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2020 Presidential Candidates, Ranked
Saturday, 2018 January 20 - 1:19 pm
The list of possible candidates for the 2020 Presidential election is starting to become clear, and although it might seem way too early to talk about this sort of thing, I wanted to write down my thoughts just to help me sort through them.


Let's address the Republican side of the equation first. Obviously Trump is the front-runner for the Republican nomination despite his growing unpopularity; but according to polls, anywhere from 30% to 50% of the Republican party would like to see someone other than Trump at the top of the ticket. That's rather astounding.

But if Trump runs, he almost certainly wins the primary. So let's consider the possibility that he doesn't run. I can think of a handful potential contenders. Here's my list, in my preference order (from least preferred to most), with notes about what I think their odds of winning are.

7. Ted Cruz. I still think he's kind of the Antichrist, and possibly capable of even more damage than Trump. But he's politically savvy and well-connected, and his support within the party remains high. Odds of winning the primary: 30%.

6. Mike Pence. As the VP he would be the presumptive nominee if Trump were not to run, but ugh. He has conservative bonafides which make him objectionable to me politically, but also support his chances. Odds of winning the primary: 20%.

5. Scott Walker. Yeah, remember him? He's still chugging away in Wisconsin and it wouldn't be outrageous to see him make another go. He's about as mainstream Republican as you can get, which doesn't really help him in today's climate. Odds of winning the primary: 4%.

4. Ben Sasse. The Nebraska senator has been an outspoken Trump critic, but is still a pretty reliable Republican vote in Congress. I can see that giving him support among the Republican establishment, but perhaps not by the public. Odds of winning the primary: 3%.

3. Marco Rubio. With the field cleared of bullies, "Little Marco" might actually stand a chance... if he has the stomach to run at all. He was my preference for the nomination in 2016 and he would be more palatable than most in 2020. But it might be hard for him to get past the ghosts of the last primary. Odds of winning the primary: 5%.

2. John Kasich. All indications are that he would run again given the chance, and a moderate Republican from a swing state would do well in the general election. But he'd have to get to the general election first, and Republicans have shown a distaste for moderates of late. He did have most of the "Never Trump" Republican support, though, and he would be the early standard-bearer of that movement. Odds of winning the primary: 20%.

1. Jeff Flake. Another outspoken Trump critic, Flake has the problem that he might not win his own Senate primary in 2018, much less the general election, and a loss could tar him come 2020. He's proven to be moderate and sensible, which is appealing, but he doesn't have a lot of friends in the party these days. Odds of winning the primary: 3%.

I've left out some notable names, including mavericks Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski, who are probably pariahs within the party by now, and celebrities or outsiders such as Mark Cuban. I'll put the odds on "the field" at about 15%.


This could be a large list; I've seen lists with as many as 20 names on them. I won't go that far. Again, this is ordered according to my preference, not by likelihood.

9. Cory Booker. I find him too... showboat-y? I don't know. It seems like he's been on everyone's short list for years, and I just don't see it. Odds of winning the primary: 1%.

8. Hillary Clinton. Yeah, for real. She might run again. I can't leave her off the list because I supported her unquestioningly in 2016. But as much as I like her, I can't put her high on my list, because the potential for damaging the party is too high this time around. Odds of winning the primary: 0%.

7. Elizabeth Warren. She has the name recognition and the liberal bonafides, sure. But I think it's hard for someone who has been in the "attack dog" role for so long to step out of that. And frankly, I think she lacks charisma, which does count for something in politics even if you think it shouldn't. You can't discount her power, but I still think she'd be a long shot. Odds of winning the primary: 5%.

6. Sherrod Brown. He's the Democratic version of John Kasich; a progressive from a swing state (the same state as Kasich, Ohio). He's votes reliably to the left and has some populist working-class appeal. But he's a bit bland and doesn't have much name recognition outside of Washington or his home state. Odds of winning the primary: 4%.

5. Jerry Brown. Still alive, old friend. I think he'd be a hundred and five years old by the time he reaches office. (Okay, 82.) He's a Democratic legend in California but do the progressive kids nationwide even know about him any more? Odds of winning the primary: 5%.

4. Bernie Sanders. Everyone has him as the front-runner, which puts him in an interesting position... he's the insider now, especially since he's been shoring up his connections among the Democratic party elites. Will the Bernie kids still see him the same way as they did in 2016? I don't think so. Meanwhile, I have a lingering resentment towards him: his campaign did real damage to Hillary and had a role in costing her the general election. Plus, he is still not actually a Democrat. What's up with that? The only reason he's so high on my list, though, is that he's probably got a better chance than anyone else of winning the general election. Odds of winning the primary: 35%.

3. Joe Biden. If he runs, he'll immediately have a lot of support inside the party. He remains popular among voters, as an affable guy-you'd-have-a-beer-with kind of candidate. Good Ole' Joe. It's hard not to like him, but he'd be vulnerable to attacks in the primary; he'll be tarred as a party insider, and the whole thing with Anita Hill will come bubbling back up. My prediction is that he'll ultimately choose not to run. But if he does... Odds of winning the primary: 20%.

2. Kirsten Gillibrand. You have to admire this woman's political savvy and tenacity. Intelligent and outspoken, she'd be an intimidating opponent in any election. But I could have said the same thing about Hillary Clinton, and look how that turned out. Kristen's vulnerabilities come with her ties and inevitable comparisons to Hillary; she's worked to break those ties with her criticism of Bill Clinton's sexual misdeeds, but still, GOP campaigners would be licking their chops to paint her as Hillary 2.0. But man... she'd make a great President. Odds of winning the primary: 10%.

1. Kamala Harris. She was impressive, maybe even downright captivating, during some of the confirmation hearings for Trump's cabinet. As a former prosecutor, she has unquestionable debate skills and a polished delivery. Her mixed-race heritage makes her kind of the ideal representative of the Democratic tent. She might not have a lot of name recognition yet, and she'd have to work hard to win over working-class white people (the "Trump Democrats"). Some people won't vote for her because she's a woman or because she's not white. And she needs to do something to launch herself into the national spotlight before she's taken seriously. And if that happens, she'll have to be prepared for the inevitable backlash. But yeah, I think she can manage it. Odds of winning the primary: 10%.

In the field: Oprah Winfrey, Deval Patrick, Andrew Cuomo... guh, the list could be long. But most of the people on the list will be daunted by the weight of the front-running candidates. Odds for the field: 10%.

So there it is. Why even speculate now? I guess it's just nice to imagine what the end of the Trump presidency will look like. 2020 can't come soon enough.
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Posted by Ken in: politics


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