It’s officially 2019, which means it’s time to talk about 2020—or more specifically, who could win the Democratic nomination and the right to take on Donald Trump in the general election. Several dozen Democrats have already emerged as potential challengers, with Elizabeth Warren getting a head start on everyone else by announcing her candidacy on New Year’s Eve. And while not all of the other rumored candidates will jump into the race, the party is preparing for the likelihood of so many contenders that they won’t all fit on the debate stage at once.
Although it is way too early to predict who will prevail in what is shaping up to be a long and messy primary, it’s not too early to consider which of the could-be candidates would enter the race with the wind at their backs. Early buzz doesn’t guarantee electoral success, but it certainly helps. Consider: All but one of the major-party nominees in the past quarter-century were polling inside the Top 5 at this point in their nominating cycles, according to a CNN analysis of post-midterm polling averages. The sole exception is Donald Trump, though that was because politicos and pundits were slow to take him seriously given his previous PR stunts; he found significant support once pollsters belatedly began to include him in their list of options.