Can You Guess the 2020 Democratic Nominee?

For better or for worse the Democrats do not have a clear front runner going into the presidential primary. With an energized liberal base behind the party and facing a historically unpopular incumbent, over 30 Democrats are potentially running for President. Various panels on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox will waste time spending hours dissecting who has the best chance of winning, but instead here at On the Record we will find the answer in an equally scientific fashion by asking you!

We arranged 32 of the possible candidates in a March Madness style bracket below. The candidates are seeded 1-8 in each quadrant based on the polls and our own expectations. Although there are exceptions the four quadrants are “The Old Guard,” “New Voices,” “Establishment,” and “The Left.” Every day we will tweet out a twitter poll asking you to vote for the winner, so be sure to pay attention and remember to vote!

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This bracket intentionally started early in the cycle, beginning shortly after Elizabeth Warren and Tulsi Gabbard announced their intent to run for president.  During the course of the tournament, Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand announced their candidacy.  Also, Chris Murphy announced that he will not run for president in 2020.  We intentionally held this poll so early in the cycle to get first impressions from people, before their impressions become distorted by campaign messaging.  While the polling method was not scientific, I believe this poll does deliver some interesting insights into perceptions shared by younger voters about possible candidates.

  • The results show that early on, some popular Democrats are Sherrod Brown, Kamala Harris, Beto O’Rourke, Amy Klobuchar, and Chris Murphy.

  • Mayors Pete Buttigieg and Eric Garcetti did better than expected, with Buttigieg doing better against O’Rourke than Klobuchar did, and Garcetti advancing to the quarterfinals all the way to the quarterfinals.

  • Bernie Sanders, Kirsten Gillibrand, and and Elizabeth Warren did worse than expected.  Bernie lost in the first round, Gillibrand lost handily to Klobuchar, and Warren was decisively defeated by Harris.

  • Billionaire candidates faired poorly, with all of them getting eliminated in the first round.  This may have been a simple name-recognition issue for Yang and Schultz, but was a real loss for Bloomberg.

  • Andrew Yang is using Russian-style bots on social media to amplify his message, and which is why he was eliminated after the first round despite technically winning the vote.

Thoughts on Sherrod Brown’s victory

  • While Brown only defeated O’Rourke by one vote and Harris by two, his victory does show significant support because he lacks the celebrity status and name recognition that O’Rourke and Harris have.

  • Brown’s strong progressive credentials, blue collar background, and extensive campaign experience suggest that he is a candidate who could grow more popular as people learn more about him and find an appeal beyond our group of mostly Georgetown student voters.

  • The question our bracket couldn’t answer is if he will have appeal to minority voters, who make up a large portion of the Democrat electorate, and anti-establishment voters looking for change in Washington.  He might struggle with both contingents, and our poll underrepresented those voters.


Final Round

2) Sherrod Brown vs 1) Kamala Harris

The final match is between Senator Sherrod Brown and Senator Kamala Harris. Kamala Harris is an experienced prosecutor and former California Attorney General, while Sherrod Brown brings his experience representing the battleground state of Ohio.

Semifinal Match Ups

1) Beto O’Rourke vs 2) Sherrod Brown

Beto O’Rourke faces Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown. Both men have experience appealing to both red and blue voters while maintaining strong progressive credentials.

1) Kamala Harris vs 2) Elizabeth Warren

California Senator Kamala Harris and Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren face off with a chance to advance to the final round.

Quarterfinal Match Ups

5) Chris Murphy vs 2) Sherrod Brown

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy knocks off top-seeded Joe Biden and advances to face Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown, who has coasted so far through our bracket.

1) Beto O’Rourke vs 3) Amy Klobuchar

Beto O’Rourke faces his toughest match up so far in Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.

1) Kamala Harris vs 2) Cory Booker

California Senator Kamala Harris faces New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. Both have had their names thrown around as potential Democratic Presidential Nominees since 2017, but only one can advance.

8) Eric Garcetti vs 2) Elizabeth Warren

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti looks to continue his underdog run in this bracket. He will have to overcome Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a leading figure in the left wing of the Democratic Party.

Second Round Match Ups

1) Kamala Harris vs 4) Eric Holder

In a match up of two highly successful lawyers, former California Attorney General and current California Senator Kamala Harris faces former US Attorney General Eric Holder.

3) John Kerry vs 2) Cory Booker

John Kerry, 2004 Democratic Presidential Nominee and Former Secretary of State, squares off against New Jersey Senator Cory Booker.

8) Eric Garcetti vs 4) Eric Swalwell

After a surprising upset of Senator Bernie Sanders in the first round, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti faces California Representative Eric Swalwell.

3) Julian Castro vs 2) Elizabeth Warren

Julian Castro, former Mayor of San Antonio and former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, faces Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren.

1) Joe Biden vs 5) Chris Murphy

Former Vice President Joe Biden squares off against Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy after both candidates handily won their first round match.

3) Hillary Clinton vs 2) Sherrod Brown

Hillary Clinton, former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic Presidential Nominee, narrowly survived the first round and faces off against Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown.

1) Beto O’Rourke vs 5) Pete Buttigieg

Beto O’Rourke survived the first round after his competitor was disqualified for receiving >50 votes from bots and fake accounts. He faces Mayor Pete Buttigieg, he narrowly upset his opponent in the first round.

3) Amy Klobuchar vs 2) Kirsten Gillibrand

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar faces New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in a match up between two powerful senators who have proven adept campaigners over the years.

First Round Match Ups

1) Bernie Sanders vs 8) Eric Garcetti

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders looks to improve from his surprisingly impressive 2016 performance in the Democratic Presidential Primary. Will voters give him another chance or will Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garretti move on?

5) Tulsi Gabbard vs 4) Eric Swalwell

Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard faces California Representative Eric Swalwell.

3) Julian Castro vs 6) Mitch Landrieu

Julian Castro, former Mayor of San Antonio and former Secretary of Housing and Human Development under Obama seeks to bring his executive experience to the White House. He faces popular former Mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu.

7) Jay Inslee vs 2) Elizabeth Warren

Washington Governor, Jay Inslee faces Massachusetts Senator and progressive hero Elizabeth Warren.

3) Amy Klobuchar vs 6) Michael Bloomberg

Amy Klobuchar is the popular senior senator from Minnesota. She faces off against billionaire and former Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg.

7) Howard Schultz vs 2) Kirsten Gillibrand

Billionaire and former CEO of Starbucks, Howard Schultz, brings his business knowledge against New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

1) Kamala Harris vs 8) Richard Ojeda

Former Attorney General of California and current Senator of California, Kamala Harris faces Richard Ojeda, a former Army Major and a state senator from West Virginia.

5) Michelle Obama vs 4) Eric Holder

The popular former First Lady is only held back in this bracket by her dislike for politics and the very slim possibility she actually runs for President. However, with 32 candidates in the race the odds of her running are higher than the odds of some other candidates winning, so she is included. Michelle Obama face the former Attorney General under Obama, Eric Holder, who is currently working as a voting rights advocate.

3) John Kerry vs 6) Jeff Merkley

Former Senator, 2004 Democratic Nominee for President, and former Secretary of State, John Kerry faces off against Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley.

7) Seth Moulton vs 2) Cory Booker

Seth Moulton is a Marine Corp officer and current Congressman from Massachusetts. He faces the former Mayor of Newark and popular New Jersey Senator, Cory Booker.

1) Joe Biden vs 8) Michael Bennet

As of writing this, former Vice President Joe Biden has a lead in some of the early polls of presidential hopefuls and is leaning towards running. His challenger, Senator Michael Bennet, is the senior senator from Colorado.

5) Chris Murphy vs 4) Terry McAuliffe

Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy faces off against Hoya and former Governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe

3) Hillary Clinton vs 5) John Delaney

Former First Lady, Senator, Secretary of State, and 2016 Democrat Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton would likely run for president again if she sees a path to victory. Unfortunately, her age and political baggage from decades in public service undercut her sterling resume and name recognition. She faces John Delaney, a Hoya and former Maryland Representative. He was one of the first candidates to announce a run for president.

7) Steve Bullock vs 2) Sherrod Brown

Montana Governor Steve Bullock brings his experience as a popular Democrat governor of a red state to the table. He faces Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown who recently won his reelection in a landslide despite Ohio’s increasingly Republican tilt.

1) Beto O’Rourke* vs 8) Andrew Yang

Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke grabbed the imagination of the Democratic Party nationwide with with his inspiring Senate campaign against Ted Cruz. He faces Andrew Yang, an entrepreneur and founder of the non-profit Venture for America.

*Andrew Yang is disqualified after more than 50 bots and fake accounts voted for him. While we appreciate the Yang Gang’s energy, On the Record will only accept votes from real people.

5) Pete Buttigieg vs 4) John Hickenlooper

Pete Buttigieg is the Mayor of South Bend, Indiana. At one point he was the youngest mayor, and one of the few openly gay mayors, in the country. Soon after his first election he took time off to do a tour of duty in the military. He faces Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, a popular governor known for his bipartisanship.

Max Magid