Election 2020

And Then There Were 22: Sen. Michael Bennet Enters the Presidential Race

The Colorado Democrat opposes Medicare for All and universal free college.


Sen. Michael Bennet (D–Colo.) announced today he'll seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2020. Bennet is one of 22 Democrats running, so he could have trouble setting himself apart.

"I think this country faces two enormous challenges," Bennet tells CBS This Morning. "One is a lack of economic mobility and opportunity for most Americans and the other is the need to restore integrity to our government."

Bennet has been a U.S. senator since 2009. Prior to that, he was the superintendent of Denver's public school system. The 54-year-old announced last month that he'd been diagnosed with prostate cancer; he has since undergone surgery to have it removed.

To say that Bennet faces an uphill climb if he really wants to be president would be a massive understatement. He's one of the seven incumbent U.S. senators seeking the nomination, meaning that nearly 15 percent of the Democratic-caucusing senators are running. And candidates like Sens. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.), Kamala Harris (D–Calif.), Cory Booker (D–N.J.), and Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) undoubtedly have significantly more national name recognition than Bennet. Even lower-profile candidates, such as Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D–Minn.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D–N.Y.), have an advantage over Bennet by virtue of having announced their runs more than a month ago.

And that's not even considering former Vice President Joe Biden, who announced he was running last week and leads in most national polls. Bennet is not even the only Coloradoan running—former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, who used to employ Bennet as his chief of staff, has also thrown his hat in the race. A list of the Democrats running—with the exception of Miramar, Florida, Mayor Wayne Messam—is below. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock will reportedly announce his own presidential bid in the coming weeks as well.

Bennet realizes he doesn't have the name recognition of some of the other candidates. "You probably don't know me because I don't go on cable news every night," he says in a campaign announcement video. How does he feel about the sheer number of Democrats running? "This is the opportunity for us to show what we stand for, for us to have a competition of ideas," he tells CBS. "I think it's phenomenal that we've got as diverse an array of candidates as we have, in all respects, and that we've got the number that we have."

So what does Bennet stand for? He's something of a moderate—by 2019 standards, anyway—since he opposes Medicare for All and universal free college. "I don't think 180 million Americans want to give up the insurance they already have through their work or their union," he says in his announcement video. Bennet and Sen. Tim Kaine (D–Va.) previously introduced "Medicare X," a plan that "would create a new public option for health insurance—an idea that was originally part of Obamacare but was jettisoned for being seen, at the time, as too progressive," Politico reported in March.

Bennet wants to focus on "investing in education, from pre-school through college," as well as in job training. "But I'm not going to pretend free college is the answer. I'm not going to say there's a simple solution to a problem if I don't believe there is one," he says.

Other platform planks include reforming the campaign finance system, ending gerrymandering, and prohibiting members of Congress from becoming lobbyists after they leave office.

While Bennet is not one of the better-known 2020 presidential candidates, he has made headlines several times in recent months. In January, while parts of the federal government were shut down, he accused Sen. Ted Cruz of shedding "crocodile tears" after the Texas Republican said it was Democrats' fault that federal employees weren't being paid. In March, he slammed President Donald Trump's enthusiasm for using eminent domain to build a wall on the U.S. Mexico border. Trump's past remarks on eminent domain were "the kind of language you'd expect out of some autocrat someplace, not in a democracy," Bennet said.