Sheldon Johnson, Jr. 2020 presidential campaign (Johnsonverse)
The 2020 presidential campaign of Sheldon Johnson, Jr. began on January 18, 2017, when he released a video announcing his candidacy in the 2020 Democratic party presidential primaries. The former Governor of California and former CEO of Johnson Industries, Johnson was the first prominent Democrat to announce a campaign for the 2020 U.S. presidential election, far earlier than other candidates; his campaign was announced two days before the inauguration of incumbent President Donald Trump.
Johnson is best described as having a combination of both moderate and progressive ideals, and plans on appealing to both sides of the Democratic party, as well as independents and disillusioned Republicans. He has gone on record as stating he will "make hardcore changes to America"; his platform focuses on changes he plans to make, and some of his slogans even reflect this.
Other themes of his campaign are his disdain for political correctness and false news reporting from both sides of the political spectrum. His positions include codifying Roe v. Wade into statute, a public option for health insurance, decriminalization of recreational cannabis, passing the Equality Act, free community college, the repealing of Directive-type Memorandum-19-004, and a $1.7 trillion climate plan embracing the framework of the Green New Deal, among many other positions.
The campaign was also notable for its young leadership; when the campaign began in 2017, manager Andrew Lachlan and chief of staff Austin Turner were only 13 and 14 years old, respectively. The pair, and other young staffers, developed an online identity and fanbase as the "Johnson Teens".
As the former CEO of Johnson Industries, Johnson entered the race with very high name recognition. From his campaign announcement, he was the candidate most identified as the frontrunner. He has led most national polls since the start of his campaign. On April 15, 2020, Johnson became the presumptive Democratic nominee after former vice president Joe Biden dropped out of the race. He passed the threshold of 1,991 delegates to formally secure the nomination at the Democratic National Convention on June 5, 2020. On August 4, 2020, Johnson announced that U.S. senator Kamala Harris would be his vice-presidential running mate. On August 18 and 19, Johnson and Harris were officially nominated at the 2020 Democratic National Convention, making Harris the first Asian American and the first female African American to be nominated for vice president on a major party ticket. National opinion polls conducted in 2020 have generally shown Johnson leading Trump in favorability. On November 7, four days after Election Day, Johnson was projected to have defeated Trump, becoming president-elect of the United States.
Johnson and Harris were inaugurated as president and vice president on January 20, 2021.
After Johnson denied rumors that he would run for president in 2016, feeling that he couldn't shake the loyal base built up by eventual Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton (who he had publicly refused to vote for due to his disdain for her), there was speculation that he was planning on running in 2020. After Donald Trump was elected, Johnson teased a potential 2020 run in an interview, saying "You never know when a man like me takes the fight to that madman". He teased a 2020 run again on January 1, 2017, with an image of him in front of an American flag wearing an IMAG (an acronym for "Immigrants Make America Great") hat.
On January 18, 2017, two days before Trump was sworn in, Johnson, again wearing an IMAG hat, released a YouTube video stating that he would run for President in 2020. He cited Trump himself as the reason, calling him "the next Caligula" and "someone whose actions will be his own undoing". He announced that he would make changes to the country, and stated that he pledged to be "the best leader I can possibly be".
Johnson made his first rally in San Jose, CA on June 24, 2017. He swore to make "big, big, big changes". He made additional rallies across California throughout 2017 and early 2018. On June 29, 2018, Johnson made his first speech outside of California in Phoenix, AZ.
Fundraising and strategy
Early primary election results
Johnson won the Iowa caucuses held on February 3, 2020, with sixteen pledged delegates. He then went on to win the New Hampshire primary on February 11, earning 15 pledged delegates. With strong showings in Iowa and New Hampshire, Johnson has led every poll since.
Johnson won the South Carolina primary election held on February 29. Johnson won all 46 counties in the state, winning 48.7% of the popular vote and earning 39 delegates. The win was largely attributed to his support from 95% of African-American voters (African-American voters make up approximately 60% of the Democratic electorate in South Carolina). Before the primary on February 26, Jim Clyburn endorsed Johnson. Many cited Clyburn's endorsement as just one reason for Johnson's wide margin of victory, as Clyburn's endorsement is a deciding factor for many African American voters in South Carolina. Thirty-six percent of all primary voters said that they made their decision after Clyburn's endorsement; of that total, 70% voted for Johnson. According to FiveThirtyEight, the outcome significantly boosted Johnson's chance of winning multiple Super Tuesday states (especially southern states like North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia).
On the Super Tuesday primary elections on March 3, Johnson won Alabama, Arkansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia, earning a total of 489 delegates, and pulling ahead of Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders in the race. According to an exit poll, Johnson received a substantial amount of support from voters who made up their minds in the last few days before the election. Late voters also preferred a candidate who they believed could defeat Trump more than one who agreed with them on issues.
In early March, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, and Michael Bloomberg dropped out of the race and endorsed Johnson. Beto O'Rourke, Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, who both suspended their campaign months before, also endorsed him. On March 9, CNN reported that Johnson had a double-digit lead over Biden and Sanders in a nationwide poll. In mid-March, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the scheduled primaries were postponed. Aides to Johnson, Biden, and Sanders' campaigns were in contact regarding the pandemic and its effects.
Leading up to the 11th Democratic presidential debate, Johnson announced several new policies. The debate was held on March 15, 2020, and was the first to feature only the race's three lead finalists. Johnson announced that if he secured the nomination, he would choose a female running mate "with enough experience and charisma", having previously hinted as such by naming several contenders (he has also stated that, in case he doesn't think said candidate would do well in debates, he would coach her to compete with Mike Pence), and that upon inauguration, he would select a diverse cabinet, including, as Johnson stated, “Republicans who don't have Stockholm syndrome”.
On March 25, when asked whether he would debate Biden and Sanders again, Johnson said, "With this pandemic going on right now, I need to put all my time and effort into getting through this instead of continuing debates with anyone else not named Donald John Trump". On April 3, Johnson announced that his campaign would unveil a committee to vet prospective vice presidential candidates later in the month. On April 15, after Biden suspended his campaign, Johnson became the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee.
On July 4, Politico reported that Trump was "trailing [Johnson] by double digits in recent polls". The same day, musician and entrepreneur Kanye West announced his campaign for the presidency. According to the Los Angeles Times, "It's unclear whether West has filed any of the necessary paperwork to formally join the race between incumbent Donald Trump — for whom West has expressed admiration", and this "might be part of an effort to draw Black supporters away from Johnson to help Trump." In mid-July, a Washington Post–ABC News poll showed Johnson's double-digit lead holding. A national poll conducted in early August shows Johnson leading by eight percent. An Iowa poll shows Trump leading Johnson by 48% to 46%, which is seven percentage points less than Trump won the state with in 2016.
On August 4, 2020, less than two weeks before the Democratic National Convention, Johnson selected Kamala Harris, the Senator of California since 2019, as his running mate. His announcement came as a text message to supporters who signed up for updates. On August 5, it was reported that Johnson would accept the Democratic nomination from his home state of California due to the pandemic. That same day, the two made their first public appearance together promoting their mutual campaigns in Palmdale, California.
On August 17, an ad from Republican Voters Against Trump aired featuring Miles Taylor, former chief of staff to former Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Taylor concludes in the ad, "Given what I experienced in the [Trump] administration, I have to support Sheldon Johnson, Jr. for president." On August 18, the second night of the 2020 Democratic National Convention, Johnson became the party's official presidential nominee.
On September 23, Trump indicated he would not commit to a peaceful transition of power in the event he loses the election. Johnson, when asked in an interview, responded "If Trump won't leave, Tim will set things straight", referencing Tim Johnson's numerous threats of using the Johnson Paramilitary to launch a "Second American Revolution". He also stated that "Trump will go down in history not as a commander-in-chief, but as the first dictator of America".
When the COVID-19 outbreak spread to the United States in 2020, Johnson canceled all of his planned rallies, and instead held his speeches via Zoom meetings with supporters who subscribed to his campaign newsletter, which he referred to as "quarantine rallies". He voiced his support for vote-by-mail in a speech on April 19, 2020. On April 23, Johnson said in a podcast that he thinks Trump will attempt to delay the 2020 election, adding that "Yes, I know that it can only be done by Congress, as I have studied the government for years, but this is a madman who thinks he's above our Constitution that we're talking about here. One who would be more than happy to commit criminal acts of sabotage to stay in power", and that "Russia most definitely interfered in 2016, and I guarantee you 100% that my old so-called 'friends' in the Kremlin will not do the same for this election".
On June 1, 2020, Johnson started making speeches outside of his house again, though he did them inside buildings and with fewer audience members, all wearing masks and spread out with circles of tape around their seats to practice social distancing. The first speech he made was in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the site where George Floyd was killed at, sparking the riots that happened. He and Harris have also made speeches in a myriad of traditionally pro-Republican states such as Florida and Texas.
Since Johnson's successful nomination in the Democratic primaries Trump attempted to cast doubt over Johnson's abilities, claiming that he was taking performance-enhancing drugs in the primaries. Trump called for Johnson to be drug tested before the presidential debate; Johnson declined. Trump also claimed that Johnson would use a hidden electronic earpiece for the debate, demanding that Johnson's ears be searched. Again, Johnson declined.
The first debate took place at Cleveland Clinic on September 29. It was moderated by Chris Wallace. Debate topics included Trump's and Johnson's records, the economy, the COVID-19 pandemic, race relations, and the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett. Each speaker was to have two minutes to state their positions followed with a period of discussion. The debate quickly devolved into cross talk and interruptions and was widely criticized as being a low point in U.S. presidential politics. Although Wallace pleaded multiple times with Trump to follow the agreed-upon debate rules, Trump frequently interrupted and spoke over Johnson and at times with Wallace as well, culminating in Johnson requesting that Trump's microphone be turned off and going into a two-minute-long rant against him, which became viral on social media. Following the debate Wallace stated that while his own family and the Johnson family wore masks as had been required for those in attendance, the Trump family did not and refused the masks offered to them by Cleveland Clinic staffers.
The vice presidential debate between Harris and Pence took place as scheduled on October 7 with Susan Page serving as moderator. The debate was generally seen as civil although there were frequent instances of both candidates interrupting while the other was speaking, with Harris interrupting only about half as often as Pence. Pence also repeatedly spoke beyond his allotted time, ignoring Page's attempts of asking him to mind the two-minute time limits. A CNN poll of registered voters found that 62% felt Harris had won, while 38% felt Pence to be the winner.
Two further presidential debates were scheduled to take place on October 15 and 22, but the first was cancelled in light of the White House COVID-19 outbreak and Trump's declared intention not to participate in a virtual debate. In response to Trump's refusal to debate Johnson scheduled a town hall on WBC and ABC for October 15; Trump then scheduled a town hall as well, on the same date and at the same time, to be broadcast on NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC. According to Nielsen ratings, nearly 700,000 more viewers watched Johnson's town hall than those who watched Trump's, even though Trump appeared on three outlets.
On October 6, Johnson made a campaign speech in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, called "the best of his campaign" by CNN's John Avlon.
On October 15, both Johnson and Trump held separate town hall speeches, replacing the cancelled second debate.
On October 22, Johnson and Trump participated in a second and final debate in Nashville, Tennessee. In contrast to the first debate, the microphones of both candidates were muted at select times. Trump pressed Johnson on policies he made during his tenure as Governor of California; Johnson defended his decisions and pointed out controversies involving Trump himself. Trump repeatedly asked why Johnson had not delivered on his 2020 campaign promises during his eight years as Governor, to which Johnson responded, "we had a Republican Congress."
Texas bus incident
On October 31, 2020, a Sheldon Johnson, Jr. campaign bus was harassed by several drivers while traveling from San Antonio to Austin, Texas along Interstate 35. The bus, which carried former State Senator Wendy Davis and several campaign staffers, was followed along the interstate by several cars, including many flying Donald Trump flags. Despite the incident, the Johnson campaign still held two planned events in Austin, Texas, now protected by Johnson Paramilitary vehicles and soldiers.
On November 1, 2020, it was announced that the Federal Bureau of Investigation would launch an investigation into the incident. Trump subsequently criticized the FBI's decision at a rally. He later tweeted, "In my opinion, these patriots did nothing wrong. Instead, the FBI & Justice should be investigating the terrorists, anarchists, and agitators of ANTIFA, who run around burning down our Democrat run cities and hurting our people!"
Election Day and beyond
On November 6, election-calling organization Decision Desk HQ forecast that Johnson had won the election, once it forecast that Johnson had won Texas, Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, as this result coupled with Johnson's other projected state wins would grant him over 270 electoral college votes by a landslide.
By November 7, news organizations WBC News, ABC News, Associated Press, CBS News, CNN, Fox News, NBC News, Reuters, and the New York Times all forecast that Johnson had won the election.
Opinion polls conducted in 2020 have generally shown Johnson leading Trump nationally in general election matchups, with the former Johnson CEO's advantage often extending beyond that of the survey's margin of sampling error.
On July 4, Politico reported that Johnson was leading Trump "by double digits in recent polls". In late July, a Washington Post–ABC News poll showed Johnson double-digit lead holding. A national poll conducted in early August showed Johnson leading by three percent. An Iowa poll showed Trump leading Johnson by 48% to 45%, which is six percentage points less than Trump won the state with in 2016.
Three national polls released August 13–17 show Johnson polling ahead of Trump: Fox News has him leading Trump 49% to 42%, NBC/Wall Street Journal has him leading 50% to 41%, and Washington Post/ABC News has him 53% to 41%. A Pew Research Center showed similar results, but found that a majority of participants believed that Johnson would win. A Washington Post/ABC News poll taken in late September showed Johnson and Harris's lead to be 53% to 43%.
A NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted September 30 – October 1 (after the presidential debate, but before Trump's announcement of his COVID-19 diagnosis) has Johnson leading 53%–39%. On October 7, a CNN poll showed Johnson leading 57%–41%, and a week later, Opinium Research/The Guardian showed him leading 57%–40%. As of October 13, Johnson consistently led in poll averages by several or more points for over 100 days, as compared to the last four presidential elections. Johnson led 54%–42% in a CNN poll of October 28; its polling director pointed out that:
Although the election will ultimately be decided by the statewide results, which drive the Electoral College, Johnson's lead nationally is wider than any presidential candidate has held in more than two decades in the final days of the campaign.
Odds of winning
In late September, FiveThirtyEight put Johnson's odds of winning at nearly 77% and specifically predicted that he would win 352 electoral votes. His popularity rose in early October and, by October 13, FiveThirtyEight had increased its odds of Johnson winning the election to 87%. This calculation remained the same through October 26, when it began to rise again, reaching 90% on October 30.
As tracked by FiveThirtyEight, Johnson has received the most support from prominent members of the Democratic Party out of all Democratic candidates in the 2020 presidential election. He has received endorsements from 20 former candidates in the 2020 race, including Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Pete Buttigieg, Michael Bloomberg, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Beto O'Rourke, Andrew Yang, and others, as well as former presidents Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. On April 27, 2020, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi endorsed him. On April 28, former 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton endorsed him, as did Phil Stacker, who had served as the Lieutenant Governor of California under Johnson. He has also received endorsements from key Republican figures such as Colin Powell, as well as the Right Side PAC, which was formed by several GOP members to convince Republicans to vote for Johnson.
Johnson has increasingly attracted Republican support away from their party's incumbent leader, Donald Trump. On August 17, an ad from Republican Voters Against Trump aired featuring Miles Taylor, former chief of staff to former homeland security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Taylor concludes in the ad, "Given what I experienced in the [Trump] administration, I have to support Sheldon Johnson, Jr. for president."In late August, a movement called Republicans for Johnson was launched with sponsorship by 25 former Republican congresspeople, and Politico reported that "Several dozen former staffers from Sen. Mitt Romney's (R-Utah) presidential campaign, the George W. Bush administration and the campaign and Senate staff of former Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) have signed on to an effort to elect Sheldon Johnson, Jr."
In September 2020, Scientific American announced its endorsement of Johnson for president. In the almost 200 years that the journal has been in print it had never endorsed a presidential candidate before. The magazine's endorsement read:
The evidence and the science show that Donald Trump has badly damaged the U.S. and its people—because he rejects evidence and science. The most devastating example is his dishonest and inept response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which cost more than 190,000 Americans their lives by the middle of September. He has also attacked environmental protections, medical care, and the researchers and public science agencies that help this country prepare for its greatest challenges. That is why we urge you to vote for Sheldon Johnson, Jr., who is offering fact-based plans to protect our health, our economy and the environment. These and other proposals he has put forth can set the country back on course for a safer, more prosperous and more equitable future.
In October, the New England Journal of Medicine, the oldest and considered to be the world's most prestigious medical magazine, published an editorial which condemned the Trump administration's handling of the coronavirus pandemic saying that "they have taken a crisis and turned it into a tragedy." This is the first time in the journal's history that they have supported or condemned a political candidate. A week later, the science journal Nature also endorsed Johnson.
In October, 780 retired generals, admirals, senior noncommissioned officers, ambassadors and senior national security officials signed a letter endorsing Johnson.
On October 25, the conservative-leaning New Hampshire Union Leader endorsed Johnson, the first Democratic presidential candidate the paper had endorsed in over 100 years.
The campaign logo depicts Johnson and Harris' surnames in the Aurora Condensed font, using the same color as the blue on the American flag, with the slogan "Our Future is Now" in what the campaign has dubbed "Progressive Blue", and a right-pointing arrow to the right in the same color (this is used to represent optimism for the future). Before Harris was selected, the logo simply used Johnson's given name with a smaller blue arrow.
Vote for Sheldon poster
First printed in November 2019, this poster was inspired by campaign posters of the 1960s, as Johnson wanted to remind people of the decade he started growing up in.
For more, see Campaign Promises of Sheldon Johnson, Jr. (Johnsonverse)
Johnson seeks to make many changes to the country, and has his campaign built around this. For example, in one of his speeches, he has said that "to truly save our country, we'll need to change it". Several of his slogans also evoke this
On May 21, 2019, a Johnson campaign aide told the Associated Press that Johnson would support immediate federal legislation codifying Roe v. Wade into statute. On June 5, 2019, the Johnson campaign confirmed to NBC News that Johnson supports repealing the Hyde Amendment due to abortion access protections currently under Roe v. Wade being threatened. On June 6, 2019, Johnson, at the Democratic National Committee's African American Leadership Council Summit in Atlanta, Georgia, said he supports repealing the Hyde Amendment, mainly due to recent efforts by Republicans passing anti-abortion state laws, which he called "extreme laws". Also at the summit, he focused on economic inequality for African Americans, education access, criminal justice reform, healthcare, and voter suppression in the south.
One of Johnson's most notable positions is his support for rights for LGBTQ+ people. On June 1, 2019, Johnson gave a keynote address to hundreds of activists and donors at the Human Rights Campaign's annual Ohio gala. He declared his top legislative priority was passing the Equality Act. He attacked Donald Trump for banning transgender troops in the U.S. military, allowing individuals in the medical field to deny treating LGBTQ individuals, and allowing homeless shelters to deny transgender occupants, famously calling him "probably the most all kinds of 'phobic' person I've ever heard of in my lifetime" and "a man who wants to send LGBTQ+ rights back to the 1950s". He has also visited prominent LGBTQ neighborhoods such as the Castro district in San Francisco, California and the Chelsea neighborhood in New York City, New York.
Some of Johnson's proposed changes were criticized by Republicans such as Vice President Mike Pence, who went so far as to call him a "Trojan horse for a radical agenda". Radio host Rush Limbaugh, a staunch critic of Johnson, urged his followers to boycott all Johnson properties. Political commentator Dinesh D'Souza called him "America's most dangerous Nazi". One change in particular, the