From left: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Senator Bernie Sanders, former Vice President Joe Biden, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Kamala Harris pose before the start of at the 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential debate in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 12, 2019. (Reuters)
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WASHINGTON – The historically large field of Democratic presidential candidates vying to take on Republican President Donald Trump in next November’s U.S. election was reduced by one on Wednesday when Wayne Messam dropped out of the race.
Messam, 45, the mayor of Miramar, Florida, announced via Twitter that he was suspending his campaign. His withdrawal brings the number of Democrats still in the race to 17.
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is considering a White House bid as a Democrat, on Wednesday filed to appear on ballots in a third state, Texas.
Four candidates have separated themselves thus far from the rest of the field among Democratic voters.
Biden, the early Democratic front-runner in opinion polls, waited until April to enter the race, launching his bid with a direct swipe at Trump. Biden, 77, served eight years as President Barack Obama’s vice president and 36 years in the U.S. Senate. He stands at the centre of the Democratic debate over whether the party’s standard-bearer should be a veteran politician or a newcomer, and whether a liberal or a moderate has a better chance of defeating Trump. Biden, who frequently notes his “Middle-Class Joe” nickname, touts his working-class roots and ability to work in a bipartisan fashion. Some fellow Democrats have criticized him for his role in passing tough-on-crime legislation in the 1990s.
The 70-year-old U.S. senator from Massachusetts is a leader of the party’s liberals and a fierce critic of Wall Street. She was instrumental in creating the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau after the 2008 financial crisis. Her campaign has surged in recent months, equalling Biden in some polls. She has focused her presidential campaign on a populist anti-corruption message, promising to fight what she calls a rigged system that favours the wealthy. She has released an array of policy proposals on everything from a Medicare For All health plan to breaking up big tech companies to implementing a wealth tax on the richest Americans. Warren has sworn off political fundraising events to back her campaign.
The U.S. senator from Vermont lost the Democratic nomination in 2016 to Hillary Clinton but is trying again. For the 2020 race, Sanders, 78, is fighting to stand out in a field of progressives running on issues he brought into the Democratic Party mainstream four years ago. Sanders suffered a heart attack while campaigning in Nevada in October, but there has been little impact so far on his support. His proposals include free tuition at public colleges, a $15-an-hour minimum wage and universal healthcare. He benefits from strong name recognition and an unmatched network of small-dollar donors.
The 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, emerged from virtual anonymity to become one of the party’s brightest stars, building momentum with young voters. A Harvard University graduate and Rhodes scholar, he speaks seven languages conversationally and served in Afghanistan with the Navy Reserve. He touts himself as representing a new generation of leadership needed to combat Trump. Buttigieg would be the first openly gay presidential nominee of a major American political party. Recent polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, which hold the first nominating contests in February, put him ahead of the other leading candidates, even though his national standing is lower.
The rest of the Democratic field is a mix of seasoned politicians, wealthy business people and others looking to break into or regain their toehold in the top tier of contenders. These include Kamala Harris, the first-term U.S. senator from California; Andrew Yang, New York entrepreneur and former tech executive; Amy Klobuchar, senator from Minnesota; New York senator Cory Booker; Tulsi Gabbard, the Samoan-American congresswoman from Hawaii and Iraq war veteran; Julian Castro, Barack Obama’s secretary of housing and urban development; Tom Steyer, a billionaire environmentalist; John Delaney, the former U.S. representative from Maryland; Colorado Senator Michael Bennet, Montana’s Democratic governor Steve Bullock, author Marianne Williamson, Joe Sestak, retired three-star Navy admiral and former congressman from Pennsylvania; former governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick and former New York City Mayor and billionaire media mogul, Michael Bloomberg.
The Republicans are led by President Trump, the clear favourite to win the nomination, and there has been criticism among his opponents that party leadership has worked to make it impossible for a challenger. Still, the incumbent will face at least two rivals.
Joe Walsh, a former congressman, has become a vocal critic of Trump, who he argues is not a conservative and is unfit for public office.
Bill Weld, the 74-year-old former Massachusetts governor ran unsuccessfully for vice president in 2016 as a Libertarian. He has been a persistent critic of Trump, saying when he launched his 2020 campaign that “the American people are being ignored and our nation is suffering”. (Reuters)