The 2020 presidential election campaign has already started

Hunter Walker
White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON — The 2020 election is getting into full swing. That might seem to be an odd thing to say on the eve of 2019, but in presidential politics, the future is now.

The past year already saw many of the candidates who are hoping to replace President Donald Trump begin to lay groundwork for potential White House bids. Many of the likely hopefuls made trips to key early primary states. Some have even hired staff and locked down web addresses. Trump has also already announced his intention to run for re-election and even hosted a slew of campaign rallies.

In 2019, the race is going to start for real. Operatives in Washington, D.C., have spent recent weeks buzzing about donors and staffers choosing sides and even which cities the candidates will choose for campaign headquarters.

Presidential campaigns generally begin in earnest the year before an election. Last time, the top candidates began launching their bids in March 2015. This time, it looks like things will start even earlier.

Multiple likely candidates have suggested they will take the holidays to make final decisions on whether to run.

“The holidays are a time for family and reflection and you can expect that the hopefuls will be with their families over the break and weighing their options,” one consultant working with one of the potential Democratic candidates said.

On Thursday, the Democratic National Committee announced the party will begin its primary debates in June of next year, two months earlier than any debate was held in 2015. Part of the reason for the accelerated schedule is the sheer number of Democrats who are likely to throw their hats in the ring.

As of now, only two established Democratic politicians have officially launched presidential campaigns for 2020; Maryland Rep. John Delaney and West Virginia state Sen. Richard Ojeda. Earlier this month, Julian Castro, formerly U.S. secretary of housing and urban development and San Antonio mayor, announced the formation of an exploratory committee.

Even though those three are off to a head start, early polling in Iowa, the first primary state, began this month and didn’t show them near the front of the pack. According to the survey from the Des Moines Register, CNN, and Mediacom Iowa, the leading potential Democratic candidates in that state include former Vice President Joe Biden, 2016 candidate Bernie Sanders, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and California Sen. Kamala Harris. New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is also widely considered a top likely presidential hopeful.

Of course, early presidential polling is often wrong, and more unexpected names have also been active in the key primary states, including Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, California Rep. Eric Swalwell and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, among others.

Along with these veteran politicians, some less traditional candidates are circling the field. Entrepreneur Andrew Yang has already begun his campaign, and a pair of billionaires, hedge fund manager Tom Steyer and Starbucks founder Howard Schultz, are considering entering the race.

And that’s just the Democratic side. While 1992 was the last year a president was challenged to a major primary by a member of their own party, there have been rumblings some Republicans might join the 2020 fray by taking on Trump or running as an independent. Notably, outgoing Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and Ohio Gov. John Kasich have made moves toward potential White House bids.

The race is on and 2019 is going to be a make-or-break year for Trump and all of those hoping to take him down.