The 2020 Election is one year away. Here’s what to expect over the next few months.

Rebecca Morin


Published 6: 00 AM EST Nov 3, 2019

WASHINGTON – We are officially one year away.

Sunday marks 365 days until the 2020 election, which will be held Nov. 3, 2020. While it may seem to some like the election has been rolling on for eternity, crunch time for presidential candidates and campaigns is right around the corner.

Over the next several months, voters will see the Democratic field continue to narrow as candidates struggle to make the debate stage, fall short in the early primary states or simply run out of cash to make a deep run.

The winnowing has already started — with former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke the most recent candidate to end his campaign — and it likely will continue in earnest over the next few months and following the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses Feb. 3. 

Here’s what you need to know now about how the race has been playing out and what to watch for in the coming months:

Who is still running?

After a record 27 Democrats jumped into the presidential race, the field of major candidates has narrowed down to 17. That number will continue to drop as debate qualifications get harder and the first primaries and caucuses approach.

An interactive guide: Who is running for president in 2020?

The current candidates are:

  • Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet
  • Former Vice President Joe Biden
  • New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker
  • Montana Gov. Steve Bullock
  • South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg
  • Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro
  • Former Maryland Rep. John Delaney
  • Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard
  • California Sen. Kamala Harris
  • Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar
  • Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam
  • Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders
  • Former Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Sestak
  • Billionaire Tom Steyer
  • Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren
  • Author Marianne Williamson and
  • Entrepreneur Andrew Yang.

On the Republican side, President Donald Trump isn’t the only person running to be the nominee. Trump is facing three primary opponents in his reelection bid: former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh and former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld.

Trump’s three primary opponents have an uphill battle. The president has the support of the Republican National Committee and a deep bench of support among vocal members of Congress. And while he does have detractors on the right, he still maintains a majority approval rating among Republicans. 

Who is leading so far?

Biden, who has run for president two other times, holds a slight polling edge above his two closest rivals, Warren and Sanders.

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The former vice president is at 26% with likely Democratic primary and caucus voters, according to a national USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll published Wednesday. Warren, who has seen her poll numbers tick up over the past several months, was at 17% and Sanders at 13% in the Wednesday poll.

When looking at an average of polls, those three candidates maintain the top 3 spots. Biden’s average is about 26%, according to a rolling average of polls from Real Clear Politics. Warren’s is about 21% and Sanders is at about 16%.

Biden for much of the year has held a double digit lead in polling over his Democratic opponents. However, in recent months that margin has narrowed. Between an August national USA TODAY/Suffolk University Poll to the October poll, Biden dropped 6 percentage points. Warren climbed 3 percentage points from August.

But being in the top 3 now of course doesn’t guarantee the same candidates will hold those places as primaries and caucuses begin early next year.

Buttigieg has seen his polling increase in recent weeks. He was at 10% in Wednesday’s poll, up from 6% in August.

In Iowa, the millennial mayor is catching up to Biden and Warren. In a Suffolk University/USA TODAY Iowa poll published Oct. 21, Biden had 18% support, Warren 17% and Buttigieg 13% among 500 likely Democratic caucusgoers. Sanders was in fourth with 9%, the same number as June.

What are the top issues for voters?

Health care continues to dominate conversations among candidates, and has frequently been rated voters’ No. 1 concern in polls. But poll respondents and the candidates themselves have been split on whether the country should move to Medicare for All or build on President Barack Obama’s signature policy, the Affordable Care Act.

According to a Quinnipiac University national poll published in September, 49% of Democrat and Democratic leaning voters said they believe that private health insurance systems should be replaced with a Medicare for All system. Comparatively, 44% said they believe that the current private health insurance system should be kept and that lawmakers should build on Obamacare.

More: 4 decades separate 2020’s presidential candidates. Here’s what that looks like.

Sanders made Medicare for All a signature issue in his 2016 run for the presidency and has continued that conversation into 2020. Several candidates have also endorsed the idea or put out a version of their own. Warren on Friday released her version of a Medicare for All plan. 

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Other candidates like Biden, Buttigieg and Klobuchar have repeatedly criticized the idea and have opted for more moderate health care proposals.

Another driving factor in the 2020 election is the impeachment inquiry into Trump and his dealings with Ukraine. That process could continue into the primary election cycle, which kicks off Feb. 3.

According to a Quinnipiac University poll published Oct. 23, 55% of American voters approve of the inquiry, while 43% disapprove. The poll also shows that 48 percent of those surveyed believe that Trump should be impeached and removed from office, compared to 46 percent who say he should not.

What are the key dates of the election?

One of the most important dates of the primary season is Feb. 3, 2020 — the day of the Iowa caucuses. It kicks off the primary season voting, but also could be the day a number of candidates determine whether to call it quits or stay in the race.

The Iowa caucuses can show if a campaign is slumping or surging, or if a candidate exceeds expectations. A candidates’ showing in Iowa can bring positive media and donor attention. But a poor showing, or not meeting expectations, can bring with it negative media coverage and a dry spigot of fundraising dollars.

Candidates will look to harness their Iowa momentum into the New Hampshire primary on Feb. 11. Like the caucuses, the New Hampshire primary often continues to winnow the field. 

The Nevada caucuses are up next, on Feb. 22. It is the first early state that is home a large Latino population, a growing voter bloc that will be crucial in the 2020 election.

The last early voting state is South Carolina, and its Democratic primary is Feb. 29. The first in the South primary usually showcases where presidential hopefuls stand with black voters, who made up more than 60% of the Democratic primary electorate in 2016, according to PBS Newshour.

Super Tuesday comes March 3, where at least 14 states have their primaries and 40% of the total number of delegates are up for grabs. The primary elections continue until June. 

The Democratic National Committee hosts their convention July 13-16 in Milwaukee, where the party will officially nominate a presidential candidate for the general election. Between Aug. 24-27, the Republican National Committee hosts their convention in Charlotte.. 

When are the next debates?

There are only two more debates left in 2019. 

The November debate will be held in Atlanta on Nov. 20 and hosted by by MSNBC and the Washington Post. Thus far, only Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Harris, Klobuchar, Sanders, Steyer, Warren and Yang have met the qualifications.

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How do Democrats win in 2020?: These battleground state leaders have some advice.

Candidates have until Nov. 13 at 11: 59 p.m. to meet the qualifications for the November debate.

The last debate of the year will on Dec. 19 at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. It will be co-hosted by PBS Newshour and POLITICO. The qualifications for that debate will likely trim down who makes the stage even more.

Presidential hopefuls have until Dec. 12 at 11: 59 p.m. to meet the criteria to make it to the December debate stage.

There will be six more primary debates in 2020 between January to April.

In addition, the dates and locations of the general election debates have also been announced.

The first presidential debate will take place on Sept. 29 at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana. The vice presidential debate will take place at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City on Oct. 7. The second presidential debate will be held at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor on Oct. 15 and the third presidential debate will be at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee on Oct. 22.

Other things to watch for in 2020

The presidential election isn’t the only thing voters will need to cast a ballot for on Nov. 3, 2020.

Key House and Senate races across the country will be in play to determine who has control of each chamber in Congress.

There are 25 House seats up for election in 2020 that are considered tossups, according to, meaning basically a Republican and Democrat are equally likely to take the seat. Democrats currently hold a 37 seat majority in the House and are looking to play both offense and defense to maintain control of the chamber.

In the Senate, Republicans hold the majority. So far 35 Senate seats are up for election in 2020, with 23 seats being defended on the Republican side. Democrats are hoping to peel off a few of those seats, but many are safely Republican. Senate races in Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina and Maine are considered among the most pivotal in 2020.

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