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 BidenTrump: 'I was never a fan of John McCain and I never will be' Poll: Biden rises to 8-point lead over Sanders among Democratic primary voters Andrew Yang draws crowd of 3,000 in San Francisco MORE, Rep. Beto O'RourkeRobert (Beto) Francis O'RourkeO'Rourke sees 'a lot of wisdom' in abolishing Electoral College Poll: Biden rises to 8-point lead over Sanders among Democratic primary voters Andrew Yang draws crowd of 3,000 in San Francisco MORE (Texas), and Sens. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersAlan Dershowitz: In defense of Chelsea Clinton O'Rourke: Decisions on late-term abortions 'best left to a woman and her doctor' CNN to host town hall with Cory Booker in South Carolina MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenDem lawmaker says Electoral College was 'conceived' as way to perpetuate slavery GOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 Warren introduces petition to end the Electoral College MORE (Mass.) have drawn a lot of attention, Democrats say the 2020 race is anybody’s game. 

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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 SwalwellTrump reignites criticism of McCain months after senator's death Swalwell jokes about 'bad decisions' after bleached-hair yearbook photo resurfaces Dem lawmakers unveil Journalist Protection Act amid Trump attacks on media MORE (Calif.) and John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyCNN to host town hall with Cory Booker in South Carolina Howard Schultz to be featured in Fox News town hall CNN to feature Hickenlooper in town hall next week 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 KlobucharCNN to host town hall with Cory Booker in South Carolina Howard Schultz to be featured in Fox News town hall The Hill's Morning Report - Dems contemplate big election and court reforms 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 HarrisGOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 CNN to host town hall with Cory Booker in South Carolina O'Rourke sees 'a lot of wisdom' in abolishing Electoral College MORE (Calif.) and Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandGOP rep to introduce constitutional amendment to limit Supreme Court seats to 9 Senate Dems petition Saudi king to release dissidents, US citizen Howard Schultz to be featured in Fox News town hall 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 KavanaughCourt-packing becomes new litmus test on left Warren, Harris, Gillibrand back efforts to add justices to Supreme Court Pence traveling to SC for Graham reelection launch MORE

“She showed a lot of grit,” said Democratic strategist Patti Solis Doyle, who served as campaign manager during Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDem lawmaker says Electoral College was 'conceived' as way to perpetuate slavery Dem strategist says Donna Brazile is joining Fox News 'for the money' CNN to host town hall with Cory Booker in South Carolina 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 TrumpDem lawmaker says Electoral College was 'conceived' as way to perpetuate slavery Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals to visit White House on Monday Transportation Dept requests formal audit of Boeing 737 Max certification 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 ClintonHill-HarrisX poll: 76 percent oppose Trump pardoning former campaign aides A Weld challenge to Trump would provide Republicans a clear choice History teaches that Nancy Pelosi is right about impeachment 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 BrownSherrod Brown on Trump pressuring GM: He 'finally woke up' Congress must break its addiction to unjust tax extenders Appeals court upholds Ohio law to defund Planned Parenthood clinics 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.”