What drives Elizabeth Warren

Biden, Trump and the defeated competitors in the running for the presidency

After severe setbacks, former Vice President Joe Biden has clearly won the American Democratic contest. An overview of the field of applicants that shaped the 2020 primaries.

The former vice-president had been in office since April, when the last internal party opponent gave up the race Joe Biden as a candidate of the Democratic Party for the 2020 presidential election. However, Biden did not definitely secure the nomination until June 6, when he passed the hurdle of in another round of primaries 1990 party congress delegates skipped. This corresponds to the absolute majority at the nomination party conference. Until the end of the primaries on August 11th, he steadily expanded this majority. In total, he was able to win over two thirds of the delegates. Finally, the distribution was presented as follows:

Biden's opponent Sanders insisted on participating in the remaining elections even after he was eliminated. He wanted to continue collecting delegates in order to be able to exert greater influence on the party congress, for example by taking part in the party's program commissions. He succeeded. He will make up 28 percent of the elected delegates at the party congress. According to the democratic rules, party actions from a strength of 25 percent of the delegates receive special minority rights.

The following graphic shows the course of the primaries:

Course of the democratic primaries

Number of delegates for applicants Biden and Sanders
Absolute majority (1990 delegates)
Florida and other area codes
With Sanders' exit, Biden's victory is certain
Achievement of the absolute surplus

Biden was considered a favorite from the start of the primary campaign, but for a long time his victory could by no means be considered certain. The following graphic shows how this works Form of opinion over time has changed. It was only after “Super Tuesday”, when several rivals in the moderate party wing had given up their campaign, that Biden was able to break away significantly.

Biden pulls away in the polls

Average of current national surveys, support as a percentage
Bloomberg (retired)
Buttigieg (retired)

Initially, the field of applicants for the Democrats, consisting of around 25 prominent politicians, stood out big variety out. But this was lost before the primaries began in early February. In the end there were only two older white men on the shortlist - Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders. Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, two African-Americans, former Housing Minister Julián Castro, a Latino, and Chinese entrepreneur Andrew Yang had given up the race since the beginning of December. In terms of age, too, the field became less and less diverse over time: after the departure of the young politician Pete Buttigieg and Senator Amy Klobuchar at the beginning of March, there was no longer anyone under the age of 70 in the field of applicants, and with the retirement of Senator Elizabeth Warren on March 5, it fell also the last woman gone.

The shrinkage of the field of applicants was also reflected in the regular Television debates read from the party. While there were initially twenty applicants at these events, at the end of 2019 there were only seven. For one qualification In most cases it was necessary to prove that a minimum number of donations had been collected and that a certain threshold value had been exceeded in the surveys. The criterion for participation in the last debate on March 15 was to have won at least 20 percent of the delegates distributed so far. That meant that only Biden and Sanders were on stage.

The following is an overview of the presidential candidates, first those of the Democrats, then those of the Republicans and other parties.


Since the defeat of their presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in November 2016, the Democrats have been eager for revenge. Around 25 prominent party members applied for the presidential nomination. For a long time it remained open who would win the inner-party race. After a spectacular comeback, former Vice President Joe Biden prevailed. His fiercest competitor, left-wing Senator Bernie Sanders, gave up his campaign on April 8th.

The winner of the primaries

Joe Biden: As a former Vice President from 2009 to 2017, Joe Biden is more familiar with the mechanics of government than any other competitor. From decades of experience, the former Delaware Senator also knows very well what is important when working with Congress. Biden also has the advantage of being nationally known. Not least because of this, for a long time he led all the polls among sympathizers of the Democratic Party by a large margin. But Biden, who has made a name for himself primarily as a foreign politician, is not known as a good campaigner; two earlier attempts in the direction of the White House, in 1988 and 2008, failed miserably. A mortgage is its old age; he would be 78 years old when he took office. Frequent verbal slip-ups do not help to dispel concerns. Biden has also been indirectly troubling Trump's Ukraine affair since September. In connection with this, Biden is accused of having exposed himself to a conflict of interest as Vice President and key figure for the Ukraine diplomacy of the Obama administration because his son Hunter was doing business in Ukraine at the same time. (Link to NZZ video)

Eliminated but won delegates in the primaries

Bernie Sanders: The runner-up in the 2016 primaries started the race from a completely different position this time. Four years ago he was a blatant outsider compared to the favorite Hillary Clinton, the Vermont senator now enjoyed a high profile and good poll numbers from the start. Nonetheless, the politician, who is formally independent of the party, struggles with handicaps. Sanders would have been 79 years old when he took office, making it by far the oldest president the United States has ever had. A heart attack in October had heightened doubts about his health. In addition, unlike in his 2016 campaign, when he was able to set a counterpoint to the establishment representative Clinton, he was no longer the sole bearer of hope for the left wing. In this camp he was also competing with Senator Elizabeth Warren, who also made radical demands to combat economic inequality, high health insurance premiums and climate change. Even so, Sanders managed to temporarily top the national polls in February and win several key primaries. He ended his campaign on April 8th when it became clear that he no longer had a realistic chance of catching up with Biden. (Link to NZZ video)

Elizabeth Warren: The former Harvard professor and bankruptcy law specialist has represented the State of Massachusetts in the Senate since 2013. She previously gained national fame as the founding director of the agency for consumer protection in financial services that was created during the financial crisis. 70-year-old Warren has risen to become one of the party's best-known leaders in a short space of time. She pursues a pronounced left-wing economic policy and campaigned for the votes of economically oppressed voters, in part with populist means. The centerpiece of their program was the introduction of state health insurance for all Americans, which would replace the previously largely private system. She wanted to cover the estimated annual costs of $ 200 billion with a special tax for billionaires and cuts in military spending. Opponents accused her of having hyped her (negligible) Indian ancestry for career reasons. In the internal party race, however, this was of no consequence. Warren was even able to temporarily overtake former Vice President Joe Biden in the polls in the fall of 2019. After that, however, she fell back significantly, probably a consequence of her controversial proposal for a radical health insurance reform. After consistently disappointing results in the primaries, she gave up the race on March 5th. (Link to NZZ video)

Michael Bloomberg: Born in 1942, the businessman and former mayor of New York submitted his application unusually late, just over two months before the start of the primary elections. With an estimated $ 58 billion in fortune, however, he was more likely to be able to afford it as he didn't have to go looking for cash donations. He financed his entire campaign from his own resources, spending more than $ 600 million on it. Bloomberg had made a career in financial data and as a media entrepreneur after graduating from business school. As mayor of the largest city in the USA from 2002 to 2013, Bloomberg made a name for itself with its business-friendly policies, but also with its campaign against smoking in public buildings and its commitment to climate protection. Politically, he is a centrist. He repeatedly changed his party affiliations and didn't join the Democrats until 2018. His campaign was seen as an expression of his conviction that the previously favored applicants had serious shortcomings in the fight against the incumbent Trump. In the primaries, however, Bloomberg suffered a debacle and stood behind Biden after “Super Tuesday”. (Link to NZZ video)

Pete Buttigieg: The 38-year-old former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, was initially seen as a hopeless provincial politician, but quickly caught the attention of the national media. The son of a couple of professors - the father came from Malta - has degrees from Harvard and Oxford, served in the military in Afghanistan, speaks several languages ​​and is considered a natural political talent. Unlike many of his rivals, Buttigieg is not a “Washington insider” and has shown how a democrat can successfully politicize in a conservative region. However, after taking a narrow win in the Iowa primary and a good runner-up in New Hampshire, his campaign suffered severe setbacks. It turned out that he enjoyed little support from non-white voters. At the beginning of March he gave up the race. Buttigieg would not only have been the youngest president in American history, he would also have been the first homosexual in office. (Link to NZZ video)

Amy Klobuchar: Like Buttigieg, the 59-year-old Senator from Minnesota is from the Midwest. This region had played an important role, with a strong performance by Republicans in the last presidential election. The former corporate lawyer is not a media star, but is valued for her successful legislative work in the Senate and her approach to the community. As befits her Midwestern origins, the pragmatist Klobuchar does not politicize in the party's left wing. Although it propagates progressive concerns, it does not go as far as other democrats and does not require, for example, purely state health insurance. In the polls it always lagged far behind the front runners. In addition to a good third place in New Hampshire, she suffered several disappointments in the primary elections. At the beginning of March, she announced her exit and gave an election recommendation for Joe Biden. Klobuchar has Swiss roots through her maternal grandparents.

Tulsi Gabbard: Born in 1981, the congresswoman comes from the overseas territory of American Samoa and grew up in Hawaii, where she was elected to parliament at the age of 21. In addition, she pursued a military career in the National Guard. She took part in a war effort in Iraq and currently has the rank of major. Gabbard is a practicing Hindu. Politically, it is more on the left wing of the party. She fought against the trans-Pacific free trade agreement TPP and criticized President Obama's military policy in Syria. She sparked controversy over a meeting with the Syrian dictator Asad. Former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton accuses her of being the Kremlin's preferred candidate. In the polls, it never got beyond marginal values. After she hadn't won a single primary by mid-March and had only received two delegates in her Samoan homeland, she suspended her campaign and made an election recommendation for Biden.


Michael Bennet: The 54-year-old Senator from Colorado distanced himself significantly from the party's dominant left wing in his election campaign. Bennet rejected the introduction of a national health insurance fund (“Medicare for all”) called for by several rivals. As a representative of the Rocky Mountain state, which is shaped by conservative currents, the democrat has a good feel for what is politically feasible. However, he is not originally from Colorado, but from the capital Washington, where his father worked as an official in the State Department. Bennet always remained a blatant underdog, and catastrophic primary results in Iowa and New Hampshire eventually forced him to give up.

Cory Booker: The New Jersey senator was one of eleven members of Congress to run for the presidency. Born in 1969 and trained at elite universities, the lawyer can also look back on a long career in local politics. From 2006 to 2013 he was mayor of the city of Newark. In the Senate, the African American is one of the most left politicizing members. In his campaign, Booker suggested a far-reaching expansion of the welfare state, including health insurance for everyone, a generous cash gift for young adults that becomes available when they come of age, and a pilot program for a state job guarantee. In the polls, however, he never made it into the top group. After failing to qualify for the party's television debates twice, he gave up the race in mid-January 2020.

Steve Bullock: The 53-year-old governor of Montana differed from his party rivals in one important respect: he rules a conservative member state. In Montana, democrats are only successful in politicizing if they keep their distance from favorite ideas of the left and know how to build bridges to the right-wing camp. Bullock has proven this repeatedly. In 2016, he was re-elected at the same time as his state sent Donald Trump to the White House with a large majority. However, Bullock never achieved great national fame and retired in early December 2019.

Bill de Blasio: The 58-year-old Mayor of New York joined the city council at a young age after studying international relations. He was also committed to the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Under President Bill Clinton, de Blasio served in the Department of Housing - an area that became a focus of his political work. After several terms in the city parliament, he was elected as a public advocate, a kind of ombudsman. When the long-time mayor Michael Bloomberg had to vacate his post in 2013, de Blasio ran as a representative of the left wing of his party and won big. He also positioned himself on the left in his presidential campaign. However, he never gained a large national following and gave up the race in September 2019.

Julián Castro: The former Secretary of Housing (2014-17) under President Obama comes from Texas, where he served as Mayor of San Antonio before his time in Washington. The 44-year-old son of a civil rights activist with Mexican roots is one of the few applicants with executive experience at the national level. He studied at Stanford and Harvard, where he received a doctorate in law. In 2016 he was in discussion for the office of Vice President. In social and environmental issues he steers a course between the moderate and the left wing of the Democratic Party. However, he was never able to stand out from his competitors, and in the surveys he remained consistently at a low level. He therefore missed the qualification for the last television debates and gave up the race at the beginning of January 2020.

John Delaney: The 56-year-old lawyer and former businessman from Maryland became the first prominent Democrat to run for the presidential nomination in 2017. Delaney comes from a working-class family and distinguished himself as a successful company founder after completing his studies. From 2013 to 2018 he was a member of the House of Representatives, where he specialized in health policy and infrastructure issues. He belongs to the moderate, business-friendly wing of the party. With his calm, matter-of-fact manner, it was difficult for him to attract the media spotlight. Shortly before the start of the primaries, he ended his campaign.

Kirsten Gillibrand: The 52-year-old Senator from New York followed in Hillary Clinton's footsteps in 2009 when she took over their Senate seat. She had started her political career two years earlier as a representative. The lawyer initially positioned herself politically in the conservative wing of her party, probably also due to the more conservative tendencies of her rural New York constituency. At that time she defended the right to free arms. As a senator, she moved to the left and is now heavily involved in the movement to combat sexual abuse.When it became foreseeable at the end of August 2019 that she would not qualify for the next television debate due to a lack of support in the party, she withdrew.

Kamala Harris: The Californian, born in 1964, was counted among the favorites for a long time, but apart from a brief high rise in the early summer of 2019, she struggled to score points with the electorate. Harris won a Senate seat in 2016 after a career as a prosecutor. There, the daughter of a Tamil woman and a Jamaican, who became an economics professor after immigrating to the USA, appeared among other things as a supporter of a liberal immigration policy. She also advocates switching to comprehensive state health insurance. Harris campaigned particularly hard for the votes of African Americans, who form a significant group in the Democratic Party. In view of disappointing survey results, financial bottlenecks and a personnel crisis in her campaign staff, she was forced to give up in December 2019.

John Hickenlooper: The 67-year-old politician from Colorado self-ironically admits that it is not easy with a strange last name like his in politics. But Hickenlooper has come a long way: After he ended up as a geologist in the service of an oil company in the Rocky Mountains state, he reinvented himself as a brewer and in 2003 won the mayor's office of Denver. His eight years in this post were seamlessly followed by eight years as governor of Colorado. Hickenlooper is one of the moderate, business-friendly wing of his party. He advertised himself with his track record as an executive politician and referred to successes in economic development and a well-balanced environmental policy. However, this did not create a wide following, and in mid-August 2019 he gave up the race.

Jay Island: The 68-year-old Seattle lawyer served in the House of Representatives for 16 years and has been Governor of Washington State since 2013. He is well connected nationally, having presided over the Democratic Governors' Association until recently. Inslee has made a name for itself with its opposition to Trump's entry ban on Muslim immigrants. His application revolved around the postulate of climate protection. That narrow focus didn't prove to be a recipe for success, however, and in August 2019, Inslee withdrew its application.

Seth Moulton: Born in 1978, the Massachusetts MP represents a constituency in the House of Representatives that is one of the strongholds of the Democrats. The edgy Moulton is a Marine Corps colonel and participated in the invasion of Iraq - a war he personally opposed. In his short campaign, he promoted himself with the argument that it takes an unshakable figure like him to survive in the election campaign against Trump. He called for funds from the defense budget to be redirected to promoting the economy and protecting the environment. However, Moulton did not get a lot of feedback, neither from the party base nor from the donors, so that he already failed at the hurdle to participate in the debates. In August 2019, he broke off his campaign.

Beto O’Rourke: The former congressman narrowly missed a surprise win over incumbent Ted Cruz in the 2018 Senate election in conservative Texas. That made him a new star in the Democratic Party. His presidential election campaign, however, did not really ignite after a lively start. The politician, born in 1972, tries to spread an optimistic message and thus to build on great role models like the Kennedys or Barack Obama. He has undisputed charisma; However, critics accuse him of a lack of political ideas. O’Rourke once studied English literature and also performed as a guitarist in a rock band. After unsteady years in various jobs, he founded an internet company that also published an online newspaper. He got into politics as a city councilor in El Paso. It is difficult to categorize ideologically; some observers consider him to be part of the moderate wing of his party. At the beginning of November 2019, he withdrew from the race.