I'm asking this question on 3/10/2017, and it is mainly geared towards democrats, but applies to any party.

I realize there is no one size fits all answer to this, as candidates are all different; name recognition, region, background, etc, but if I am eyeing a run for the US presidency in 2020, what am I doing now?

I am thinking of the things that any candidate would need to do, fundraising, building relationships with a possible future staff and supporters and so on.

Is there a baseline of requirements, such as $x in the war chest, number of endorsements, or something similar?

  • Is this in the US? Also you might want to narrow the scope of your question a bit. Its a bit close to opinion/too broad right now. – David says Reinstate Monica Mar 11 '17 at 0:09
  • A question which asks for the effective limitations for running for the office of POTUS would be a good question; (e.g. by the constitution you need to be born in the US to be eligible, but perhaps there are other limitations, legal or de-facto, as well?), but as it's phrased right now it's very opinion-based. I would recommend you edit the question and rephrase it. – user11249 Mar 11 '17 at 1:27
  • 5
    "I realize there is no one size fits all answer to this" = which means it's probably not a great question for StackExchange. But to answer the question, you should be hiring a campaign consultant. – user1530 Mar 11 '17 at 2:23
  • @Carpetsmoker it's fairly well established that birth in the US is not a requirement; birth as a US citizen is, but there are ways to be born a US citizen outside the US. – phoog Mar 11 '17 at 4:11
  • @blip - This could be answered by someone with campaign experience or something similar. So at least an answer can be judged on the good subjective/bad subjective basis. – indigochild Mar 11 '17 at 4:15

Is there a baseline of requirements, such as $x in the war chest, number of endorsements, or something similar?

Not in 2017 for 2020. At this time in 2013, people expected Hillary Clinton to run but weren't sure. There were some concerns over her health that had caused her to leave the State department. Some people wanted Bernie Sanders to run, but he hadn't made a decision.

As a practical matter, most candidates do not register for the presidential election until the year before it. That means that they can't raise money as a presidential candidate. Fundraising for other seats tops out around $50 million. Candidates for president are raising ten times that. So funds raised before announcing are not significant.

Endorsements are similar. Until the announcement is official, candidates can't really rely on endorsements.

The typical candidates running now will be trying to raise their profiles. This could be any of the following:

  • Taking public positions that get them in front of the television (this is usually why the media speculates that someone is going to run).
    • Specifically, voting against every Donald Trump appointee.
    • Testifying against a fellow Senator's cabinet appointment for the first time in history.
  • Supporting other candidates, to make other politicians reliant on them. This often leads to endorsements later.
    • Contributing funds to other campaigns.
    • Campaigning with other candidates.
    • Joint fundraisers with other candidates.
    • Endorsing other candidates in their own races.
    • Giving advice to other candidates.
  • Building a campaign organization.
  • Giving speeches to organizations outside one's district. This could be something big like CPAC or something smaller.

Of course, politicians may do these same things for other reasons, like trying for leadership positions in Congress. Or just winning reelection. Or even just because they are the right thing.

The most qualifying job for president is governor. Note that George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter were all governors. George H. W. Bush and Richard Nixon were Vice-President. John F. Kennedy was a Senator. Dwight Eisenhower was a general. Gerald Ford, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Harry S Truman all assumed the presidency from the vice-presidency.

Chances are that the 2020 Democratic candidates for president are all either governors or Senators. Martin O'Malley is a possible exception--he's a retired governor. It's also conceivable that someone with a background more like Trump's might run. This could be someone like Oprah Winfrey or Mark Cuban. Michael Bloomberg is probably too old.


The old-school logic was that you would mount at least 2 Presidential campaigns, the first one you didn't expect to win the primary, the purpose was to get your name in the newspaper. This is really the reason that Trump ran, he wasn't interested in obtaining the office he was just interested in the advertising. After the second campaign if you didn't make it, you quit. But, this was before the rise of the Octogenarian generation running for President. Nowadays by the time the second campaign gets going they have died of old age.

The other thing that has happened is with the Internet, the public has been able to scrutinize the candidates very closely and make up their mind about them. This may well result in no-do-overs in 2020 and a completely fresh batch of faces.

But for now you can assume that everyone who ran in the Primaries this last election is at least thinking about running in 2020 save Hillary.


To run for President, all you need is to be 35, born a US citizen, a US resident for 14 years and of sufficient intellectual capacity to fill out an FEC form 2. It is a bar so low that pond scum and even the occasional white supremacist can sometimes clear it.

If you want to someday mount a WINNING campaign, though, that is a much more difficult path. You will need a vast network of supporters, the ability to recruit and retain talented staff, and access to resources with which to compensate them. There is no fundraising floor but to win the presidency you will probably need an amount in the hundreds of millions at least.

There are several routes to get there, but none are easy. You could go the traditional route by building an accomplished professional career and then running for local office and then congress, etc. Or you could take the Donald Trump route if your parents have left you with a couple hundred million to burn. Timing is also essential. If you are too old, too young, or making your bid when the bench is deep, things get much harder.

Prepare to spend 100 hours a week campaigning, asking for money all the time and be practically married to your campaign manager. Get ready to make sacrifices to every portion of your life, familial, financial, not to mention your privacy. Prepare to have every part of your life and lifestyle scrutinized. And even if you do everything by the book you still may not win - just ask Hillary Clinton. Or Jeb Bush, for that matter.

Sound like fun?

If you win, please consider appointing me Ambassador to an island nation with hot babes, nice beaches and tasty mojitos for setting you on you way.

Good luck.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .