Sat, 04 Apr 2020

Less than nine months out from the 2020 United States presidential election, the pool of Democratic candidates vying for their party's nomination continues to shrink.

There are now only eight candidates in the race, down from more than 25 earlier this year. The field is likely to continue to shrink as leading candidates pull away in the polls and as the race heats up.

So far, the Democrats have held nine debates. The next one is scheduled for Tuesday ahead of South Carolina's primary on Saturday.

So far, Senator Bernie Sanders has emerged as the frontrunner, winning the popular vote in the Iowa caucuses, as well as claiming victory in New Hampshire's primary and Nevada caucuses.

As the field narrows, here is a look at the current 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls.

Joe Biden, 77

Joe Biden served as vice president under former President Barack Obama from 2009 to 2017 after nearly four decades serving as a senator from Delaware.

Biden is the most experienced politician in the race and among the oldest at 77. This will be his third presidential run. His first White House bid in 1987 ended after a plagiarism scandal.

In a video announcement of his candidacy posted on April 25, Biden focused on the 2017 deadly clash between white supremacists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. Biden noted US President Donald Trump's comments that there were some "very fine people" on both sides of the violent encounter, which left one woman dead.

"We are in the battle for the soul of this nation," Biden said. "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."

Last year, Biden struggled to respond to comments from Lucy Flores, a 2014 lieutenant governor nominee in Nevada, who said he made her uncomfortable by touching her shoulders and kissing the back of her head before a campaign event. Several other women have made similar claims.

Former Vice President Joe Biden. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

In a video, Biden pledged to be "more mindful" of respecting "personal space", but Flores told Fox News this week that the former senator's jokes on the matter have been "so incredibly disrespectful".

The incident is just a glimpse of the harsh vetting from both Democrats and Republicans expected for Biden, who has run for president twice before but never from such a strong political starting position.

Last year, he was also repeatedly forced to explain his 1991 decision, as Senate Judiciary Committee chairman to allow Anita Hill to face questions about her allegations of sexual harassment against Clarence Thomas, then a nominee for the Supreme Court.

Biden has since apologised for his role in the hearing. But in the #MeToo era, it is another example of why critics believe he may struggle to catch on with the Democratic primary voters of 2020.

Biden was also becoming a prominent figure in the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry of Trump. That probe is centred on a July 25 phone call in which Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to investigate Biden and his businessman son, Hunter.

Democrats have accused Trump of pressuring Ukraine to find incriminating information on Biden after withholding nearly $400m in US security aid to Ukraine. There has been no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens. In December, the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives impeached Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The president was acquitted in February.

Biden has made all debate stages during this campaign season, but has struggled to maintain his early momentum.

Michael Bloomberg, 77

Michael Bloomberg served as New York City mayor from 2002 to 2013.

The 77-year-old billionaire who entered the race in November is foregoing the four states with the earliest primaries and caucuses, focusing instead on states like California that vote on Super Tuesday.

"We cannot afford four more years of President Trump's reckless and unethical actions," the former mayor said, announcing his candidacy. "He represents an existential threat to our country and our values. If he wins another term in office, we may never recover from the damage."

Many have criticised Bloomberg for his run, accusing him of trying to buy the presidency.

"I understand that rich people are going to have more shoes than the rest of us, they're going to have more cars than the rest of us, they're going to have more houses," said Senator Elizabeth Warren, a frontrunner.

Democratic presidential candidate, former New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg leaves the stage after talking to supporters at a rally. (AFP)

Michael Bloomberg served as New York City mayor from 2002 to 2013.

The 77-year-old billionaire who entered the race in November is foregoing the four states with the earliest primaries and caucuses, focusing instead on states like California that vote on Super Tuesday.

"We cannot afford four more years of President Trump's reckless and unethical actions," the former mayor said, announcing his candidacy. "He represents an existential threat to our country and our values. If he wins another term in office, we may never recover from the damage."

Many have criticised Bloomberg for his run, accusing him of trying to buy the presidency.

"I understand that rich people are going to have more shoes than the rest of us, they're going to have more cars than the rest of us, they're going to have more houses," said Senator Elizabeth Warren, a frontrunner.

Senator Bernie Sanders slammed Bloomberg even before his formal announcement.

"I'm disgusted by the idea that Michael Bloomberg or any billionaire thinks they can circumvent the political process and spend tens of millions of dollars to buy elections," Sanders tweeted amid speculation Bloomberg would enter the race.

Bloomberg has joined The Giving Pledge campaign, promising to give away at least half his wealth to charity organisations.

He angered many minority voters during his 12 years in the mayor's office for embracing and defending the controversial "stop-and-frisk" police strategy, despite its disproportionate effect on people of colour.

Facing an African-American congregation in Brooklyn, Bloomberg apologised and acknowledged it often led to the detention of minorities.

The apology was received sceptically by many prominent activists who noted it was made as he was taking steps to enter the presidential race.

Running an unconventional race with no donations, Bloomberg had failed to qualify for most of the debates. He took the debate stage in February for the first time. He is also not participating in the first four state primaries and caucuses. He has instead turned his attention to states holding their voting contests on March 3, also known as Super Tuesday.

Pete Buttigieg, 38

Pete Buttigieg has served as mayor of South Bend, Indiana, since 2012.

Before that, Buttigieg was a consultant for McKinsey and Company.

He is the first openly gay Democratic candidate to run for president. He announced his presidential bid on January 23, 2019.

There are no policy positions on his website. He has virtually no paid presence in the states that matter most. And his campaign manager is a high-school friend with no experience in presidential politics.

Democratic presidential candidate, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaks supporters on February 04, 2020 in Laconia, New Hampshire. Buttigieg holds a narrow lead over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in the Iowa caucuses after an app used by the state Democratic Party to count results caused overnight delays, according to published reports. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Despite this, he has suddenly become one of the hottest names in the Democrats' presidential primary season. On the campaign trail, he has frequently spoken about the struggle to legalise same-sex marriage.

He has also repeatedly criticised Vice President Mike Pence for his views that undermine LGBT rights.

"I'm not critical of his faith; I'm critical of bad policies. I don't have a problem with religion. I'm religious, too. I have a problem with religion being used as a justification to harm people and especially in the LGBT community," Buttigieg said in an interview with NBC's The Ellen DeGeneres Show last year.

Buttigieg has qualified for all debates so far and mounted an impressive race in Iowa.

Tulsi Gabbard, 38

Tulsi Gabbard has served as a US congresswoman from Hawaii's second district since 2013.

Gabbard is the first Hindu member of Congress. At the age of 21, she became the youngest to be elected to a US state legislature serving in the Hawaii House of Representatives.

She has also served in the Hawaii Army National Guard in a combat zone in Iraq and was deployed to Kuwait.

She was a fierce opponent of same-sex marriage when she served in the state legislature in her 20s. But she has since disavowed those views and professes her support for LGBT rights.

Critics have pounced on her efforts to block the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Hawaii and a meeting she held with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Earlier this year, she penned an opinion piece responding to media reports about her alleged ties to Hindu nationalists.

"While the headlines covering my announcement could have celebrated this landmark first, and maybe even informed Americans about the world's third-largest religion, some have instead fomented suspicion, fear and religious bigotry about not only me but also my supporters," she wrote.

Gabbard officially launched her presidential campaign on February 2, 2019.

Gabbard qualified for the first two debates, but failed to do so for the third. She did qualify, however, for the October and November events, but she failed to meet the requirements for the other debates.

Amy Klobuchar, 59

Amy Klobuchar served as a US senator from Minnesota since 2007, becoming her state's first elected female senator.j

Before joining the Senate, she was the Hennepin County lawyer.

Klobuchar gained national attention in 2018 when she sparred with Brett Kavanaugh during Senate hearings for his Supreme Court nomination.

Senator Amy Klobuchar (Photo: Getty Images)

She announced her presidential run on February 10, 2019.

On the campaign trail, the former prosecutor and corporate lawyer supports an alternative to traditional Medicare healthcare funding and is taking a hard stance against rising prescription medicine prices.

She has qualified for all debates so far and has had what analysts say is an impressive showing in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Bernie Sanders, 78

Bernie Sanders served as a US representative for 16 years before being elected to the Senate in 2006 where he currently represents the state of Vermont.

A progressive and cofounder of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, he is the longest-serving independent congressman in its history.

Sanders announced his presidential run on February 19, 2019. Sanders ran an unsuccessful bid for president in 2016 after losing to Hillary Clinton.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) speaks during a campaign rally at Vic Mathias Shores Park on February 23, 2020 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

In the 2020 race, Sanders will have to fight to stand out in a packed field of progressives touting issues he brought into the Democratic Party mainstream four years ago.

His proposals include free tuition at public colleges, a $15 minimum hourly wage and universal healthcare.

He benefits from strong name recognition and a robust network of small-dollar donors, helping him to raise $5.9m during his first day in the contest.

Since then, he has qualified for all the debates held so far and remains the frontrunner.

Tom Steyer, 62

Tom Steyer, a billionaire donor and liberal activist, announced on July 9, 2019, he was joining the Democratic presidential field after initially saying he would not run to focus his attention on impeaching Trump and getting fellow Democrats elected to Congress.

"There's a breakdown in Washington DC, and I don't mean just Donald Trump," Steyer tweeted in a thread announcing his candidacy. "I'm talking about corporate money and our broken political system."

The 62-year-old is one of the most visible and deep-pocketed liberals advocating for Trump's impeachment. But he has previously said he has grown frustrated at the pace at which the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives is approaching Trump.

Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer speaks at the South Carolina Democratic Party "First in the South" dinner on February 24, 2020 in Charleston, South Carolina. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP)Tom Steyer, the founder of NextGen Climate, speaks during the California Democratic Convention in San Francisco, California [File: Stephen Lam/Reuters]

His announcement made no mention of the impeachment issue, instead focusing on why he believes there is a need to reduce the influence of corporations in politics. He also said he plans to target climate change, which is the focus of the Steyer-backed advocacy group NextGen America.

Citing issues including climate change and the opioid crisis, Steyer said that in nearly every "major intractable problem, at the back of it, you see a big-money interest for whom stopping progress, stopping justice is really important to their bottom line".

Steyer announced his presidential bid after the first presidential debate in June. He failed to make the debate stage in July and September. But he did qualify for the October, November, December, January and February debates. He will not be on the stage on Wednesday night.

Elizabeth Warren, 70

Elizabeth Warren has served as a US senator from Massachusetts since 2013.

Warren, known as a progressive, taught law at several universities and was a Harvard professor.

Warren is a leader of the party's liberals and a fierce Wall Street critic who was instrumental in creating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Elizabeth Warren, senator from Massachusetts. (Photo: Getty Images)

Earlier this year, she apologised to the Cherokee Nation for taking a DNA test to prove her claims to Native American ancestry, an assertion that has prompted Trump to mockingly refer to her as "Pocahontas".

She announced her presidential run on February 9, 2019. She has promised to fight what she calls a "rigged economic system" that favours the wealthy.

She recently unveiled a student loan forgiveness proposal that would cancel up to $50 000 of debt for millions of US citizens. She also supports free college tuition for students at two and four-year institutions.

Warren has qualified for all the debates so far. She did not perform as well as many had expected in New Hampshire.

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