The race for the Democratic presidential nomination is a wide-open contest with no clear front-runner for the first time in years. 

While former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Trump finalizing executive order calling on police to use ‘force with compassion’ The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook MORE, Rep. Beto O’RourkeBeto O’RourkeBiden will help close out Texas Democrats’ virtual convention: report O’Rourke on Texas reopening: ‘Dangerous, dumb and weak’ Parties gear up for battle over Texas state House MORE (Texas), and Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Milley apologizes for church photo-op Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Joint Chiefs chairman says he regrets participating in Trump photo-op | GOP senators back Joint Chiefs chairman who voiced regret over Trump photo-op | Senate panel approves 0B defense policy bill Trump on collision course with Congress over bases with Confederate names MORE (Mass.) have drawn a lot of attention, Democrats say the 2020 race is anybody’s game. 


It’s a race that is expected to attract dozens of candidates, from big city mayors such as Los Angeles’s Eric Garcetti to bright new political stars such as former Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Stacey Abrams, who narrowly lost her bid to win Georgia’s governorship. 

Democratic House lawmakers, including Reps. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellNASCAR bans display of Confederate flag from events and properties Gloves come off as Democrats fight for House seat in California Grenell says intelligence community working to declassify Flynn-Kislyak transcripts MORE (Calif.) and John DelaneyJohn DelaneyThe Hill’s Coronavirus Report: Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas says country needs to rethink what ‘policing’ means; US cases surpass 2 million with no end to pandemic in sight Minnesota AG Keith Ellison says racism is a bigger problem than police behavior; 21 states see uptick in cases amid efforts to reopen The Hill’s Coronavirus Report: Singapore Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan says there will be consequences from fraying US-China relations; WHO walks back claims on asymptomatic spread of virus MORE (Md.) — who has already announced his candidacy — are also in the mix.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if it is a dark horse candidate — somebody we haven’t even thought about —who ends up getting the nomination,” said Democratic strategist Maria Cardona. 

Here are five dark horse contenders who could win it. And a warning: There may be others.

Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Democrats demand Republican leaders examine election challenges after Georgia voting chaos Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE

The Minnesota senator has long been on lists of 2020 contenders, but always seems to be in the second breath behind other female colleagues in the Senate — including Warren, Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisRand Paul introduces bill to end no-knock warrants The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook McEnany says Juneteenth is a very ‘meaningful’ day to Trump MORE (Calif.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandWarren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Warren, Pressley introduce bill to make it a crime for police officers to deny medical care to people in custody Senate Dems press DOJ over coronavirus safety precautions in juvenile detention centers MORE (N.Y.). 

But Klobuchar shouldn’t be underestimated. 

A new poll of Iowa voters showed she’s in the mix in the neighboring state, and she won national attention during the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughGOP senators urge Trump to back off Murkowski threat Judd Gregg: A government in free fall The 7 most anticipated Supreme Court decisions MORE. 

“She showed a lot of grit,” said Democratic strategist Patti Solis Doyle, who served as campaign manager during Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonWhite House accuses Biden of pushing ‘conspiracy theories’ with Trump election claim Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness Trayvon Martin’s mother Sybrina Fulton qualifies to run for county commissioner in Florida MORE’s 2008 presidential bid.  

In a year when women have dominated in politics across the board, Solis Doyle and others say Klobuchar should be a top contender. 

“There is no way that the Democratic Party will have two white men on the ticket in 2020 so each female candidate thinking about running should be given a close look,” she said.  

One key advantage for Klobuchar that could help her in comparison to colleagues Harris and Warren is that she hails from the Midwest, an area Democrats must win back from President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE in 2020. 

Mitch Landrieu 

The former New Orleans mayor caught the eye of Democrats after he delivered a powerful speech last year on the removal of Confederate monuments from his city. 

The speech went viral, leaving some wondering if a red-state Democrat like Landrieu could take the party by storm. 

Landrieu has kept a relatively low profile since leaving his mayoral office and Democrats who have spoken to him say he’s considering his options. 

Some Democrats see him as a candidate who could stand out in the crowd even as the party increasingly tacks left. 

“Before Obama, the two biggest Democratic dark horses have been Democrats holding local office, Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonWill the ‘law and order’ president pardon Roger Stone? Five ways America would take a hard left under Joe Biden The sad spectacle of Trump’s enablers MORE and Jimmy Carter,” said Democratic strategist Brad Bannon. “The South is becoming ever so slowly more friendly to Democrats. Landrieu could capitalize on that trend.”

Steve Bullock

Who can beat Trump? Maybe someone who won reelection handily in a state the president won solidly. 

Bullock, the governor of Montana, can tout his experience working with a legislative body that is largely Republican while presiding over a state economy with record-low unemployment and growth in industries including manufacturing. 

He’s shown all the signs that he’s prepared to launch a presidential bid, traveling to Iowa several times this year and quietly making the rounds on the fundraising circuit. 

He still lacks name recognition and that’s what’s hurting him now, one major Democratic donor said. 

“I’ll talk about him and the overwhelming reaction is ‘Who?’ If he fixes that, I think a lot of people will give him a good look,” the donor said.

Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownHillicon Valley: Senators raise concerns over government surveillance of protests | Amazon pauses police use of its facial recognition tech | FBI warns hackers are targeting mobile banking apps Democratic senators raise concerns over government surveillance of protests Some realistic solutions for income inequality MORE

Democrats have been desperately hunting to find someone who could appeal to centrists and progressives alike and some see Brown, an Ohio senator who just won reelection in a state carried by Trump, as the solution. 

If Democrats can win back Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan, they’d likely win the White House. Brown, a liberal on social policies who can sound like Trump on trade, is seen as someone who could appeal to voters in those states as well as his home state of Ohio. 

Brown has sounded more like a candidate testing a national message his his reelection victory, and it’s a message that has been geared to working-class Democrats. 

“Sherrod Brown has been a champion for America’s workers his entire career and America is just now catching on,” said Seth Bringman, a Democratic strategist who hails from Ohio. “He doesn’t cede one inch on progressive values and yet he wins Ohio handily because he is a fighter for struggling families at his very core.” 

Jay Inslee

The Washington governor’s profile has been on the rise in recent years and he has been drawing eyes to his policies and politics with appearances on national television. 

Most notably, he garnered attention after his state’s legal victories in blocking Trump’s travel ban last year. “He got thumped,” Inslee told CNN at the time, hitting back at Trump. 

More recently, he has sought to highlight climate change, an issue that will inevitably appeal to the base. 

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, he said it was “absolutely imperative” for the Democratic Party to have a nominee who will champion the issue. “I believe it’s a potentially winning issue to run on,” he told the magazine. “And we need a candidate who will do that.” 

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