Democrats grappling with the shock of Hillary Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump are also beginning to turn their attention to 2020, and pondering who could defeat Trump as he vies for reelection.
Here are The Hill’s initial rankings of where the potential candidates stand.
1. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.)
How would the 2016 election have panned out had Warren challenged Clinton in the primary? That’s one of the great unknowables of Democratic politics. But now, there is little doubt that the Massachusetts senator is the leading contender for the 2020 nomination.
Warren, a former Harvard Law School professor, has been beloved by the left throughout her late-blooming political career, largely because of her no-punches-pulled attacks on banks and the financial industry. She got under Trump’s skin via Twitter during the 2016 campaign too.
The recent news that Warren will join the Senate Armed Services Committee in January has stoked speculation that she is looking to bolster her foreign policy and national security credentials in advance of a presidential run. Warren would be 71 by the time of the next election, but she is three years younger than Trump.
2. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)
Sanders came from semi-obscurity in the Senate to give Clinton a serious run for her money in the battle for the Democratic nomination this year.
He won 23 contests and amassed more than 13 million votes. He also fired the enthusiasm of young voters and progressives, two pillars of the Democratic base that Clinton struggled to charm.
The Vermonter’s focus on income inequality and his broader point that the system is rigged against working Americans resonated. Sanders’s main problem when it comes to a 2020 run could be his age. He will be 79 next Election Day. Still, Sanders might well be tempted to try one more time — especially if Warren stood aside.
3. Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.)
Booker raised eyebrows earlier this month when it emerged that he would join the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when the new Congress convenes. As with Warren and the Armed Services panel, his decision was interpreted as an effort to burnish his resume for a potential presidential run.
Booker is just 47, and he is one of only two African-Americans in the Senate for now. (That number will rise to three in January when California’s Kamala Harris will be sworn in.)
He is also one of the most media-savvy members in the upper chamber — a trait that has been apparent since the start of his career, when his first, failed bid to become mayor of Newark was captured in a sympathetic documentary, “Street Fight.”
Booker is far from the most liberal member of the caucus. During the 2012 presidential campaign, he criticized an Obama campaign ad that hit Mitt Romney’s business record, insisting on NBC’s “Meet the Press”, “I’m not about to sit here and indict private equity.”
An optimistic view is that he could bridge the gap between the progressive and center-left strands of the party. Skeptics will question whether he is a little too corporate-friendly for the tastes of Democratic primary voters.