Stunned Democrats are now forced to go back to the drawing board for the 2020 presidential election to field a candidate in a race that virtually all had assumed would be President Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDemocrats worry negative images are defining White House Heller won't say if Biden won election Whitmer trailing GOP challenger by 6 points in Michigan governor race: poll MORE’s reelection.
There’s a deep rift among Democrats as to what Clinton’s resounding loss means for the party—whether there should be a full tilt to the populist wing of Bernie SandersBernie SandersDo progressives prefer Trump to compromise? Texas House Republican tests positive for coronavirus in latest breakthrough case In defense of share buybacks MORE and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenIn defense of share buybacks Democrats urge Biden to go all in with agenda in limbo In Washington, the road almost never taken MORE or if there’s a middle path.
Democrats cleared the path for Clinton in the 2016 primary, leaving only Sanders mounting a true, albeit surprising, threat to her candidacy.
But now, the already thin Democratic bench has a little more than two years before the unofficial start of the next presidential campaign to come up with a solid candidate.
Here are 10 potential candidates already being buzzed about as potential options for the party in 2020, three of whom would hover around the 70-year-old mark by then, and one, would be a year away from being an octogenarian.
The Massachusetts mother of the progressive populist movement is at the top of most lists for 2020, as many Democrats see her, along with Sanders, as the best positioned to channel the left’s enthusiasm.
Warren turned down calls for a bid in 2016, leaving open the progressive void filled by Sanders, but refused to endorse until the writing on the wall became clear.
And after positioning herself as a key Trump antagonist during the election, she was back at it during a Thursday speech to the AFL-CIO where she pledged to protect minorities and laid out the populist argument for shifting left. At the same time, 67 years old now, she would be even older than Trump – the oldest person to take office on inauguration day 2021.
Clinton won the nomination in 2016 after falling short to Barack Obama eight years earlier, and Sanders is already refusing to rule out a future bid despite the fact he would be almost 80 when the next election rolls around.
His recent bid gave him the platform, the increased standing in the party, and his legion of supporters could make a 2020 bid easier. Sanders brought new voters out of the woodwork for his cause and his small-dollar army shattered fundraising records throughout the primary.
That means he’ll have a seat at the table for whatever growing pains the party goes through in the aftermath of this election, a seat he’s already using to advocate for Rep. Keith Ellison to take over as party chairman.
The base of supporters for Sanders and Warren almost entirely overlap, so it remains to be seen as to whether there’s room for both of them or just one on the ballot. But if progressives have their way, at least one will run.
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The long-time Ohio lawmaker may not have the national recognition of Warren or Sanders, but he’s one of the more seasoned liberal populists in Congress.
The 64-year-old has long been a vocal opponent of trade deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which became an anathema during the 2016 race on both sides of the aisle, and the North American Free Trade Act, the 1990s trade deal that Trump has promised to scrap.
That background helped put him onto Clinton’s short list for vice president, but she ultimately went in a different direction.
While Sanders and Warren often overshadow him, the swing-state senator could be in the mix come 2020.
The 47-year-old New Jersey senator has a cult-like following in no small part thanks to his active social-media presence, but Democrats have long floated Booker as a future presidential candidate.
A Rhodes Scholar and former mayor of Newark, Booker could be seen as a way to help to jump-start the Obama coalition that did not turn out for Clinton in the way they did for Obama in 2012 and 2008.
But as an early Clinton supporter, some progressives have criticized him for his ties to Wall Street, which could make the path a bit more complicated after Clinton’s loss.
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Kaine just suffered a devastating loss as the party’s vice presidential pick, but that position gave him the national recognition needed to launch a future bid of his own.
He’s won many friends within the party in no small part thanks to his tenure as Democratic National Committee chairman from 2009-2011 and helped Clinton keep Virginia blue.
But Kaine, 58, would come in with the stain of the 2016 loss, leading to questions as to whether Democrats want a clean slate.
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Some Democrats are speculating that Hillary Clinton’s replacement in the Senate could attempt a presidential bid of her own in the not-too-distant future.
The 49-year-old has been a dogged proponent of legislation to address sexual violence on college campuses and made waves when she wrote in a 2014 book that a Senate colleague made comments about her weight loss after her pregnancy. But while Gillibrand elevated her profile as a Clinton surrogate this cycle, she has limited name recognition outside of New York.
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One of Clinton’s more vocal congressional supporters, the Minnesota senator’s name is a regular in future presidential speculation too.
She’s a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School, where President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama says US 'desperately needs' Biden legislation ahead of key votes Obamas to break ground Tuesday on presidential center in Chicago A simple fix can bring revolutionary change to health spending MORE taught, and has spearheaded work to curb sexual assault in the military along with Gillibrand and others. She’s very popular in her home state and has a background in law enforcement as a county prosecutor.
Along with Gillibrand and Warren, Klobuchar, 56, is part of the group of women who could attempt to succeed where Clinton fell short in breaking the presidency’s glass ceiling.
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A less common pick, the former Saturday Night Live cast member could be an interesting foil to the reality show superstar turned President Elect.
Franken, 65, has sought to ditch the “funny man” reputation since he arrived in the Senate, but has started to open up a bit more recently as he stumped for Clinton and bashed Trump.
Some are buying into the early speculation, with the “Draft Al Franken 2020” super-PAC registered on Wednesday.
O’Malley served as the odd man out during the Democratic primary, taken far more seriously than Lincoln Chafee and Jim Webb but unable to get past the low single-digits in the polls.
But many Democrats saw O’Malley’s bid as a low-risk test drive for a future candidacy, as the 53-year-old former Maryland Governor staked out a number of progressive positions and sought to position himself with one foot in either camp of the party.
He's now angling for a post atop the DNC, which could put him at the center of the effort to reshape the party.
The newly-minted incoming senator for California has drawn comparisons to the rise of another young, black Democrat—Barack Obama.
A presidential bid would be on an ambitious timeline for the 52-year-old Harris, who would be just a few years into her first term in the Senate as the body’s first Indian-American senator (her mother is Indian and her father is Jamaican). But she has drawn praise for her progressive tenure as the state’s Attorney General and had the field almost entirely cleared for her 2016 Senate bid.