A record 23 Democrats of diverse genders, races and political backgrounds are lining up to try to stop Republican US President Donald Trump from winning a second term in the 2020 elections.
Though much will change in the more than 500 days to go before polls open, a nationwide Fox News poll released this week showed former vice president Joe Biden leading the pack.
Here are five questions and answers as the campaign season in the United States begins:
– How will it play out? –
While the field will certainly shrink once the first votes of primary season are cast in Iowa in February, some candidates may call it quits after debates begin later this month.
An unprecedented prime-time broadcast from Miami awaits: over two nights, June 26 and 27, millions of Americans will tune in to the highly-anticipated debut debate of the cycle.
The Democratic National Committee set lenient standards for the special event broadcast live on NBC News, MSNBC and Spanish-language Telemundo, meaning a whopping 20 candidates — 10 per night — will be squaring off in what is likely to be an unwieldy event.
Three lower-tier hopefuls failed to meet the selection criteria, which were based on polling and a candidate’s number of unique donors.
The second debate, broadcast July 30 and 31 on CNN, will follow similar guidelines.
The months that follow are expected to see a further winnowing of the field as debates raise their thresholds for participation. Candidates who fail to draw new supporters and get squeezed out of media exposure could quickly lose steam.
Iowa opens the voting, with its famous first-in-the-nation caucus set for February 3, and eventually a nominee will be officially named at the Democratic National Convention held July 13-16, 2020 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
– Who are the top contenders? –
Former vice president Joe Biden has so far dominated the Democratic field ahead of the November 3, 2020 election date, outpolling Trump and topping the Democratic field.
Four other Democrats were also more popular than the president, according to the Fox News poll.
Liberal independent Senator Bernie Sanders, progressive Senator Elizabeth Warren, South Bend’s young Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Senator Kamala Harris, a former California attorney general, all beat out Trump, according to the poll, though the latter three came within its margin of error.
Besides that group, ex-congressman Beto O’Rourke is also seen as strong competition.
But the primary could be full of surprises, as any candidate, including the underdogs, could have a breakout moment in the debates.
There is unprecedented diversity in the race: six women, three African-Americans, a Latino, a Hindu of Samoan heritage, an Asian-American tech entrepreneur, and the first openly gay major candidate are all in the field.
– What issues are they running on? –
Expanding health care, defending reproductive rights, fighting for a higher minimum wage, protecting the environment, reducing gun violence and reining in Wall Street are already among the top issues Democrats are addressing on the campaign trail.
In 2016, Sanders waged a primary battle against Hillary Clinton, losing but moving ideas widely perceived as too radical, such as universal health care, to the mainstream among many Democrats.
Several candidates including Biden are bringing a more centrist vision, and the result could be a vigorous battle of ideas between progressives and moderates.
One topic is expected to dominate the debates: Trump himself. The prospect of launching impeachment proceedings against him has already divided Democrats, with Warren and Sanders urging that path while Biden has tiptoed around the issue.
– Can Biden hang on? –
Months before entering the race, Barack Obama’s former right-hand man already led in the Democratic polling, and from the start he has sought to appear above the fray, declining to tangle directly with his top Democratic rivals.
Analysts have said that strategy could quickly come unglued.
He is seeking to win the primary of a party that has become more left-leaning than the one he represented as a longstanding US senator and then vice president.
The political veteran has already been forced to revise his stance on abortion access.
He will also be pressed to defend several votes he cast during more than three decades in the Senate that are facing 21st-century scrutiny and rein in his affectionate physical campaign style, which several women have publicly said made them uncomfortable.
– What are progressives’ chances? –
Progressives Sanders and Warren are second and third in the polls, respectively, and that suggests a heated battle on the left to attract voters in the primary, and to challenge centrist Biden.
The 77-year-old Sanders, still popular after his 2016 run, maintains a lead over his Senate colleague, but Warren, who turns 70 next Saturday, has cut into his poll advantage.
Will her rising star be able to eclipse Sanders? The latter fiercely defends his “socialist” moniker, while Warren has insisted she is a capitalist who opposes corporate monopolies and “markets without rules.”
Rising star Warren weathers attacks at Democratic White House debate
Surging White House hopeful Elizabeth Warren faced a barrage of attacks from fellow Democrats at the party's fourth 2020 debate Tuesday, cementing her status as a frontrunner in the race to challenge Donald Trump.
The president himself loomed large as the dozen Democratic contenders trained their fire on him, calling for his impeachment and assailing a Syria troop pullout that Joe Biden slammed as "shameful."
"The impeachment must go forward," thundered Warren, the progressive senator who is neck and neck with former vice president Biden at the head of the 2020 nomination race -- a stance loudly echoed by her fellow Democrats on stage.
‘I don’t care’: Watch Kamala Harris shut down Chris Hayes for asking a dumb question about Trump
Sen. Kamala Harris shut down MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes during a post-debate interview on Tuesday evening.
Hayes questioned Harris about her call for Twitter to follow their terms of service and kick President Donald Trump off of the platform.
"Do you think he puts people’s lives in danger when he targets them in tweets?" Hayes asked.
"Absolutely," Harris replied.
"Do you think he knows that?" Hayes asked.
"Does it matter?" Harris replied.
"The fact is he did it. The fact is that he is irresponsible, he is erratic," she explained. "He is like a 2-year-old with a machine gun."
Democrats blast Trump and demand his impeachment at CNN debate
Democratic White House hopefuls united in searing condemnation of Donald Trump during their fourth debate Tuesday, saying the president has broken the law, abused his power, and deserves to be impeached.
From the opening moments, most of the dozen candidates on stage launched fierce broadsides against Trump over the Ukrainian scandal at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.
"The impeachment must go forward," said Senator Elizabeth Warren, who is neck and neck with former vice president Joe Biden at the head of the 2020 nominations race.
"Impeachment is the way that we establish that this man will not be permitted to break the law over and over without consequences," she thundered.