Voters may find themselves conflicted during the primaries due to a crowded field of Democratic candidates who are competing for the 2020 presidency, and politically involved students and activists on campus are facing similar challenges.
Following the Democrats’ triumph in the House of Representatives during the 2018 midterm elections, a range of diverse candidates have entered the race for president. Narrowing down the options may be difficult for voters because many of the candidates appear to be promoting similar concerns: health care, climate change awareness, education reform and jobs for the middle class.
Eighteen Democratic candidates officially announced they are running for office as of April 14:
- Sen. Bernie Sanders
- Sen. Elizabeth Warren
- Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
- Sen. Kamala Harris
- Sen. Cory Booker
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar
- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee
- former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper
- Rep. Tim Ryan
- Rep. Eric Swalwell
- former members of Congress John Delaney and Beto O’Rourke
- South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg
- former San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro
- Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam
- author Marianne Williamson
- Iraq War veteran Tulsi Gabbard
- businessman Andrew Yang
“I think the overall quality of the field is really high. We have people who are senators, mayors, congressman and people who have state government experience as their background. We definitely have a wide range of experience here,” political science Professor Lysa Burnier said.
Former vice president and front-runner in the 2020 Democratic primary, Joe Biden, is considering running, although he has not indicated a decision yet.
“Vice President Biden is almost certain to run. I believe we could see an announcement from him before the end of this month,” Bailey Williams, Ohio University College Democrats president, said in an email. “When he enters the race, he will certainly add a factor to the race no other candidate can bring, being a former vice president. He also has the luxury of high name recognition and being the right hand man to the most popular figure in the Democratic Party, former President Barack Obama.”
Campaigns have long since begun as the Iowa caucuses are several months away, and the Democratic field is more crowded than ever. The number of candidates may put extra pressure on voters to do their own research before deciding who to endorse simply because many of the candidates’ concerns align, making it difficult to choose between them.
“I think it puts a big burden on voters to have to go in and see what the details are. Whenever candidates match up on big picture things, it puts the burden on voters to really dig deep and make decisions about what they want,” Burnier said.
The 2020 election will reflect a more diverse Democratic field than in 2016. Ideology, age, race, gender and sexual orientation are all factors that distinguish the candidates from one another.
“We will get to see numerous candidates trying to distinguish themselves from others in the field by working on sound and creative policy proposals, which only helps push the innovation of the party itself. I also think we won't have voters stuck in the "us vs. them" mentality that I think was an issue in the 2016 primary,” Williams said in an email.
Historically, the size of the field can influence how voters respond to the candidates and how the primary will play out. The Democratic Party has moved toward more progressive politics by embracing a broader range of policies, but they still haven’t presented a unified front.
Williams said confirmed candidates will either focus on supporting a strong policy to show voters they have a potential answer to a problem, or they will work an electability angle by trying to garner the votes of swing states.
“I think candidates can distinguish themselves early on with a clear and concise message that is backed by plans to implement policies,” Meah McCallister, the incoming president for the OUCDs, said in an email. “Transparency is one aspect I think every voter wants to see from a candidate and by being honest with people, trust can grow. I also think candidates who can bring something new to the table are refreshing and help diversify the choices for voters. While many are worried that more candidates will fracture the party, I think this will make the election much more interesting.”