January 2020 was a very different time. Tom Brady was a New England Patriot. A mysterious new pneumonia was spreading in Wuhan, China. And although her poll numbers had dropped since late 2019, when she seemed to be her party’s frontrunner, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren was still a top contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.

In March, though, Warren ended her candidacy without winning a single primary or caucus — even in neighboring New Hampshire, where she finished a distant fourth, and here in Massachusetts, where she trailed Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders.

Shannon Jenkins, a political scientist at UMass Dartmouth, says Democrats still reeling from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss were worried about Warren’s gender becoming a liability — which, of course, had the effect of making that happen — as well as Warren's continuing struggle to attract support from voters of color.

“Because there was this broader narrative that Elizabeth Warren didn’t have the support of minority voters, and because minority voters are so pivotal to the Democratic electorate, that also hurt her,” Jenkins said.

Still, Warren was by far the strongest of four failed Massachusetts candidates. Among Democrats, Rep. Seth Moulton and Gov. Deval Patrick’s bids barely registered. And on the Republican side, Bill Weld’s quixotic campaign against Donald Trump never really stood a chance.

Overall, Stonehill College political scientist Peter Ubertaccio says, it was a rough cycle for a state that prides itself on producing presidential contenders.

“I suspect that it’s an anomaly, meaning Massachusetts political candidates in the future will continue to be strong national leaders,” Ubertaccio said. “But there isn’t a recent precedent for having, first of all, that many candidates from one state — [and] then having no Massachusetts candidate rise to the top in any of the competitive elections.”

When Warren dropped out in March, her fellow senator, Ed Markey, seemed headed for a tough loss of his own. He faced a looming primary challenge from Rep. Joe Kennedy, who had youth, his family name, and early polling on his side.

From the outset, Kennedy tried to portray Markey as out of touch with Massachusetts and overly timid in his thinking. “We deserve leaders who’ll show up where we are,” Kennedy said in his campaign’s kickoff video. “Who aren’t afraid to break down an old system and build something better.”

But a funny thing happened on the way to Kennedy’s coronation. It was Markey, three and a half decades Kennedy’s senior, who was embraced by young voters, especially young progressives.

What’s more, Markey actually turned his opponent’s storied ancestry into a liability, denouncing a pro-Kennedy super PAC funded by Kennedy’s father and inverting John F. Kennedy’s famous dictum about service in a now-classic campaign ad. (“We asked what we could do for our country,” Markey said. “We went out. We did it. With all due respect, it’s time to start asking what your country can do for you.”)

In the end, Markey didn’t just beat Kennedy in the primary. He crushed him, 55 percent to 45 percent, and then cruised to re-election against Republican Kevin O’Connor in the general.

A campaign of another sort took place in earnest throughout the spring and summer, as protesters braved COVID-19 to publicly gather and call for racial justice, including criminal-justice reform.

Both Gov. Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh responded. Baker embraced legislation to enhance training and supervision for police in Massachusetts, saying in July, “Massachusetts is one of only a very few states that does not have a certification program for law enforcement, and we need one.” Walsh, for his part, convened a task force to examine police reform and then pledged to implement all its recommendations, including creating a new Office of Police Accountability and Transparency.

The reforms embraced over the course of 2020 went beyond criminal justice. For example, Walsh created a new, cabinet-level Chief of Equity post, which he said would help put racial-equity concerns at the center of all city policymaking. In addition, Boston’s prestigious exam schools dropped entrance tests as a requirement for one year.

Tanisha Sullivan, the head of the Boston branch of the NAACP, says that from her vantage point, the challenge now is sustaining that momentum in the new year.

“What I really hope is that this spirit of urgency that we have all experienced in 2020 doesn’t leave us,” Sullivan said. “Prior to 2020, we were living through a time of incremental advancement when it came to racial, social, and economic justice.”

In Boston, the looming mayoral race could help keep the changes coming. If Walsh runs again, he’ll be vying against two women of color, Michelle Wu and Andrea Campbell, both of whom hope to lead a city that’s only been run by white men.

For Baker, though, the political pressures may be different.

If he decides to seek a third term, Baker is facing a possible primary challenge from the right. What’s more, as the year ends, he’s clashed with the Democrat-controlled Legislature over the specifics of police reform and a bill aimed at preserving and expanding abortion access. (The House and Senate ultimately overrode Baker’s veto of the so-called ROE Act, and reached a compromise with the governor on policing that he’s expected to sign into law soon.)

Overt friction between the governor and the Legislature was a rarity in 2020 but could become a regular occurrence in 2021. If so, it will be an early test for newly minted House Speaker Ron Mariano — whose predecessor, Bob DeLeo, just stepped down after twelve years in office.