We’re just a few days into 2019 and the 2020 presidential race has already kicked off. Senator Elizabeth Warren beat many of her presumed DNC rivals to the punch, announcing her intent to run for president on New Year’s Eve. And it didn’t even take her a week to hit the campaign trail in Iowa, with Senator Warren already barnstorming the state.
For now, Warren could be considered a dark-horse candidate, trailing former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke in both Iowa and national polls. However, Warren has dominated the media over the past week and her rally in Iowa on Sunday drew a large, supportive crowd.
Warren didn’t mention Trump directly but set the tone for attacking Trump’s populism. Among other things, she demanded that presidential candidates release their tax returns, an obvious potshot at Trump, who has so far refused to release his returns. Warren is also taking some things from Trump’s playbook, appealing directly to dissatisfied middle class voters.
Back in 2016, Trump and Bernie Sanders both argued that the economic system was corrupt. In Iowa, Warren echoed these sentiments, claiming: “The heart of it is this question of corruption. Every issue that affects us in this country right now…they intersect with this fundamental question of who government works for.”
Among other things, Warren has promised to tackle the costs that are bludgeoning America’s middle class, including education and health care. Some might be skeptical of Warren, who has been labeled by critics as coastal liberal, but her track record has generally been favorably viewed among the populist progressive movement that is making itself felt within the Democratic Party.
So does Warren stand a chance? She may look like a longshot, but let us not forget, current President Trump was largely treated as an afterthought, even after he surged to the top of polls. Back in 2016, many pundits and analysts assumed that President Trump stood little chance, and even when leading in polls, many predicted mass deflections were right around the corner.
That never happened. The dark horse won the race, steamrolling the GOP primary and winning a nail-biter in the national elections. So could Warren race to the front of the pack? While 2016 was a two-horse race between Senator Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the 2020 field will likely be quite crowded.
Warren will be fighting with several viable candidates. While Democrats have seen a surge of progressive activism, there’s a risk that the progressive vote will be divided among several parties. Bernie Sanders remains quite influential and has largely set the tone for progressives over the past few years. Still, many worry that at age 77, Sanders is too old.
Biden faces similar challenges, being just a year younger than Sanders. And yet, he’s perhaps the most popular among mainstream centrist democrats. Then there’s O’Rourke, who made waves in the 2018 Texas Senate race, running on a progressive platform that, following his stirring speeches, caught traction with Texas voters. Still, some worry that his centrist voting record could come back to bite him in 2020.
Warren may be able to tiptoe a fine line. Her moderately progressive voting record will appeal to progressives, but her capitalism and markets-first approach could draw enough support from centrists.