Your guide to the 2020 election
Washington – If you thought American politics moved at a frenetic pace in 2019, brace yourself for 2020.
Over the course of the next 308 days, Donald Trump is poised to become the first president in history to face a Senate impeachment trial and then seek reelection. Democrats will formally nominate one of the 15 candidates currently running to face off against Trump. And then a record number of Americans are expected to go to the polls in November to choose between the two.
Along the way, the Democratic nominee will select a running mate, the Supreme Court is expected to weigh in on cases with major political implications, including whether the president must turn over financial records to Congress and whether he is immune from criminal investigations, and security experts are warning there could be unprecedented foreign and domestic election meddling.
Here are the key dates and developments to watch for over the course of the next year:
Speaker Nancy Pelosi has yet to send the House-approved articles of impeachment over to the Republican-controlled Senate as Democrats seek leverage over the trial process. That has delayed an impeachment trial that was expected to take up much of January. It could now drag into February.
The delay could ultimately impact some of the Democratic White House hopefuls as much as Trump, who is expected to be acquitted by his fellow Republicans. Five sitting senators are running for president, and a weeks-long trial will keep them in Washington and away from the campaign trail in the critical weeks leading up to the first 2020 primary votes.
The Democratic primary
There are plenty of competing predictions about just how long the Democratic primary will drag out, but few prognosticators think it will be settled before Super Tuesday on March 3, when about 40% of Democratic delegates will be allocated.
Some are floating the prospect that the primary contest could stretch all the way into the summer, forcing a brokered convention in July. Here are the key dates between now and then:
Jan. 14: Qualifying Democrats will debate in Des Moines, Iowa. As of now, the candidates projected to be on stage include Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar.
Feb. 3: The Democratic nominating process begins in earnest with the Iowa caucuses (though early voting will have already begun in a handful of other states). In the last four open Democratic presidential contests, the Iowa winner has gone on to become the party’s nominee.
Feb. 7: Qualifying Democrats will debate in Manchester, N.H. The party has not yet released the criteria for participating.
Feb. 11: New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary will take place. With two neighboring state senators (Sanders and Warren) vying for a top finish there, New Hampshire could determine which of the two progressive rivals departs the race first.
Feb. 19: Las Vegas, Nev., will host the next Democratic debate. The party has not yet released the criteria for participating.
Feb. 22: Next up are the Nevada caucuses, the first contest where nonwhite voters play an outsized role.
Feb. 25: Democrats will hold their 10th debate in Charleston, S.C. The party has not yet released the criteria for candidates to qualify.
Feb. 29: The South Carolina primary will round out the month of February. Black voters accounted for 61% of the state’s Democratic primary electorate in 2016, and they strongly favor Biden in primary polls.
March 3: Fourteen states are scheduled to hold their primaries and caucuses on Super Tuesday, representing nearly half of all the Democratic delegates in the contest. The biggest prize will be California. Texas, Colorado, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Virginia and Tennessee are some of the other delegate-rich states voting that day.
March 10: Michigan and Washington are two of the six states holding primaries.
March 17: General election swing states Florida, Ohio and Arizona hold their primaries, along with Illinois, with nearly 600 delegates up for grabs.
April 28: Mid-Atlantic Democrats get their chance to vote, as New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Connecticut and Rhode Island go to the polls. If the primary contest is still going, this marks the last opportunity to significantly alter the delegate count.
June 16: The Democratic primary season is set to close out as Washington, D.C., New Mexico, Montana and others vote.
Democrats and Republicans will anoint their standard-bearers for the 2020 general election a month apart, with Democrats going first. The Democratic nominee will also name his or her running mate ahead of the party’s convention, assuming, of course, there is a nominee at that point.
July 13-16: The Democratic National Convention will be held in Milwaukee, Wis., part of the “blue wall” that Hillary Clinton lost to Trump in 2016.
It’s been more than 50 years since either American political party selected their presidential nominee via a brokered convention, a contested series of votes on the convention floor. In the ensuing decades, the party conventions have become primarily a venue for political theater and influence peddling. But just as was the case in the crowded 2016 Republican primary, the fragmented nature of the Democrats’ 2020 field has sparked talk that the race could go all the way to the convention.
The chance of that is slightly higher for Democrats this year after the party decided to weaken the role of so-called “superdelegates” in their nominating process. In 2016, about 15% of all delegates were superdelegates, who are typically party elites, and the vast majority backed Clinton, sparking a backlash from the Sanders camp.
To avoid even the perception that the party is tipping the scales, the Democratic National Committee approved new rules last year that will prevent superdelegates from participating in the first round of voting at the convention. In the rare event that there is a deadlock, superdelegates would then be able to step in.
Aug. 24-27: The GOP will hold its convention in Charlotte, N.C., more than a month after the Democrats, a larger gap than usual.
While Trump technically faces two challengers in the Republican primary – former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh – there is little drama in the race. Trump is wildly popular among the Republican rank-and-file, and has been running a formidable, well-funded reelection campaign since his early days in the White House.
One possible headache for Trump 2020 this summer: The Supreme Court is expected to decide several cases at the end of June that could damage the president’s political standing. If the high court upholds lower court decisions, the president could be forced to reveal financial records to Congress as well as to a New York grand jury investigation of payments to two women Trump allegedly had affairs with.
Once all the confetti has been swept off the floor of the Spectrum Center, the final sprint to the general election begins.
This two-month stretch will be marked by three presidential debates, one vice-presidential debate and nonstop ads and candidate appearances in swing states.
Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee have already raised more than $300 million, combined, which they have begun pouring into battleground states.
The Democrats have raised a comparable amount between all their campaigns, but it will go toward fighting off one another in the primary for the next several months. And the DNC has trailed far behind the RNC’s fundraising totals.
Sept. 29: The first general election debate will be held in Notre Dame, Ind.
Oct. 7: The vice-presidential debate will take place in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Oct. 15: The presidential nominees will debate in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Oct. 22: The final presidential debate will take place in Nashville, Tenn.
Nov. 3: Election Day
On your marks, get set …