From a practical standpoint, there are only a few dozen people who stand any chance of being elected president during the upcoming election, though, in reality, the number is even lower. But the bar for running for president is low enough that, even before the 2016 election was over, there were already 32 people who had completed the necessary paperwork with the Federal Election Commission to qualify as candidates in 2020.
You can look for yourself; the FEC maintains a page listing every person who has filed form F-2 announcing their candidacies. As of writing, there are 447 such individuals, 32 of whom declared before 2016 was over and 63 of whom declared their 2020 candidacies before President Trump was even inaugurated. (Trump himself declared for 2020 on the day of his 2017 inauguration.)
In recent months, the number of people declaring their candidacies has increased at a rapid clip.
Unsurprisingly, states that are home to the most declared candidates are those with the largest populations. About 15 percent of declared candidates are from California, for example.
But here’s a little quirk. The title of most declared candidates per Zip code belongs not to some county in Texas or some neighborhood in Brooklyn. Instead, it belongs to one house in Black Hawk, S.D. There are four 2020 candidates living there (or who at least filed from there), which must make dinners awfully contentious.
Several states have no declared candidates as of writing, including Mississippi, Wyoming, North Dakota, West Virginia and Vermont. The odds seem decent that at least one candidate from one of those states will emerge at some point in the near future.
That deeply political house in South Dakota is a reminder that not all of those who’ve announced their intention to run for president are entirely serious about the enterprise. If you can fill out a form and be listed alongside the sitting president as a candidate for the highest office in the country, why not fill out that form? Trump is 397th on the list as of writing, enveloped by Eduardo Torres and Gary Turner, running as candidates in the Green and Democratic parties, respectively.
Most of those declared candidates are running as third-party or write-in candidates. There are more than twice as many Democrats running as Republicans, perhaps a testament to Trump’s consistently strong approval ratings among members of his own party.
Interestingly, the density of those third-party candidacies seems to be more robust in more rural areas than in urban centers in California, Texas or the Northeast. Read into that what you will.
How many candidates might we end up with? Thanks in part to media attention paid to the number of candidates in 2016 (sorry), there were ultimately more than 1,700 declared candidates. At this point in that cycle, January of 2015, there were slightly more than 100.
Not all of those who subsequently filed to run were goofing around. Among those who hadn’t yet declared by this point in the 2016 cycle was someone that many expected would never declare a real candidacy: the eventual winner, Donald Trump.
Among those who haven’t yet declared this cycle? Elizabeth Warren.