- The field of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates is the largest ever, with 19 campaigns vying for the nomination and at least one more to come soon.
- The pace at which Democrats have announced is stunning. At this point in 2015, just three Republicans and one Democrat had jumped into the race.
- Candidates will have to properly balance their campaigns or face the prospect of burning out too quickly.
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There are 19 Democrats running for president in 2020, with at least one more high-profile candidate likely to announce as soon as Wednesday in former Vice President Joe Biden. The amount of candidate is a record, beating out the Republican Party’s 16 candidates who ran in the 2016 primaries.
But more striking than the overall number of candidates running in 2020, is the sheer pace at which they are announcing their bids for the White House. At this point in 2015, only three Republicans and one Democrat had formally announced their campaigns. There could be 20 Democrats and two Republicans by the end of the week.
As of April 22, 2015, Hillary Clinton was the only major Democrat in the race, having announced her campaign in a video on April 12. Clinton would later hold an official launch in June of 2015.
The first Republican to jump in the 2016 race was Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who announced his bid on March 23, 2015. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio would announce their candidacies on April 7 and 13 of 2015, respectively.
Fast forward to the 2020 election cycle and Democrats are all chomping at the bit to get their campaigns underway and challenge President Donald Trump in his reelection fight.
In a strange and unique approach, then-Maryland Rep. John Delaney announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination in July of 2017, less than six months after Trump’s inauguration. Delaney would go on to spend nearly two years using his vast personal wealth to make stops in early voting states like Iowa and New Hampshire, forgoing reelection in 2018.
Shortly after the 2018 midterm elections, the Democratic field began to take shape. West Virginia State Sen. Richard Ojeda announced a presidential run five days after losing his US House race in November, only to drop out of the race in January. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang, whose candidacy has used the powerful tools of virality to build a strong set of donors and boost name recognition, jumped in the race November 6.
Then came the avalanche. Between December 2018 and March 2019, 13 more Democrats would announce they are running for president. The group is comprised of current and former senators, representatives, governors, mayors, cabinet secretaries, and one outsider. In April, five more Democrats have jumped in the race and one Republican in former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld announced he would challenge Trump for the GOP nomination.
The pace of candidates announces their campaigns is truly unprecedented. For context, Trump’s famous ride down the escalator into the Trump Tower lobby to announce his bid would not occur for another two months if this were 2015.
We could see 2020 candidates start to crash and burn soon
A big field means scarce resources, whether that is in the form of earning enough media exposure to build name recognition, donations, or being able to staff one’s campaign with top talent to build a formidable political operation.
Important figures to watch as the election cycle heats up are if candidates are raising enough money as well as how fast they burn through cash.
In September of 2015, the Republican field saw its first two drop outs of the GOP primary. First former Texas Gov. Rick Perry dropped out, followed by then-Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Before primary voting actually began, five more Republicans dropped out, while 11 others would spend several grueling months in the race.
Walker had initially entered the primary with a lot of buzz. He had repeatedly won tough race after tough race, including a recall election. But Walker’s campaign floundered.
Walker burned through money at a breakneck speed, spending almost $7 million in the final two months of his short lived campaign. His staff size was more than 80, doling out big checks to consultants and vendors as well. Over-extending the size of campaign can be very dangerous if not done properly, as evidenced by Walker.
Democrats in this election’s field are already struggling to find sufficient donations, which are also crucial for candidates who do not want to be excluded from the Democratic National Committee’s sanctioned debates starting this summer. Candidates must meet certain criteria, one of which is receiving donations from at least 65,000 individuals.
The 2020 race is already taking shape at a record pace, which means candidates could begin struggle any minute. There is no perfect playbook to winning a hotly contested primary, but keeping your campaign above water financially is of utmost importance, especially in a crowded field.
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