A Presidential Preview: Your Guide to the 2020 Race, So Far

Roy Zhu '21, Co-Editor in Chief

The Incumbent: President Donald J. Trump

Our 45th and current President, Donald Trump, is almost certainly going to be the Republican nominee for President in 2020. While intra-party challenges are not totally unknown for the Presidency, the Republican National Committee has indicated that it will throw the full weight of its support and funding to help Trump, including taking steps state-by-state that will reinforce Trump’s safe standing against possible Republican challengers. That being said, let’s look at Trump’s achievements so far, and what to look forward to during his 2020 run:

Likely Platform: In terms of achievements, Trump’s strongest platform is that of jobs growth and economic development. The President has frequently referenced the country’s upward trending economy as a personal achievement, including record-low unemployment rates among all Americans and record high wages for middle class workers. Perhaps the most significant piece of legislation signed into law by Trump so far has been his tax overhaul, which sought to simplify the tax-filing process, lowering tax rates and increasing certain tax deductions such as the Child Tax Credit. The effects of his tax cuts have been mixed; companies paid less in taxes and temporarily invested more while national GDP jumped upwards. However, recent IRS tax returns from early filers have indicated that net tax returns under the new law have actually gone negative, an ominous report that may bode poorly for Trump’s economic platform. Nevertheless, IRS tax returns aren’t fully back yet, and Trump can still bank on the nation’s sustained economic growth.

Other Achievements: Trump supporters can rejoice over other achievements Trump has proclaimed, such as the appointment of conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court, the success of US troops in fighting ISIS long-term, the candid attitude Trump has taken on confronting Chinese economic aggression, the US-Canada-Mexico trade deal (a NAFTA remake), and the cancellation of policies such as the Iran Nuclear Deal and the Paris Climate Accord. Of course, Trump’s ability to strengthen border security through his landmark wall will be tested over the remainder of his presidency and will most definitely influence his future campaign.

The Challengers:


Elizabeth Warren

 Likely Platform: Protecting America’s middle class from corporations and corruption. Warren has envisioned herself as a champion for the American middle class since her days in Congress, and has shown that she is not afraid of holding corporations accountable for what she deems are unfair business practices. She has recently been a fierce critic of the Trump Cabinet’s laundry list of political scandals, and has vowed to make sweeping anti-corruption reforms. Warren has branded herself as a relentless fighter eager to call out wealthy “fat cats”, and will hope to extend her populist reputation outside of Massachusetts.

Weaknesses: Warren has struggled to put the issue of her alleged Native American ancestry behind her, and her political opponents will likely call her out for responding to Trump’s tweets by releasing equivocal DNA results. A bigger issue will be the recent revelation that Warren listed herself as Native American on a law firm application, possibly to advance her own career. 


Cory Booker

Likely platform: Unity. Booker’s signature approach to the 2020 election will be one of reconciliation and a focus on working together to solve social issues. Inside a church advertising “radical hospitality” in Iowa, Booker discussed erasing lines that divide and restoring American values and unity in the wake of a deeply divided country.Weaknesses: Booker has been criticized for having too much of a dramatic flair, and his message of full reconciliation will likely face attacks within his own party for being too complacent and too reluctant to point out real issues or holding opponents responsible.


Amy Klobuchar

Likely Platform: Healthcare, particularly in solving the opioid crisis and increasing access to drugs. Klobuchar will likely further develop specific campaign platforms as her campaign progresses, but she has been known for her vocal support of reducing health care costs, creating universal healthcare, and increasing the availability of generic, less expensive medicine. Klobuchar has cultivated a portfolio on a wide array of issues, maintaining a mostly moderate stance that has helped her consistently win elections by a comfortable margin in a purple state. Perhaps her greatest advantage is her ability to gain support in the Midwest as a hometown Minnesota senator, an area that has proven to be a critical bellwether for Democratic performance in general elections.

Weaknesses: Klobuchar will need to focus on increasing her visibility and developing a unique voice for herself if she hopes to distinguish herself from an increasingly crowded Democratic field. She has also faced allegations of anger issues before, including throwing office supplies and being overly harsh on her staffers.


Julian Castro

Likely Platform: The former Secretary of Housing under President Obama and longtime mayor of San Antonio has a well-rounded campaign platform. Among other issues, he supports rejoining the Paris Climate Treaty and working with businesses to promote renewable energy, providing universal pre-K and two free years of college, banning assault weapons, establishing universal healthcare, withdrawing US troops from Syria, and allowing transgender citizens to join the military. Castro has been a harsh and vocal critic of Trump’s immigration policy, calling himself an “antidote to Trump” due to his immigrant roots and criticizing Trump’s border wall. Castro wants a path for citizenship for undocumented immigrants and has supported “reconstituting” ICE.

 Weaknesses: Castro’s main issue is his visibility. He is fairly unknown outside of Texas, and will not be able to claim achievements based on his voting record like many of his more experienced colleagues in Congress. Castro has been criticized for not being tough enough on banks after the 2008 recession in his role as HUD secretary, but is largely free from major controversy.


Kirsten Gillibrand

Likely Platform: Women’s rights. Gillibrand has portrayed herself as a champion of women’s equality, being one of the first to call out Bill Clinton and Sen. Al Franken for sexual misconduct within her own party. Her first speech as candidate was held at a women’s march in Iowa, and she described herself as a “young mom” and defender of the rights of future generations. She supports paid family leave for new parents and those with sick family members, increased protection for victims of sexual assault, and Medicare-for-all.  

Weaknesses: While Gillibrand expects to capitalize on the large female voter base in the Democratic primaries, she may have trouble expanding her campaign to be more populist. As a corporate lawyer, Gillibrand has represented major tobacco companies and was once a major Wall Street fundraiser. Gillibrand has an interesting record as a lawmaker; as a Congresswoman from wealthy upstate New York, she once held much more conservative views, such as accelerating immigrant deportations and increasing hunting on public lands. She later reversed her position on these policies, leading to her NRA rating dropping from A to F. While many of her supporters see Gillibrand as authentic, it remains to be seen as to whether her past policy reversals will hurt her in the primaries.


Kamala Harris

Likely Platform: Criminal justice reform, healthcare, and the middle class. One of Harris’ boldest proposals is giving low-income families up to $6000 a year in the form of a tax credit. Harris hopes to tackle income inequality and the rising cost of housing in America in her crusade to support the middle class. Harris also wants to reform the cash bail system, which she says makes it easier for the wealthy to stay out of jail. She supports raising the minimum wage to $15, tuition-free higher education, and Medicare-for-All. She made headlines recently for her support of marijuana legalization, revealing lightheartedly that she smoked the drug during college. 

Weaknesses: Harris has faced criticism for involving herself too much in identity politics, and her record as a California state prosecutor and district attorney is mixed; while she considers herself a reform-minded prosecutor, some have pointed out her failure to support investigations of police brutality and to stop mass incarcerations, as well as her prior support of the death penalty, as counter to her progressive image. Nevertheless, Harris is considered a frontrunner for the presidency.

Don’t leave out… these other major candidates in the running: Hawaii Senator Tulsi Gabbard, South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg, former Maryland congressman John Delaney, author Marianne Williamson, former candidate Bernie Sanders, former VP Joe Biden, former mayor and businessman Michael Bloomberg, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and former tech executive Andrew Yang.