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ground game

20 candidates who could run in 2020 — Democrats and Republicans

Who could be on the ballot for 2020?Jonathan Wiggs/Globe staff/file 2016

Now that the 2016 presidential election is on the books, it’s time for the next one — 2020.

Sure, after an especially divisive and vitriolic election, many Americans are looking for a break from politics. But for the ambitious, as well as those aggrieved by last week’s results, the next presidential election is a mere 206 weeks away.

It’s only a matter of time before some potential candidates stick out their heads to evaluate the competition — and not just Democrats, either. President-elect Donald Trump may have to fend off potential primary challengers, and no president in modern times who has been seriously challenged in a primary has ever won reelection.


The Globe has whittled down the crop of potential contenders, Democrats and Republicans, to 20 who could run for president in 2020. Full disclosure: Any such list, including this one, is highly speculative at this point in the election cycle.

Here is that list, sorted by party and alphabetical order:


John Bel Edwards. If Democrats believe they need the “bubba vote” — a.k.a. white, working-class men — they could look to Edwards, who was elected last year as Louisiana’s governor. Edwards does have two problems, however, with the party’s base: He does not support abortion rights, and he’s a Second Amendment advocate.

Edwards would also run into the same bad timing that former governor Bobby Jindal faced: He would need to figure out how to seek reelection in Louisiana in 2019 and essentially run for president at the same time. Jindal passed on 2012 for this reason.

Bill de Blasio. The New York City mayor faces a 40 percent approval rating and, as a result, even odds of being reelected next year. But should he win a second term, he could be the big-city progressive that the Democratic party is seeking.


Cory Booker. The US senator from New Jersey is no longer the new kid on the block, but he is currently the best chance for America to have its next black president. What’s more, Booker’s avid social media use rivals that of Trump — except the Democrat uses Twitter to communicate with his constituents in a way that doesn’t make donors squirm.

Sherrod Brown. The Ohio senator is a beloved progressive who can win Ohio. His four statewide victories in the Buckeye State were just a few reasons he made Clinton’s short list for VP. Another? He was a populist before most Democrats.

Julian Castro. The secretary of housing and urban development and former San Antonio mayor gained national attention when he was selected to give the keynote address at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. And now that he’s out of office again, why wouldn’t he run?

Andrew Cuomo. It’s hard to name a New York governor who did not fancy himself a potential presidential candidate. But Cuomo appeared to be politically boxed out in 2016 with Clinton, a fellow New Yorker, running for a second time. Now he has a free shot if he wants it.

Russ Feingold. The former US senator from Wisconsin has lost his last two races, which means he’s still a liberal firebrand with nothing left to lose. Should he run, it would not be unlike former senator Rick Santorum’s bid in 2012. Santorum lost reelection to the Senate six years prior, but then he came back to win the Iowa caucuses. So why not?


Tulsi Gabbard. At the peak of the primary, the US representative from Hawaii resigned as vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee to endorse Bernie Sanders. Her candidacy might be welcomed by Sanders supporters who believed he would have done better in a general election than Clinton. She is also a combat veteran and the first Hindu member of Congress.

Kamala Harris. California’s attorney general became this week the second black woman ever elected to the Senate. (Her mother immigrated from India, and her father is Jamaican-American.) She comes in with a lot of expectations, and some progressives have labeled her “the next Obama.” But so far, it’s unclear whether she would aggressively run for president in her first term.

Tim Kaine. Clinton’s running mate will not inherit all of her organization, but the US senator from Virginia will have a head start over the competition. He also knows something about running a national campaign from his time as DNC chairman under Obama. But before he builds a national bid, Kaine will need to seek and win reelection in 2018.

Amy Klobuchar. A former county prosecutor, the senator from Minnesota has already been a frequent guest in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Joe Manchin. Manchin, currently a US senator from West Virginia, is a former governor as well. He’s now one of the few centrists in the Senate, which could be a problem for the Democratic Party’s left wing if he were to run. But Manchin has consistently won as a Democrat in a state full of white, working-class voters who have made a hard right turn over the last decade.


Thomas Perez. President Obama’s secretary of labor may be seeking to increase his national stature after this administration. He was once on the short list of Hillary Clinton’s vice presidential picks and has expressed interest in running for chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Most importantly, now that he’s out of office, he has nothing to lose by running for president in 2020 — and likely would only raise his profile in the process.

Bernie Sanders. Sanders raised more money from small donors that anyone ever to run for president. He also won 23 states in the Democratic primary — especially remarkable given he was running against Clinton and he wasn’t even a Democrat. The downside: Sanders will be 79 on Election Day four years from now.

Tom Steyer. The billionaire San Francisco environmentalist spent big money on his super PAC in the 2014 and 2016 elections and came up with no big points on the board. But during those cycles, he often acted like a candidate more than a donor, making enough public appearances that some in California believe he could run for governor in 2018. Regardless, he could decide to make the leap in 2020 to ensure his top issue, climate change, gets covered.

Jon Tester. If any Democrat has the “bubba” persona, it’s Tester. The US senator hails from from Montana, where he still keeps his farm. But while his 2016 tenure as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee probably bolstered his Rolodex of party donors, his record there did not: Democrats came up short of winning enough seats to take control of the Senate.


Elizabeth Warren. The US senator from Massachusetts has not even announced whether she would run for reelection in 2018 — much less disclose her plans for 2020. At the moment, Warren represents the populist soul of the Democratic Party. But four years from now? Someone else could be the shiny new object of the party’s dreams.

Tom Wolf. The Pennsylvanian doesn’t have the best approval rating (44 percent), but he does answer the question of how Democrats can win back the Keystone State.


Ted Cruz. Cruz may be Trump’s greatest threat in a primary. He won more states than any other Trump rival this year, plus Cruz could run to the president’s right. If Trump senses a threat, however, he could remove Cruz by appointing him to the Supreme Court.

John Kasich. The governor of Ohio was already gearing up to run again in 2020, working on the theory that Trump would lose this year. And if enough Republicans are unhappy with Trump in four years, Kasich could still run.

James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jamespindell or subscribe to his political e-mail at www.bostonglobe.com/groundgame.