Five Democrats who could be dark horses in 2020

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 BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenButtigieg says he doubts Sanders can win general election This is the Joe Biden you rarely see Minorities, older adults push Biden to top of 2020 poll MORE, Rep. Beto O'RourkeRobert (Beto) Francis O'RourkeOvernight Defense: 2020 Dems rebuke Trump on Iran deal | Trump appeals ruling on male-only draft | Kudlow claims Iran sanctions won't hike oil prices Castro wants to follow Obama's lead on balancing presidency with fatherhood Poll: Buttigieg tops Harris, O'Rourke as momentum builds MORE (Texas), and Sens. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersDemocrats' CNN town halls exposed an extreme agenda Buttigieg says he doubts Sanders can win general election Meghan McCain: Bernie Sanders supporting prisoners being able to vote 'bats**t insane' MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenDemocrats' CNN town halls exposed an extreme agenda Minorities, older adults push Biden to top of 2020 poll The difference between good and bad tax reform 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 SwalwellJulián Castro: Trump should be impeached for trying to obstruct justice 'in very concrete ways' Swalwell on impeachment: 'We're on that road' after Mueller report The Hill's Morning Report - Dem candidates sell policy as smart politics MORE (Calif.) and John DelaneyJohn Kevin Delaney2020 Dems rebuke Trump on Iran, say they'd put US back in nuclear deal Where 2020 Democratic candidates stand on impeachment Several 2020 Dems say they're ready to face Fox News town hall 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 Jean KlobucharDemocrats' CNN town halls exposed an extreme agenda Spicer: 'Near impossible' for 2020 Democrats to refuse Fox News debate James Comey, wife donated ,400 to Klobuchar's presidential campaign 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 HarrisDemocrats' CNN town halls exposed an extreme agenda The Hill's Morning Report - Will Joe Biden's unifying strategy work? K Street support to test Buttigieg MORE (Calif.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandThe Hill's Morning Report - Will Joe Biden's unifying strategy work? K Street support to test Buttigieg Kamala Harris backs putting third gender option on federal ID 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 KavanaughTrump's Fed pick on critics: 'They're pulling a Kavanaugh against me' Conservative justices signal willingness to allow census citizenship question Supreme Court sees more serious divide open on death penalty MORE

“She showed a lot of grit,” said Democratic strategist Patti Solis Doyle, who served as campaign manager during Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDavis: The shocking fact that Mueller never would have accused Trump of a crime Trump says he would challenge impeachment in Supreme Court The Hill's Morning Report - Will Joe Biden's unifying strategy work? 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 TrumpDemocrats' CNN town halls exposed an extreme agenda Buttigieg says he doubts Sanders can win general election Post-Mueller, Trump has a good story to tell for 2020 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 ClintonPost-Mueller, Trump has a good story to tell for 2020 What Trump voters got right The Memo: Harris move shows shift in politics of gun control 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 BrownOn The Money: Treasury misses second Dem deadline on Trump tax returns | Waters renews calls for impeachment | Dem wants Fed pick to apologize for calling Ohio cities 'armpits of America' | Stocks reach record high after long recovery Sherrod Brown asks Trump Fed pick why he referred to Cleveland, Cincinnati as 'armpits of America' Only four Dem senators have endorsed 2020 candidates 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.”