2020 election guide: The Dem contenders vying to unseat Trump

March 5, 2020

An already tumultuous election season has seen 25 Democrats drop out of a packed race for the White House. Three candidates remain.

Here’s what you need to know about the Democrats looking to unseat President Donald Trump — and what they claim they’re going to do.

Candidates are listed alphabetically.

Joe Biden

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaking to supporters at St. George Greek Orthodox Cathedral, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, during a campaign event in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Claim to fame: Joe Biden is former vice president under Barack Obama and former Democratic senator from Delaware.

Official website: JoeBiden.com


Biden claims he’s the only candidate who can beat Trump, touting his experience in Washington. Before serving two terms as vice president under Obama, Biden represented Delaware in the Senate for 36 years.

Education: Biden favors making two years of community college (or technical school) free. He, as well as many other Dem candidates, also supports expanding or fixing debt-relief programs for students. Teachers would also see a significant pay boost.

Guns: Biden, who helped author the 1994 federal assault weapons ban (which expired in 2013) has called for a new assault weapons ban. He has said that he would support a nationwide voluntary buyback program for assault weapons and would not move to confiscate previously purchased guns. He’s in favor of universal background checks.

Health care: Biden opposes Medicare for All but would expand coverage, a view shared by several other candidates. He has said that there should be some limits when it comes to abortion later in pregnancy. He also believes that the Affordable Care Act, while imperfect, is strong enough to build upon. He also supports Medicare price negotiations as well as linking drug prices to what they are in other developed countries.

Immigration: Biden supports a path to citizenship for Dreamers (immigrants brought to the U.S. as children), as do most Democratic candidates. He says that criminal penalties for illegal border crossings should stay in place.

Marijuana: Biden is out of step with most of his contemporaries when it comes to marijuana. He doesn’t want to legalize it but would move to decriminalize it at the federal level. He would also eliminate past criminal convictions (most Democratic candidates share this view).

Military: Biden supports a larger defense budget. He also supports keeping troops deployed amid concerns that pulling U.S. military forces out of conflict regions would leave a power vacuum.

Taxes: Biden would increase the capital gains tax for those who make more than $1 million. He’s in favor of raising the corporate tax rate to 28% and imposing a 15% minimum on companies that make at least $100 million in profits. He would also raise taxes on wealthy individuals in the top tax bracket to 36.9% with a 28% cap on tax breaks for them. He supports a carbon tax.

Tulsi Gabbard

Democratic presidential contender Tulsi Gabbard at a Martin Luther King Jr. Day rally on Monday, Jan. 20, 2020, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

Claim to fame: Tulsi Gabbard is a Democratic U.S. representative from Hawaii and an Iraq War veteran.

Official website: Tulsi2020.com


Gabbard’s key issue has been her opposition to the U.S. getting involved in foreign wars. She claims to be a hawk when it comes to Islamic terrorism but a dove on wars of regime change. However, her willingness to meet with authoritarians in other countries has placed her outside the party norm.

Education: Gabbard has pushed for tuition-free and fee-free community college as well as free four-year college for working- and middle-class students. She also wants to expand and improve debt-relief programs.

Guns: Gabbard is in favor of an assault weapons ban, specifically calling for the 1994 bill’s reinstatement. She is also in favor of universal background checks.

Health care: Gabbard has said the U.S. health care system needs an overhaul. On her website, she says she supports “a single-payer system that will allow individuals to access private insurance if they choose” as well as a national health care system. Like many of her Democratic rivals, Gabbard believes in few limits, if any, for women seeking abortions.

Immigration: Gabbard supports creating a path for citizenship for Dreamers. She would also look for asylum reform.

Marijuana: Gabbard favors federal legalization of marijuana, calling the war on drugs a “failure.” Like many of her peers, Gabbard would toss previous convictions.

Military: Gabbard has repeatedly called foreign wars a waste of American tax dollars and resources. She favors cutting the defense budget and bringing the troops back to the U.S.

Taxes: Gabbard has not talked about her tax plan too much during her campaign but she has supported incentives that encourage veteran-owned small businesses and businesses helping pay off workers’ student loans. She has also come out against corporate tax breaks.

Bernie Sanders

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., pauses while speaking at a campaign stop at Stevens High School, Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020, in Claremont, N.H. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Claim to fame: Bernie Sanders is a Democratic U.S. senator from Vermont. Unsuccessfully ran against Hillary Clinton for the 2016 nomination.

Official website: BernieSanders.com


A longtime political activist, Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, has become an icon of the progressive left. He is a staunch advocate for working families as well as economic reform. He has served in Congress since 1991, largely as an Independent. He has won a variety of endorsements from more left-leaning Democrats.

Education: Sanders wants all public colleges and universities to be free, with states covering 33% of the cost and the federal government covering the rest. He would also move to cancel the full $1.6 trillion in student debt. Sanders also wants to boost teacher pay with a minimum $60,000 starting salary.

Guns: Sanders supports a federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines as well as a national buyback program. He’s in favor of universal background checks and closing gun show loopholes.

Health care: Sanders is a vociferous proponent of Medicare for All — a universal health care system that covers all medical costs, paid for through taxes, is the only one he says he’ll accept. On drug prices, Sanders wants to create a new federal bureau to set prices based on the prices of drugs in other first-world countries. He believes in few, if any, limits on abortion.

Immigration: Sanders believes in a path to citizenship for Dreamers. He would also expand DACA and break up both ICE and CBP. Sanders says he would eliminate family separation at the border. He would also decriminalize illegal border crossings and will not support funding a border wall.

Marijuana: Sanders would legalize marijuana on the federal level and toss out past pot convictions. He also wants to create a grant through the USDA that would help people start their own marijuana farms.

Military: Sanders would cut the defense budget and bring U.S. troops home, despite concerns that pulling them out of conflict regions would leave a power vacuum.

Taxes: Sanders wants to end tax breaks for households with an income above $250,000. He would also end tax breaks for corporations that establish headquarters in tax havens in an effort to lower or eliminate their tax responsibilities. He also wants to create an extreme wealth tax, starting at 1% for those worth $32 million with an 8% cap for those with over $10 billion. Sanders supports taxing financial trades. He does not support a carbon tax.

Who dropped out

The Democratic field started with a massive number of candidates. Many of them have pulled out after poor showings. They are:

Michael Bennet, Cory Booker, Steve Bullock, Julián Castro, Bill de Blasio, Michael Bloomberg, Pete Buttigieg, John Delaney, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, John Hickenlooper, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Wayne Messam, Seth Moulton, Beto O’Rourke, Tim Ryan, Joe Sestak, Tom Steyer, Eric Swalwell, Elizabeth Warren, Marianne Williamson and Andrew Yang.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Writer/Editor for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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