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.”
William Barr made it clear this week that he’d sign off on a sham investigation into the Dems’ 2020 nominee
Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.
A perfect storm propelled New York's sleaziest real estate developer to an Electoral College victory in 2016 despite winning three million fewer votes than his opponent, but Nate Silver made a compelling argument that the letter James Comey sent to Congress just 11 days before Election Day announcing that the FBI was re-opening its probe into Hillary Clinton's emails was decisive.
GOP ridiculed for hyping Ohio anti-impeachment protest — and only a handful of Trump supporters showed
The official Twitter of account of the Republican National Committee was buried in mockery after hyping up a video of anti-impeachment protesters in Youngstown, Ohio, where it appears only a handful of people showed up.
According to the tweet, "Ohioans are sick and tired of the Democrats’ impeachment charade. It’s time to STOP THE MADNESS!"
However, in the video from WKBN, which can be seen below, few people chose to show up for the cameras.
As one commenter noted with tongue-in-cheek, "Thought Ohio had a few more people than that."
That was the general consensus in the comments.
McConnell bluntly defends working with Trump to undermine impeachment: ‘We’re on the same side’
Speaking in Kentucky on Friday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blithely blew off concerns about coordinating with Donald Trump's White House on how to handle the president's defense in the expected impeachment trial.
One day after admitting on Fox News that he was working hand-in-hand with the White House on impeachment tactics, McConnell was very blunt about his motivations when asked about his admission.
In a clip shared by MSNBC, the Senate leader was pressed about his plans.
"You told Sean Hannity last night you were coordinating with the White House when it comes to impeachment. Why is that appropriate?" McConnell was asked.