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Bernie Sanders and Ariana Grande
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Who could actually challenge Trump in the 2020 US election?

With less than a year to go until the election and the race heating up, here’s a rundown of the main democratic candidates who could stand against Trump in November

Another year, another election to worry about. It’s hard to believe that the US presidential vote has come around again so quickly. That is until you think about all the fucked up things that Donald Trump has managed to do since he was inaugurated on January 20, 2017, three years ago. 

From announcing and building the border wall with Mexico to imposing a travel ban on people from seven predominantly Muslim countries, supporting abortion bans in the US, systematically rolling back transgender rights, and most recently bombing and killing Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani on January 3 in Baghdad, it has actually been a very long, exhausting, and at times terrifying three years. 

Thankfully there is some hope: in the form of the Democratic candidates standing against Trump in 2020. Currently leading the (OK, somewhat unreliable) polls are Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, followed by Elizabeth Warren, Michael Bloomberg, and Pete Buttigieg. However, understandably, this all-white line up has been widely criticised as lacking in diversity, particularly for a party who claims to support just that.  

The campaign trail to become a candidate is well underway and Democrats will vote for their candidate between February and June. After that, the lead candidate will stand against the Republican runner (almost entirely likely to be Trump) ahead of the vote on November 3. There are currently 12 Democratic candidates running, but below, a rundown of the five main candidates who are most likely to take on Trump.


First up, Bernie! Cardi B is one vocal supporter, but his list of celebrity supporters goes on. As you might remember from 2016, when Bernie was campaigning as the other Democratic candidate alongside Hilary Clinton, Miley Cyrus and Zoë Kravitz were among his fans. Ariana Grande recently posted a photo with Sanders, caption “my guy”, while Kim Gordon grammed her dog with a Bernie badge, alongside the caption “Go Bernie”.

In 2016, Bernie won the hearts of a lot of progressive Americans, and galvanised the youth vote in a similar way to Jeremy Corbyn in the UK. The two also share similar policies, with Bernie advocating things like Medicare for all and tuition-free public colleges, as well as maintaining the stance that billionaires should not exist. He calls for a shift towards socialism, and has said: “The only way we will win this election and create a government and economy that work for all is with a grassroots movement – the likes of which has never been seen in American history”.

At the moment, according to some polls, Bernie is neck and neck with Biden as the Democratic frontrunner. One big challenge the former congressman faces is that the other more left-wing Democratic candidate Elizabeth Warren might carve off some of his support. 


Pete Buttigieg is surprising a lot of people. Firstly, he’s only 38, which technically makes him a millennial, and he is a lot more inexperienced than the other candidates; he was a mayor in Indiana, where he is from, and has served in the military, while Biden is a former Vice President and Elizabeth Warren a senator, for example. As the New York Times once asked: “Would a 37-year-old woman be where Pete Buttigieg is?” 

Yet, Buttigieg has recently fundraised the most money for his campaign of all Democratic candidates, which is impressive. As for policies, he is vocal about climate change and advocates upping the number of seats in the Supreme Court, which could be a positive thing, since currently there are only nine judges, and Trump has managed to ensure that most of them are Republicans. Buttigieg wants to reform the Court to make it more balanced. He is the only candidate to ever make this a central part of his campaign. “Running for office is an act of hope. You don’t do it unless you think the pulleys and levers of our government can be used and if necessary redesigned to make the life of this nation better for us all,” he has said.

Buttigieg is also openly gay, and his sexuality has led to an interesting conversation around how gay politicians present themselves: some have argued that he downplays his sexuality in order to appeal to voters, and is therefore “bad for gays”, while others have argued that he is providing much-needed LGBTQ+ representation in mainstream politics. 


Warren wants to see a woman at the top. Her campaign slogan, “I have a plan for that”, has found its way onto many a young liberal’s chests with an array of Warren merch t-shirts. A former Harvard professor who focussed on bankruptcy law before becoming a Senator in Massachusetts, she has been vocal about financial regulation since the 2008 crash, supported the Occupy movement, and wants to see economic changes that will address America’s problem with income inequality. She supports the Green New Deal, and has said that we need a Blue New Deal for the oceans. Essentially then, she has similar goals to Bernie, but a different message on how to achieve them. 

In December, the writer Rebecca Solnit – who is among Roxane Gay and Megan Rapinoe as a vocal Warren supporter – wrote an article for The Guardian describing Warren as having “Big Structural Mom Energy”. For anyone in doubt about what that might mean, Solnit explains that it means a mixture of radical compassion, as well as a strong understanding of the economy and the law, and how to reform both. 

“If I was going to invent a dream candidate, she would be grounded in small-town, rural or heartland America but able to hold her own in the citadels of power on the coasts,” explains Solnit. “She would comfort the afflicted with the same passion with which she afflicts the comfortable, and she would understand the causes of those afflictions and have good ideas about how to remedy them.” She continues: “Also she would have to be funny and have big plans to address climate change. OK, she already exists, and I’m talking about Elizabeth Warren.” 


Next, we have the former Wall Street banker and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He used to be a Republican, is fiscally conservative and has previously opposed government-supported health insurance. He is a billionaire who claims he wants to “defeat Trump and rebuild America”.

In fact, you have to wonder if he is literally only running because he hates Trump. The two have been described as “mortal enemies”, Trump has been Tweeting about Bloomberg in typically manic fashion in recent weeks (the president calls him “mini Mike”), and Bloomberg himself recently wrote an op-ed called “Trump has been great for people like me – but I’ll be great for you”. Last week, Bloomberg News, which is owned by Bloomberg, reported: “Michael Bloomberg said Saturday he’s willing to spend a lot of money – but “hopefully not” as much as $1 billion – to help any Democratic nominee defeat President Donald Trump, even if he loses the nomination.”

In other words, Bloomberg has vowed to support and even throw money at any Democratic candidate who can truly take on Trump. Currently, it’s not looking like that is Bloomberg himself. Of the five candidates here, he is polling lowest in the New York Times charted rankings, suggesting that money can’t buy you popularity after all. 


Finally, Joe Biden. Former Vice President to Obama, 77-year-old Joseph R Biden Jr. has run for president twice before and says that 2020 is his last shot. “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,” said Biden in a statement. 

Obama picked Biden to run alongside him in 2008 because of his supposed appeal to white working-class Americans. But Biden’s voting history hasn’t served him so well with more liberal Democrats: he voted in favour of the Iraq War in 1992, as well as a controversial crime bill in 1994, which extended the death penalty to 60 new crimes and offered financial incentives in the building of new prisons. 

Today, his policies focus on affordable healthcare (he supported the Affordable Care Act) and employment protections for low-income workers. He also believes that the Democrats can work better with the Republicans. Overall, he’s viewed as a moderate Democrat. This, and the fact that he is a household name, receiving the most press of all candidates, could aid his campaign. According to the New York Times, he is currently ranking the highest out of all the Democratic candidates in terms of voter popularity, and received news coverage.