidate in 2016.

Joe Biden

(Getty Images
(Getty Images (Getty Images)

The former vice-president revealed in his autobiography last year that he would likely have challenged Hillary Clinton three years ago, but for the death of his son Beau that year.

He remains popular among Democrat voters and has the advantage of his close association to Barack Obama, who remains a close friend of the 75-year-old.

Mr Biden’s age, however, could count against him. He is older than Mr Trump and would be 80 midway through any first term as president – he first attempted to win the Democratic nomination in 1988.

Kamala Harris

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images) (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The senator for California is part of an emerging group of younger Democratic politicians with progressive stances that appeal to the party’s younger and increasingly energised voters.

After midterms hailed as a “victory for women” – unprecedented numbers of female candidates won seats this week – a female candidate could be seen as continuing a winning strategy.

California's attorney general between 2011 and 2017, the 54-year-old was impressive during Brett Kavanaugh’s grilling in front of the senate judiciary committee.

Beto O’Rourke


Despite losing his Texas senate race to Ted Cruz, Mr O’Rourke is tipped by many as a future presidential candidate after running his opponent close in a state without a Democratic senator in 30 years.

The 46-year-old has the charisma and fundraising ability to appeal to the Democratic National Committee, as well as being a proven draw in Texas, which, if it voted red in 2020, would almost certainly mean a Democratic victory.

The former congressman – he retired his seat in order to run for the senate – has publicly ruled himself out from the race, though that has been far from an impediment to running in the past.

Ironically, many see Mr O’Rourke’s failure as making it more likely he will run in 2020 – a victory followed by a presidential bid would have meant appearing to abandon his post just months into the job.

Bernie Sanders

US senator Bernie Sanders (pictured) criticised Donald Trump for being 'tougher' on on 'tearing' immigrant children from their families than on Russian president Vladimir Putin
US senator Bernie Sanders (pictured) criticised Donald Trump for being 'tougher' on on 'tearing' immigrant children from their families than on Russian president Vladimir Putin (AP)

The veteran politician ran an insurgent and highly effective campaign for the Democratic nomination against Ms Clinton in 2016, only narrowly losing out despite facing a DNC opposed to his candidacy.

Hugely popular among progressives, the 77-year-old helped inspire a political awakening among many young voters and has a network of activists who could be mobilised for any future run.

Like Mr Biden, however, the Vermont senator’s age could prove a hindrance – he would be 79 on inauguration day – and younger candidates are beginning to fill the political space he previously inhabited alone.

Kirsten Gillibrand

(Getty Images )
(Getty Images ) (Getty)

The lawyer and senator from New York remains an outsider, but has shown herself to be one of Mr Trump’s staunchest opponents in congress, having overwhelmingly voted to thwart the president’s nominees for administration jobs.

She was previously considered a relatively conservative Democrat, but has veered left on issues such as gun control and immigration – she was the first senator to call for the abolishment of ICE earlier this year – since winning her seat in 2009.

The resistance to Mr Trump will play well with her party’s base, though her previous support for conservative issues as a member of the House could undermine any attempt to win the nomination.

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