How The Times Is Keeping Track of the Democratic Candidates for 2020

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Senator Kamala Harris of California, the second black woman to serve in the United States Senate, announced on Monday that she would run for president in 2020. The timing was no accident: As Astead W. Herndon wrote, this week marks not only the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday but also the anniversary of Shirley Chisholm’s presidential campaign kickoff in 1972.

At The Times, Ms. Harris’s announcement served as a newsworthy opportunity to debut a project the Politics and Graphics desks have been working on since early December: a live tracker keeping count of a wide field of Democratic candidates who may be poised to challenge President Trump in 2020. The tracker went live on Monday alongside Mr. Herndon’s article on Ms. Harris’s candidacy.

With more than 650 days left to go until the next presidential election, Ms. Harris is already the eighth Democrat to formally announce her intention to run. Currently, The Times considers six more candidates “all but certain” or “likely” to throw their hats in the ring and a further eight as maybes — designations that could change at any time in an unpredictable election cycle.

Typically, the period just after the midterm elections has represented a little break for political journalists to take a breath and reflect. Not so this year, when partisan discord over Mr. Trump and his policies has made politics a source of near-constant obsession.

“There is intense interest in this 2020 race because of how voters in both major parties feel about President Trump,” said Patrick Healy, The Times’s politics editor. “Reader comments and response to my Twitter threads have been voluminous and passionate.”

“We really had no lull,” said Haeyoun Park, an editor on the Politics desk. “This cycle has really started early — right after the midterms, we were moving straight on to the presidential. To have this many candidates clear this early, I think, is pretty unusual.”

In fact, graphics and politics editors had been discussing the need for a clear, concise presentation of the possible, probable and definite candidates for 2020 even before the midterm elections were over in early November. What came as a surprise, as they began compiling names, was the sheer number of candidates mulling a run. “It feels like nearly everyone held back in 2016, and now, after the biggest midterm election for Democrats in years, the floodgates are open,” said Wilson Andrews, a graphics editor who oversaw the project with Ms. Park.

Ms. Park began organizing 30-plus possible candidates into a spreadsheet, and four politics reporters — Alexander Burns, Matt Flegenheimer, Lisa Lerer and Jonathan Martin — were each assigned a group of around eight names. The reporters contributed background details informed by their continuing reporting on the race, while the graphics and multimedia editor Jasmine Lee worked on the design, building on a similar project the teams created for the 2016 election.

The result is an interactive list of 33 individuals, organized by how likely they are to run, from definite candidates, like Julián Castro and Senator Elizabeth Warren, to definite non-candidates, including Tom Steyer and Oprah Winfrey. Readers can click on any of their names or photos to find a brief biographical sketch and, in the cases of those running or likely to run, their signature campaign issues.

In a thread he posted on Twitter on Monday, The Times’s politics editor, Patrick Healy, underscored the tracker’s breadth. Increasingly in recent months, Mr. Healy has turned to Twitter as a tool to add context and transparency to his team’s reporting practices.

Even at this early date, interest in the tracker is strong — it was one of The Times’s most visited articles on Monday. (The 2016 version of the candidate tracker was one of the most popular pages at The Times throughout the course of that election, too, Mr. Andrews said.)

And it will continue to evolve as the field of candidates does. “The 2016 version was redesigned at least three times as the field grew and the news shifted in different segments in the campaign,” Mr. Andrews said. “We expect that this election’s will also change over time.”

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Alexandria Symonds is a senior staff editor at The Times. @a_symonds

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