A far cry from the chaotic skirmishes of the Republican contest, the Democrats are struggling to bring more than a handful of names into the presidential primaries.
Here’s a run down of the most prominent current hopefuls, and one notable undecided.
Former Secretary of State and Senator for New York
Following an unsuccessful run in 2008, Hillary Clinton has set her sights on 2016. Hillary is well positioned for next year’s race: she enjoys considerable popularity, can raise the necessary funds for a run, and has a distinguished career at both a senatorial and cabinet level.
Taking the baton from her predecessor, Hillary has yet to carve out a policy platform that deviates significantly from President Obama. Her appeal to voters is based on continuing the economic recovery, tackling inequality, and addressing issues leftover from the Obama administration, including immigration reform.
Criticised by many within the party who seek a more radical alternative such as Elizabeth Warren, Hillary has begun to ease her speeches towards a more egalitarian economic vision. Learning from the mistakes of how her rivals handled the Black Lives Matter question, Hillary has recently met with a representative of the movement. Taking control of the issue was a sensible move, and portrays Hillary as a candidate ready to take real action upon entering the Oval Office.
The frontrunner for the Democratic Party, Hillary offers a strong chance of winning the White House in 2016, though she may struggle to ignite the passions of the party’s left wing.
Senator for Vermont
Considered a dark horse initially, Senator Bernie Sanders has gained momentum in recent weeks. A registered independent, Sanders is positioning himself in opposition to the ‘establishment’ option of Hillary Clinton.
Sanders has called for a widespread reorganisation of America’s economic structure, brining those responsible for the financial crisis to account. Arguing that Wall Street enjoys far too much power over ordinary Americans, he has proposed breaking up the largest banks. His economic populism has also led him to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty, an issue on which Hillary Clinton has yet to give a clear position.
Sanders is on the left of virtually every issue in contemporary American politics: immigration, healthcare, the environment. He is also a vocal opponent of American intervention overseas, critiquing President Obama’s use of sanctions against Russia and arguing that ISIS should be confronted by regional powers.
Sander’s blunt-speak, anti-banker populism has most definitely struck a chord with crowds across America. Though ultimately unlikely to win the nomination, Sanders is riding a wave of momentum that could upset a Hillary-coronation.
Former Governor of Maryland
O’Malley is making little noise at this point in the contest, but has sought to present himself as an experienced leader, politically to the left of Hillary Clinton.
His record shows that he has been a more active proponent of federal action in support of same sex marriage than Hillary, and has been vocal in his opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty, whereas the former Secretary of State has not staked a clear position on the issue.
Despite a successful career as liberal politician, O’Malley appears to be a long-shot at this point: he is polling well behind the other candidates and has been tripped up over Black Lives Matter, despite being the former Mayor of Baltimore, a city which has been at the centre of the recent social unrest concerning police violence against African American citizens.
O’Malley sorely needs a campaign defining moment to launch his profile into the national media.
Undecided – Joe Biden
Vice President, former Senator for Delaware
Though reports of a surprise Al Gore run for the Democratic nomination have been debunked, Joe Biden appears more likely to enter the race. The Vice President has been holding meetings in D.C. with leading Democrats, allegedly feeling out what support he would receive if he challenged Hillary.
Widely respected throughout the Democratic Party, Biden suffered tragedy earlier this year with the death of his son, Beau, who is reported to have encouraged his father to try for the White House one last time.
It is hoped that Biden will declare his intentions soon, though unnamed sources report that many close to him are against the idea.
Without a clear policy agenda or strong reason to seek the nomination, it is hard to predict a pathway to the nomination for Joe Biden given the early advantage enjoyed by his former colleague and potential rival, Hillary Clinton. Winning the endorsement of a prominent Democrat like Elizabeth Warren may be enough to springboard Biden into the contest.