US election Democratic candidates: Contenders for the primaries and 2020 presidential nomination

US Democrat 2020 election candidates who will be next president
Who are the contenders for the 2020 US election?

The race to win the right to challenge Donald Trump for the 2020 presidential election has narrowed to a two-horse race between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. The race to be named the Democratic Party's official nominee began with some two dozen candidates with starkly different backgrounds, ideologies, strengths and weaknesses. Over the course of several months the field has whittled down to just two candidates with very different ideas on how to govern. Who the party picks could determine the country's future.

Voting began in February 2020 with an eventual winner confirmed in July – ready to take on Mr Trump at the election on November 3. 

Mr Biden has framed himself as the person best placed to defeat Mr Trump and is the favourite in the Democrat field. The 77-year-old, who served as Barack Obama’s vice president for eight years, believes his centrist platform can win back Obama-Trump voters in key swing states. He came fourth in Iowa and fifth in New Hampshire, causing consternation among his supporters, but a strong set of wins on Super Tuesday revived his campaign.

Meanwhile progressive candidate Mr Sanders started off strong, with an emphatic victory in Nevada, following a strong performance in Iowa and New Hampshire. But his campaign has since stalled after losing eight of the last ten states to Mr Biden. The Vermont senator's path to victory now appears all but impossible.

See the latest news from Super Tuesday's 2020 result.

The early favourite in the race, despite declaring his candidacy relatively late, Joe Biden benefits from name reconnection and his close connection to Barack Obama. His centrist policies may attract Trump voters, but his age may count against him

Embed – Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren, a senator for Massachusetts, is vying with Bernie Sanders to represent the progressive left of the Democratic Party. She has condemned the corrupting influence of money on politics and lamented lost economic opportunities for working families. However she has faced criticism over her claims of Native American heritage.

Bernie Sanders, an independent senator for Vermont, blindsided Hillary Clinton with an insurgent campaign from the Left in 2016 which energised young voters in a surge that drew comparisons with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. He has a loyal and established network of activists who could be remobilised for his second shot at the Democratic nomination. However his age is a concern - he would be 79 on inauguration day.

Julian Castro, a former San Antonio mayor, has been widely tipped as a rising star in the Democratic Party for years and served in Barack Obama's Cabinet. The grandson of a Mexican immigrant, Mr Castro has sought to use his family’s personal story to challenge Mr Trump’s border policies. Mr Castro withdrew from the race at the start of the year after struggling throughout 2019 to make a dent in the polls.

John Delaney, a congressman from Maryland, was the first to throw his hat into the ring when he made his announcement in September, 2017. The 55-year-old’s pitch is unashamedly moderate. This could prove a weakness given his lack of name recognition and no eye-catching policies to set him apart in a crowded field.

He dropped out just before the Iowa caucus.

Tulsi Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran who is the first Hindu elected to Congress and the first member born in the US territory of American Samoa, said “the issue of war and peace” would be the main focus of her campaign. The 38-year-old has drawn criticism for meeting with President Bashar Assad and questioning his role in a chemical attack on civilians. Ms Gabbard defiantly remained in the race after more than a third of states had voted, despite failing to win a single one. Ultimately, however, she suspended her campaign in late March and endorsed Mr Biden. 

Kirsten Gillibrand, a senator for New York, is an outspoken Trump critic and champion of women’s issues including the #MeToo movement. The 53-year-old presented herself as a young mother fighting for better healthcare, combating “institutional racism” and taking on entrenched systems of power in Washington. But Ms Gillibrand quit the race at the end of the summer after failing to qualify for the next debate.

Kamala Harris, a senator for California, struck a balance between progressive policies such as medicare for all and more moderate approaches to gun rights and foreign policy. Despite an early boost in the polls, the 55-year-old ended her nomination bid in December in the wake of series of funding and staffing issues.

Pete Buttigieg, started out a little known 38-year-old mayor, but has quickly become a top-tier candidate and won the first contest of the primary season - the Iowa caucus. Mr Buttigieg has held no national political office but has an impressive CV. It includes having served as a counterintelligence officer in Afghanistan, a Harvard degree and a Rhodes scholarship at Oxford. The only millennial and openly gay candidate in the race, he framed his White House bid around his youth. He dropped out shortly before Super Tuesday.

Amy Klobuchar, a senator for Minnesota, has positioned herself as the most prominent Midwestern candidate in the field, as her party tries to win back Trump voters in the region. The 59-year-old granddaughter of an iron miner calls herself a pragmatist, advocating gun control and universal health care, while calling for America to support its troops. Ms Klobuchar failed to make a dent in national polls and dropped out on the eve of Super Tuesday.

Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is a late entrant to the race but the 77-year-old has already spent millions of dollars gearing up for a sophisticated data-driven assault on the White House. Mr Bloomberg is entering the race in the "moderate" lane alongside Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar. Unlike many of his potential rivals, Mr Bloomberg will not have a name recognition problem. The media magnate and philanthropist is estimated to be the eighth richest person in the US, and plans to outspend every other candidate in TV and radio adverts. However, as opponents point out, money is the only weapon Mr Bloomberg has. He has no nationwide base of voters. And, having entered the race so late, he has no grassroots operation or volunteers.  

The 46-year-old Texan gained a national following with his long-shot election battle against Senator Ted Cruz last year. Mr O'Rourke's message of inclusion and optimism got America’s liberal elite swooning, but he struggled to translate that energy into a successful presidential bid and quit the race at the start of November.

Cory Booker, a senator for New Jersey, has styled himself a "street fighter". The 50-year-old is one of only three black US senators and has an impeccable academic CV - political science at Stanford, a Rhodes scholarship to Oxford, going on to study law at Yale. Mr Booker quit the race in January after failing to secure a spot in the final debate before the Iowa caucuses.

Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York city, has plenty of name recognition but dropped out of the 2020 race in September, acknowledging he had little chance of winning the nomination. 

Jay Inslee, the governor for Washington state, ran almost exclusively on a climate change platform - the only candidate in the race to do so. The 68-year-old is a vocal critic of Mr Trump and attempted to sue the president after he attempted to implement his Muslim ban. But in August he dropped out after failing to secure a spot in the next candidates' debate.

John Hickenlooper, is a former governor of Colorado, former Denver mayor and pub owner. The 67-year-old's sales pitch was that he is an "extreme moderate" – a pro-business Democrat who is also socially progressive. But his lack of name recognition held him back in a crowded field, leading him to pull out in August.

Marianne Williamson is a best-selling author and spiritual teacher, but perhaps best known for being presenter Oprah Winfrey's spiritual counsellor. The 66-year-old ran an unsuccessful campaign for the House of Representatives as an independent candidate in 2014. Her presidential campaign called for "a moral and spiritual awakening in the country". Ms Williamson withdrew in January saying she didn’t want to “get in the way of a progressive candidate winning” the Democratic nomination.

Andrew Yang, an entrepreneur and businessman, says he wants to introduce a universal basic income of $1,000 per month for all Americans to address economic inequality. The 45-year-old has focused his campaign on "human-centred capitalism". He initially struggled to get national name recognition, but has a highly motivated youthful base. However, he dropped out after the New Hampshire primary.

Michael Bennet, a senator for Colorado, is perhaps best known for being part of the so-called 'Gang of Eight' bipartisan group which wrote the first draft of a 2013 immigration bill. The 55-year-old announced his bid for the presidency in early May - joining his former boss, John Hickenlooper, in the crowded field. He dropped out after the New Hampshire primary.

Seth Moulton, 40, is a congressman from Massachusetts. A Harvard graduate and former US marine, he has defined himself as a progressive, supporting legalisation of cannabis, the green new deal and further gun control. However he dropped out of the running in August, saying it was clear it had become a "three-way race between Biden, Warren and Sanders".

Tim Ryan was elected to Congress at just 29 years old to represent Ohio. He has called for his party to reclaim working class voters in the Midwest who switched turned to Donald Trump in 2016. The 46-year-old is a middle of the road Democrat, calling for tough action on climate change and a new public health insurance system. He quit the race after struggling to gain traction against better known colleagues in Congress.

Steve Bullock is the governor of Montana, a state that Donald Trump won easily in 2016, and presents himself as a pragmatist who can work with Republicans to achieve his goals. The 53-year-old had focused on reforming campaign finances, but his late entry to the race posed a challenge and he dropped out in early December.

Wayne Messam, the mayor of Miramar, was the only candidate from Florida, the country's largest swing state. The 45-year-old's advisers say one of his main policy proposals will be forgiving the $1.5 trillion in student debt currently owed by 44 million Americans. Mr Messam struggled to break ground in the polls and ultimately suspended his campaign in November.

Joe Sestak, a retired three-star Navy admiral, waited until late June to throw his name into the field. The 67-year-old is running on his lengthy naval career, which has spanned from the Vietnam and Cold War eras, to Afghanistan and Iraq and the emergence of China. His late entry disqualified him from the first debates. Mr Sestak bowed out of the race at the start of December.

California billionaire Tom Steyer is best known for bankrolling a nationwide campaign calling for President Donald Trump’s impeachment. The 62-year-old has gone from a major donor to Democratic candidates to entering the race himself, officially announcing his candidacy in early July. He spent millions of dollars on advertising in South Carolina but failed to win any delegates, prompting him to quit the race shortly afterwards.

Eric Swalwell a congressman from California, has taken a particularly tough line on guns in his campaign, calling for a ban on assault weapons. Firmly tilting to the left of the party, the 38-year-old has endorsed the Green New Deal and backs Medicare for All, which would eliminate most private health insurance. Mr Swalwell became the first candidate to drop out of the race in July.