In exactly 9 months, Americans will head to the polls for the 2020 election. Donald Trump will be fighting for reelection against the Democratic presidential nominee, while all 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 34 of the 100 seats in the Senate will also be contested. Furthermore, elections will also be held for the governorships of 11 states and two territories, a majority of state legislatures, and multiple municipalities.

With just 9 months until election day, MJPS has rounded up some of the most important election-shaping events from last month, along with a preview of what to expect in American politics over the next month.

Last Month

1. Cory Booker and Julián Castro drop out of the presidential race (January 2nd and 13th)

On January 13th, Senator Cory Booker announced he would be dropping out of the Democratic primary. In an email to his supporters, Booker cited lack of money as a key reason for his decision to drop out. 

The announcement followed Julián Castro’s drop-out announcement on January 2nd. As one of the most high-profile Latino Democrats ever to seek the party’s nomination, Castro made border control and immigration a cornerstone of his platform. Although he made big waves on the debate stage, he rarely exceeded 2 per cent support in national or early-voting state surveys. Similarly, Booker struggled in the polls and experienced disappointing fundraising. 

Both Booker and Castro framed themselves as champions of the underserved who themselves had experienced discrimination and adversity because of their racial and economic background; despite these appeals, both candidates faced a surprising inability to electrify and grow a following. 

2. The Seventh Democratic Debate (January 14)

The January debate, co-hosted by CNN and the Des Moines Register, featured only six presidential candidates – the smallest number of candidates yet. The debate drew attention for a number of key reasons. 

Firstly, the debate featured the least diverse group of candidates this race has seen so far. Sen. Cory Booker, and former United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julian Castro, have dropped out of the race; tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang did not qualify for the debate due to not meeting the polling requirement. 

The debate stage was dominated by the U.S. presence in the Middle East, health care and the environment. Additionally, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders addressed comments he allegedly made doubting that a woman could win the presidency. Their disagreements culminated in a post-debate exchange in which viewers saw Warren accused Sanders of calling her a liar on national television. Sanders responded that it was Warren who called him a liar and they should not talk about it right then.

3. The Ongoing Impeachment Trial

Michael Bennet, Amy Klobuchar, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren journeyed back to Washington in mid-January to fulfill a critical role as members of the Senate in the ongoing impeachment trial of Donald Trump. On Friday, January 31st, after senators voted not to allow new witness testimony in the trial, Trump’s acquittal is now almost certain. 

Although the trial is likely on its last leg, the impeachment process has impacted candidates’ abilities to stump in key states, such as Iowa. Some candidates, including Sanders and Warren, have emphasized duty when asked about the interruption; Warren even went as far as to argue that the impeachment trial would demonstrate the importance of addressing corruption in the White House. 

Pete Buttigieg, the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana and former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., did not have to leave the campaign trail for the trial. 

Next Month 

1. The Iowa Caucuses (February 3rd)

On February 3rd, many Americans will be tuning in to find out how many delegates each candidate will receive from Iowa for the 2020 Democratic nomination. Many Americans and non-Americans alike struggle to understand why the Iowa caucuses have been looked to for years as a key turning point in the primary process. 

For starters, because the Iowa caucuses mark the first votes cast in the election, it can have significant effects in terms of momentum and attention from the media and donors. However, it is important to note that the Iowa caucuses are far from representative of the American electorate. The state is overwhelmingly white and the caucuses themselves take place on a Monday night in early February, making it more difficult for disenfranchised, disabled, and working Iowans to participate. 

Despite disagreements regarding its representativeness of American, since 1972 the eventual nominee has nearly always been one of the top three finishers in the caucuses. As of February 2nd, Sanders has held a lead over Biden by just over one per cent in the polls.  

2. New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina hold Democratic Primary Elections and Debates

Because Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina vote first, they play a disproportionately large role in narrowing down the candidate field.As of February 2nd, Sen. Bernie Sanders has maintained his lead in the New Hampshire primary. In South Carolina, Biden leads with double digits over the next contender in the polls. And in Nevada, Biden leads by just over two per cent.

Before voting is held in those states, there will be three debates. The 8th, 9th, and 10th debates of the Democratic primary will be held on February 7th (New Hampshire), 19th (Nevada), and 25th (South Carolina), respectively. 

Notably, the D.N.C recently announced that, starting with the 9th debate, candidates will not be required to have received grassroots donations from hundreds of thousands of individuals. This may open the door to allow former Major Michael R. Bloomberg of New York to partake as a contender in the debate, which he has not been able to do yet.

Edited by Evelyne Goulet.

This article is part of a series on the 2020 United States elections. To see more analysis and opinion on the American presidential and congressional elections, click here. 

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and they do not reflect the position of the McGill Journal of Political Studies or the Political Science Students’ Association.

 Image by Nico Paix via Wikimedia Commons