Who are the 2020 US Democratic presidential candidates?

The pool of candidates vying for their party's nomination in 2020 narrows as the race heats up.

    Who are the 2020 US Democratic presidential candidates?
    Mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Former Vice President Joe Biden and Senator Bernie Sanders participate in the fifth Democratic primary debate [File: Saul Loeb/AFP]

    Less than nine months out from the 2020 United States presidential election, the pool of Democratic candidates vying for their party's nomination continues to shrink. 

    There are now only eight candidates in the race, down from more than 25 earlier this year. The field is likely to continue to shrink as leading candidates pull away in the polls and as the race heats up. 

    So far, the Democrats have held eight debates. The ninth is scheduled for Wednesday ahead of Nevada's caucuses. 

    Earlier this month, candidates faced off in the first primary of the 2020 cycle. The New Hampshire primary came on the heels of a chaotic Iowa caucus in which no candidate has been declared the outright winner. Senator Bernie Sanders and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg - the two leading candidates - called for a recanvass of the results. 

    In New Hampshire, however, Sanders declared victory after narrowly edging out Buttigieg. 

    As the field narrows, here is a look at the current 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls. 

    Joe Biden, 77

    Joe Biden served as vice president under former President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017 after nearly four decades serving as a senator from Delaware.

    Biden is the most experienced politician in the race and among the oldest at 77. This will be his third presidential run. His first White House bid in 1987 ended after a plagiarism scandal.

    In a video announcement of his candidacy posted on Twitter on April 25, Biden focused on the 2017 deadly clash between white supremacists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. Biden noted US President Donald Trump's comments that there were some "very fine people" on both sides of the violent encounter, which left one woman dead.

    "We are in the battle for the soul of this nation," Biden said. "If we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation - who we are. And I cannot stand by and watch that happen."

    Last year, Biden struggled to respond to comments from Lucy Flores, a 2014 lieutenant governor nominee in Nevada, who said he made her uncomfortable by touching her shoulders and kissing the back of her head before a campaign event. Several other women have made similar claims.

    In a video, Biden pledged to be "more mindful" of respecting "personal space", but Flores told Fox News this week that the former senator's jokes on the matter have been "so incredibly disrespectful". 

    The incident is just a glimpse of the harsh vetting from both Democrats and Republicans expected for Biden, who has run for president twice before but never from such a strong political starting position. 

    Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Biden Courage Awards last year in New York [Frank Franklin II/AP Photo]

    Last year, he was also repeatedly forced to explain his 1991 decision, as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman to allow Anita Hill to face questions about her allegations of sexual harassment against Clarence Thomas, then a nominee for the Supreme Court.

    Biden has since apologised for his role in the hearing. But in the #MeToo era, it is another example of why critics believe he may struggle to catch on with the Democratic primary voters of 2020. 

    Biden was also becoming a prominent figure in the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry of Trump. That probe is centred on a July 25 phone call in which Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to investigate Biden and his businessman son, Hunter.

    Democrats have accused Trump of pressuring Ukraine to find incriminating information on Biden after withholding nearly $400m in US security aid to Ukraine. There has been no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens. In December, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives impeached Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The president was acquitted in February. 

    Biden has made all debate stages during this campaign season, but has struggled to maintain his early momentum. He turned his sights on Nevada and South Carolina after poor performances in New Hampshire. 

    Michael Bloomberg, 77

    Michael Bloomberg served as New York City mayor from 2002 to 2013. 

    The 77-year-old billionaire who entered the race in November is foregoing the four states with the earliest primaries and caucuses, focusing instead on states like California that vote on Super Tuesday.

    "We cannot afford four more years of President Trump's reckless and unethical actions," the former mayor said, announcing his candidacy. "He represents an existential threat to our country and our values. If he wins another term in office, we may never recover from the damage."

    Many have criticised Bloomberg for his run, accusing him of trying to buy the presidency. 

    "I understand that rich people are going to have more shoes than the rest of us, they're going to have more cars than the rest of us, they're going to have more houses," said Senator Elizabeth Warren, a frontrunner. 

    COP 23 United Nations Climate Conference In Bonn
    American businessman Michael Bloomberg speaks during meeting at the COP23 United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2017 in Bonn, Germany [File: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images]

    Senator Bernie Sanders slammed Bloomberg even before his formal announcement.

    "I'm disgusted by the idea that Michael Bloomberg or any billionaire thinks they can circumvent the political process and spend tens of millions of dollars to buy elections," Sanders tweeted amid speculation Bloomberg would enter the race. 

    Bloomberg has joined The Giving Pledge campaign, promising to give away at least half his wealth to charity organisations.

    He angered many minority voters during his 12 years in the mayor's office for embracing and defending the controversial "stop-and-frisk" police strategy, despite its disproportionate effect on people of colour.

    Facing an African American congregation in Brooklyn, Bloomberg apologised and acknowledged it often led to the detention of minorities.

    The apology was received sceptically by many prominent activists who noted it was made as he was taking steps to enter the presidential race.

    Running an unconventional race with no donations, Bloomberg had failed to qualify for most of the debates. He will take the stage on Wednesday night. He is also not participating in the first four state primaries and caucuses. He has instead turned his attention to states holding their voting contests on March 3, also known as Super Tuesday. 

    Pete Buttigieg, 38

    Pete Buttigieg has served as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, since 2012.

    Before that, Buttigieg was a consultant for McKinsey and Company.

    He is the first openly gay Democratic candidate to run for president. He announced his presidential bid on January 23, 2019.

    There are no policy positions on his website. He has virtually no paid presence in the states that matter most. And his campaign manager is a high-school friend with no experience in presidential politics.

    Despite this, he has suddenly become one of the hottest names in the Democrats' presidential primary season. On the campaign trail, he has frequently spoken about the struggle to legalise same-sex marriage.

    Pete Buttigieg speaks during the US Conference of Mayors winter meeting in Washington [File: Jose Luis Magana/AP Photo]

    He has also repeatedly criticised Vice President Mike Pence for his views that undermine LGBT rights

    "I'm not critical of his faith; I'm critical of bad policies. I don't have a problem with religion. I'm religious, too. I have a problem with religion being used as a justification to harm people and especially in the LGBT community," Buttigieg said in an interview with NBC's The Ellen DeGeneres Show last year. 

    Buttigieg has qualified for all debates so far and mounted an impressive race in Iowa. He is looking to seize on that momentum in New Hampshire. 

    Tulsi Gabbard, 38

    Tulsi Gabbard has served as a US congresswoman from Hawaii's second district since 2013.

    Gabbard is the first Hindu member of Congress. At the age of 21, she became the youngest to be elected to a US state legislature serving in the Hawaii House of Representatives.

    She has also served in the Hawaii Army National Guard in a combat zone in Iraq and was deployed to Kuwait.

    She was a fierce opponent of same-sex marriage when she served in the state legislature in her 20s. But she has since disavowed those views and professes her support for LGBT rights.

    Critics have pounced on her efforts to block the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Hawaii and a meeting she held with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Earlier this year, she penned an opinion piece responding to media reports about her alleged ties to Hindu nationalists. 

    Tulsi Gabbard delivers a nomination speech for Senator Bernie Sanders on the second day at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia [File: Mike Segar/Reuters]

    "While the headlines covering my announcement could have celebrated this landmark first, and maybe even informed Americans about the world's third-largest religion, some have instead fomented suspicion, fear and religious bigotry about not only me but also my supporters," she wrote

    Gabbard officially launched her presidential campaign on February 2, 2019.

    Gabbard qualified for the first two debates, but failed to do so for the third. She did qualify, however, for the October and November events, but she failed to meet the requirements for the other debates. 

    Amy Klobuchar, 59

    Amy Klobuchar served as a US senator from Minnesota since 2007, becoming her state's first elected female senator.

    Before joining the Senate, she was the Hennepin County lawyer.

    Amy Klobuchar waits to speak at the Ankeny Area Democrats' Winter Banquet on Thursday, February 21, 2019, in Des Moines, Iowa [Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo]

    Klobuchar gained national attention in 2018 when she sparred with Brett Kavanaugh during Senate hearings for his Supreme Court nomination.

    She announced her presidential run on February 10, 2019

    On the campaign trail, the former prosecutor and corporate lawyer supports an alternative to traditional Medicare healthcare funding and is taking a hard stance against rising prescription medicine prices. 

    She has qualified for all debates so far and has had what analysts say is an impressive showing in Iowa and New Hampshire. 

    Bernie Sanders, 78

    Bernie Sanders served as a US representative for 16 years before being elected to the Senate in 2006 where he currently represents the state of Vermont.

    A progressive and cofounder of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, he is the longest-serving independent congressman in its history. 

    Sanders announced his presidential run on February 19, 2019. Sanders ran an unsuccessful bid for president in 2016 after losing to Hillary Clinton. 

    In the 2020 race, Sanders will have to fight to stand out in a packed field of progressives touting issues he brought into the Democratic Party mainstream four years ago.

    Bernie Sanders speaks as he holds one of his first campaign events in Chicago, Illinois, on March 3, 2019 [Joshua Lott/Reuters]

    His proposals include free tuition at public colleges, a $15 minimum hourly wage and universal healthcare.

    He benefits from strong name recognition and a robust network of small-dollar donors, helping him to raise $5.9m during his first day in the contest.

    Since then, he has qualified for all the debates held so far and remains among the frontrunners. 

    Tom Steyer, 62

    Tom Steyer, a billionaire donor and liberal activist, announced on July 9, 2019, he was joining the Democratic presidential field after initially saying he would not run to focus his attention on impeaching Trump and getting fellow Democrats elected to Congress. 

    "There's a breakdown in Washington DC, and I don't mean just Donald Trump," Steyer tweeted in a thread announcing his candidacy. "I'm talking about corporate money and our broken political system." 

    The 62-year-old is one of the most visible and deep-pocketed liberals advocating for Trump's impeachment. But he has previously said he has grown frustrated at the pace at which the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives is approaching Trump. 

    Tom Steyer
    Tom Steyer, the founder of NextGen Climate, speaks during the California Democratic Convention in San Francisco, California [File: Stephen Lam/Reuters]

    His announcement made no mention of the impeachment issue, instead focusing on why he believes there is a need to reduce the influence of corporations in politics. He also said he plans to target climate change, which is the focus of the Steyer-backed advocacy group NextGen America. 

    Citing issues including climate change and the opioid crisis, Steyer said that in nearly every "major intractable problem, at the back of it, you see a big-money interest for whom stopping progress, stopping justice is really important to their bottom line".

    Steyer announced his presidential bid after the first presidential debate in June. He failed to make the debate stage in July and September. But he did qualify for the October, November, December, January and February debates. He will not be on the stage on Wednesday night. 

    Elizabeth Warren, 70

    Elizabeth Warren has served as a US senator from Massachusetts since 2013.

    Warren, known as a progressive, taught law at several universities and was a Harvard professor.

    Warren is a leader of the party's liberals and a fierce Wall Street critic who was instrumental in creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. 

    Earlier this year, she apologised to the Cherokee Nation for taking a DNA test to prove her claims to Native American ancestry, an assertion that has prompted Trump to mockingly refer to her as "Pocahontas".

    Elizabeth Warren addresses the Reverend Al Sharpton's National Action Network during a post-midterm election at the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill [File: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP]

    She announced her presidential run on February 9, 2019. She has promised to fight what she calls a "rigged economic system" that favours the wealthy.

    She recently unveiled a student loan forgiveness proposal that would cancel up to $50,000 of debt for millions of US citizens. She also supports free college tuition for students at two and four-year institutions. 

    Warren has qualified for all the debates so far. She did not perform as well as many had expected in New Hampshire. 

    Who has dropped out? 

    So far 21 candidates have dropped out of the race, with more likely to end their campaigns as the top-tier candidates continue to increase their lead. 

    Here is a look at who has dropped out of the race: 

    Michael Bennet

    Michael Bennet has served as a US senator from Colorado since 2009. Bennet, a former head of the Denver school district, carved out a profile as a wonky, policy-oriented senator.

    But his profile did not do him any favours, never catching on in the polls or in his fundraising. 

    Bennet announced the end of his campaign on February 11, the night of the New Hampshire election. 

    Cory Booker 

    Cory Booker has served as a US senator from New Jersey - the first African American in the state's history to hold the office since 2013. He was the mayor of Newark from 2006 to 2013.

    After struggling in the polls and fundraising, Booker dropped out of the race in January. 

    "It's with a full heart that I share this news - I'm suspending my campaign for president," he tweeted when announcing he was ending his bid. 

    "To my team, supporters, and everyone who gave me a shot - thank you. I am so proud of what we built, and I feel nothing but faith in what we can accomplish together," he added. 

    Booker had qualified for five debates but failed to meet the requirements for the sixth event. 

    Steven Bullock

    Montana Governor Steve Bullock quit his bid for the Democratic nomination in early December. 

    "Today, I am suspending my campaign to become the Democratic Party's nominee for president," Bullock, 53, said in a statement on Monday. "While there were many obstacles we could not have anticipated when entering this race, it has become clear that in this moment, I won't be able to break through to the top tier of this still-crowded field of candidates."

    Bullock, 53, will return to Montana to finish his second term as governor. He will not run for the US Senate, despite encouragement from party leaders to do so and help Democrats wrest control of Congress's upper house from Republicans.

    Bullock was re-elected in conservative Montana in 2016, making him the only Democratic presidential contender who had won a statewide election in a state Trump carried in 2016.

    Bullock failed to make the presidential debate stage in June but did so in July. Due to the stricter guidelines for the events in September, October and November, he did not qualify. 

    Julian Castro

    Julian Castro was elected mayor of San Antonio, Texas in 2009 and served until 2014.

    He served as the 16th US secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under US President Barack Obama from 2014 until 2017.

    He ended his presidential bid in January, saying in a video: "I've determined that it simply isn't our time."

    He said he wasn't done fighting. "I'll keep working towards a nation where everyone counts, a nation where everyone can get a good job, good health care and a decent place to live."

    Castro made the debate stage for the first four events, but failed to qualify for the fifth and sixth debates. 

    Bill de Blasio

    The New York City mayor emerged as a progressive standard-bearer in 2013, when he won the first of two four-year terms at the helm of the country's biggest city on a platform of addressing income inequality. But he has struggled amid middling approval ratings and some political setbacks to build a national profile.

    After making the first two 2020 Democratic debates, but failing to qualify for the September event, the New York City mayor dropped out of the race in mid-September. 

    "I feel like I've contributed all that I can to this primary election," de Blasio told MSNBC when announcing he was withdrawing from the race. "It's clearly not my time." 

    John Delaney

    John Delaney served as a US congressman for Maryland's sixth district from 2013 to 2019.

    He was the first Democrat to formally declare a run for the party's 2020 presidential nomination, but at the end of January, he said he was dropping out of the race. 

    Delaney, who had already been campaigning for more than a year, announced the end of his presidential run in an interview on CNN.

    He failed to qualify for the first debate but was able to do so for the second. He could not, however, meet the guidelines for the rest of the debates.

    Kirsten Gillibrand

    Kirsten Gillibrand has served as a US senator from New York since 2009.

    After failing to qualify for the third Democratic presidential debate, Gillibrand, who campaigned on a platform centred on women's rights, dropped out of the race. 

    In announcing her decision on August 28, Gillibrand told US media she had not decided which candidate to endorse. 

    "I think that women have a unique ability to bring people together and heal this country," Gillibrand told the New York Times newspaper.

    "I think a woman nominee would be inspiring and exciting," she added. 

    Mike Gravel

    Mike Gravel, the 89-year-old former senator, made a little-known run for the Democratic nomination in 2008 and took another stab at it early in the Democratic race. 

    His goal was to make the debate stage, but when that did not happen, he officially ended his campaign in August and endorsed Sanders. 

    Kamala Harris

    Kamala Harris has served as a US senator from California since 2017. In early December, she ended her bid for the nomination, saying her campaign does not have the financial resources to continue. 

    "I've taken stock and looked at this from every angle, and over the last few days have come to one of the hardest decisions of my life," Harris said in an email to supporters on Tuesday. "My campaign for president simply doesn't have the financial resources we need to continue."

    Harris had qualified for all five debates that took place before she ended her bid.  

    John Hickenlooper

    John Hickenlooper served as the governor of Colorado from 2011 to 2019. 

    He announced he was ending his presidential bid on August 15 in a video posted on Twitter. 

    "While this campaign didn't have the outcome we were hoping for, every moment has been worthwhile and I'm thankful to everyone who supported this campaign and our entire team," Hickenlooper tweeted. 

    Later in August, Hickenlooper announced he would run in the US Senate race against Republican incumbent Cory Gardner in Colorado. 

    Jay Inslee

    Jay Inslee has served as the governor of the state of Washington since 2013.

    On August 21, he announced he was dropping out of the race, saying, "it has become clear that I'm not going to be carrying the ball. I am not going to be the president." 

    Inslee made fighting climate change the central issue of his campaign. In announcing his withdrawal, Inslee said he hopes other 2020 candidates would use his detailed 10-year climate plan. 

    Wayne Messam

    Wayne Messam has served as mayor of Miramar, Florida, since 2015.

    In mid-November, he tweeted that he was suspending his campaign. 

    Messam had failed to make a single debate stage during the campaign. 

    Seth Moulton

    Seth Moulton has served as the US representative for Massachusetts's sixth congressional district since 2015. 

    On August 23, he announced he was dropping out of the 2020 race, telling US media if one of the more progressive candidates won the nomination it could make it harder for the Democrats to beat Trump. 

    "I think it's evident that this is now a three-way race between Biden, Warren and Sanders, and really it's a debate about how far left the party should go," Moulton told the New York Times newspaper. 

    Richard Ojeda

    Richard Ojeda was the first official presidential contender to drop out of the race. 

    In January, the former West Virginia state senator announced he was suspending his campaign, acknowledging he "does not have the ability to compete". 

    Beto O'Rourke

    Beto O'Rourke served Texas's 16th congressional district in the House of Representatives from 2013 to 2019.

    O'Rourke gained fame last year for his record fundraising and ability to draw crowds before his unexpectedly narrow loss in the US Senate race against Republican incumbent Ted Cruz.

    On November 1, O'Rourke announced he was dropping out of the presidential race. The New York Times reported that his campaign was facing financial strain. 

    "My service to the country will not be as a candidate or a nominee," O'Rourke said in an online post. 

    "Though it is difficult to accept, it is clear to me now that this campaign does not have the means to move forward successfully," he wrote on Medium. "Acknowledging this now is in the best interests of those in the campaign; it is in the best interests of this party as we seek to unify around a nominee, and it is in the best interests of the country."

    Deval Patrick

    Former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick in November 2019 said he was seeking the Democratic Party's 2020 presidential nomination despite an already crowded race to bring a divided country - and splintering political party - together.

    But he announced the end of his bid on February 12, the day after a poor performance in New Hampshire. 

    "I believed and still believe we had a strong case to make for being able to deliver better outcomes," Patrick said in a statement. "But the vote in New Hampshire last night was not enough for us to create the practical wind at the campaign's back to go on to the next round of voting."

    He did not make it to the debate stage during his run. 

    Tim Ryan

    Tim Ryan has served as a US House representative from Ohio's 13th district since 2003.

    On October 24, he announced he is ending his bid for the nomination and would instead seek re-election in his House race. 

    Ryan's campaign was marked by slow fundraising and low poll numbers. 

    He qualified for the first two debates, but failed to do so for the September and October events. 

    Joe Sestak

    Former US Representative Joe Sestak joined the race in June. 

    In announcing his candidacy, Sestak, a retired three-star US Navy admiral, emphasised his 31-year military career, the need to restore US leadership in the world and tackle challenges from climate change to China's growing global influence.

    But after failing to qualify for any of the debates and impress donors, the 67-year-old dropped out of the race in early December. 

    In a statement posted on his Twitter page, Sestak offered his thanks to supporters "for the honor of running for president" as "I end our campaign together".

    "Without the privilege of national press, it is unfair to ask others to husband their resolve and to sacrifice resources any longer," he wrote.

    Eric Swalwell

    Eric Swalwell, an Iowa native, has served as a House representative from California's 15th congressional district since 2013. 

    He dropped out of the presidential race after the first primary debate in June. 

    Marianne Williamson

    Marianne Williamson is an author, entrepreneur and activist. 

    The self-help guru dropped out of the race in January. 

    "I stayed in the race to take advantage of every possible effort to share our message. With caucuses and primaries now about to begin, however, we will not be able to garner enough votes in the election to elevate our conversation any more than it is now," Williamson said in a statement. 

    Williamson qualified for the first two debates, but failed to do so in September, October, November and December. 

    Andrew Yang

    Andrew Yang filed to run for president in 2017.

    But the entrepreneur ended his bid on February 11, the day of the New Hampshire primary, after a poor showing in New England state, as well as in Iowa.

    Yang failed to qualify for the January debate but did so for the February event. 

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies