Closing The Gap

A historic number of women were elected in 2018—these four are expected to run for president in 2020

Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, center, speaks during a health care bill news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. 
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Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, center, speaks during a health care bill news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2017. 

The 2018 midterm election included a wave of victories for female candidates and major upsets across the country.

Now, four prominent female Democrats are all but openly running for president. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, considered a top contender for 2020, confirmed that she will "take a serious look at" an election bid. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York called the midterm election a pivotal moment for women, and told late-night show host Stephen Colbert in November that she would give a presidential bid a "long, hard thought of consideration."

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said in September that she would take a "hard look" at running, and called for Americans to elect a female president. There is also growing buzz that Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar is considering a bid.

It would be unprecedented for a group of high-profile women to spar in a party presidential primary in the same year.

"The presidential election will demonstrate that the electoral power of women is strong in the Democratic party," Kelly Dittmar, a political scientist at Rutgers University's Center for American Women and Politics, tells CNBC Make It. "For men who are running in 2020, particularly on the Democratic side, there will be increased accountability in terms of their perception and actions towards gender equity. They will have to answer to it more, through concrete policies and engagement with female voters."

Here's a round-up of the women who could compete to challenge President Trump in 2020:

Sen. Kamala Harris (Calif.)

The California senator spent a lot of time traveling to key battleground states before the November election, and is widely expected to announce a presidential bid.

Harris gained national attention during her rapid-fire questioning of Trump administration officials during Senate hearings in September. But experts say her biggest obstacle as a presidential contender would be name recognition: Voters outside California, they say, know little about her. As a woman of color, she could appeal to African-American voters, which her advisers say would help her win early primary contests that see high black turnout.

"Frankly, a woman of color is going to have an opening if she decides to pursue the presidential bid, and Harris can craft a credible argument that would broaden her base beyond just demographics and her biography," Lawrence R. Jacobs, a political scientist at the University of Minnesota, tells CNBC Make It.

Harris endorsed several Democratic women and candidates of color prior to the midterm elections, and said the country is at an "inflection moment," including on matters of gender and sexual assault.

California Attorney General Kamala Harris.
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California Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.)

After winning re-election for her second full term in November, Gillibrand confirmed that she is considering running for president. She spent minimally on her re-election campaign, and now has over $10.6 million dollars to jump-start a 2020 bid, according to public filings.

Gillibrand has pointed out that the political energy among Democratic women this year is unprecedented, even compared to the energy when Hillary Clinton ran to be the first women president. She told Colbert right after her re-election that she would give a presidential bid a "hard thought."

"I've seen the hatred and the division that President Trump has put out into our country, and it has called me to fight as hard as I possibly can to restore the moral compass of this country," she told Colbert.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) speaks during a news conference December 6, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.
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Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) speaks during a news conference December 6, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.)

Warren has some advantages as a potential front runner: A nationally known name, a giant fundraising base and a demonstrated liberal record. Many wanted her to run in the Democratic primary in 2016 on the left of Hillary Clinton, but she didn't, and the spot went to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

For some, Warren's run became obvious after she released results of a DNA test in October to prove that she has Native American ancestry. She's also traveled the country extensively in recent months in states she'd need to win in 2020.

Warren has urged Americans to elect a female president, and her bid would likely align with the wave of feminist messaging in the Trump era, along with a solid message of economic populism.

"It's time for women to go to Washington and fix our broken government, and that includes a woman at the top," she said.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.
Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call Group | Getty Images
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (M.N.)

Klobuchar easily secured a third term as Minnesota's senior Senator in November, and her victory stoked even more 2020 speculation.

Klobuchar has a lower profile and less financial backing than the women she'd likely challenge. She's known for bipartisan efforts and a focus on less divisive issues, which could make it challenging for Klobuchar to attract Democratic voters in 2020, who will likely flock to anti-Trump candidates further to the left.

"She's remarkably gifted, but no one is going to walk over red hot coals for her like they will for more progressive candidates like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. The political brand she is offering is unlikely to attract excitement and fired up supporters," Jacobs said.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., left, and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., speak about online political ads and preventing foreign interference in U.S. elections, during a news conference, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Jacquelyn Martin | AP
Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., left, and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., speak about online political ads and preventing foreign interference in U.S. elections, during a news conference, Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017, on Capitol Hill in Washington.