The 10 Dems most likely to win the 2020 presidential nomination

The race for the Democratic presidential nomination is already heating up, even though there is almost a year to go before the Iowa caucuses.

Here are The Hill’s rankings of where the contenders stand right now.

1. Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisPoll: Biden leads 2020 Democratic field by 15 points, followed by Sanders and Warren Democrats, advocacy groups urge Pompeo to abolish new 'unalienable rights' commission Biden announces plan to counteract mass incarceration MORE (D-Calif.)

Harris has had by far the best launch of any candidate.

Her speech declaring her candidacy was delivered powerfully before a large and appreciative crowd in Oakland. Her appearances in early states have been well-received, as have her initial round of media interview. More generally, she has effectively presented herself as a fresh and charismatic presence.

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Harris has also rolled out some early endorsements including Rep. Barbara LeeBarbara Jean LeeHere are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Democrats ask Labor Department to investigate Amazon warehouses Congress, stop ducking war-declaration authority on Iran MORE (D-Calif.) and, on Friday alone, both California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and Hispanic civil rights icon Dolores Huerta.

There are still plenty of questions that Harris will have to answer — including how her long record as a prosecutor will be scrutinized by a Democratic base focused on questions of police misconduct and racial inequities.

Early front-runners can easily come unstuck, but for now Harris is the most formidable candidate in the race.

Previous ranking on Jan. 1: 4

2. Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenPoll: Biden leads 2020 Democratic field by 15 points, followed by Sanders and Warren Booker takes swipe at Biden criminal justice reform plan Panel: Has Joe Biden been wrong on everything for 40 years? MORE

For all the excitement around Harris, it is the former vice president who still heads every significant nationwide poll of Democratic voters.

In an Emerson poll released on Saturday, he was 10 points ahead of his closest rival, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersPoll: Biden leads 2020 Democratic field by 15 points, followed by Sanders and Warren Warren introduces bill to cancel student loan debt for millions Democrats, advocacy groups urge Pompeo to abolish new 'unalienable rights' commission MORE (I-Vt.), with Harris third, a further 2 points behind. A Morning Consult poll earlier last week put Biden 7 points clear of Sanders and 16 points ahead of Harris.

In 2016, Biden mulled a run for a long time before deciding against it. His son Beau had died from brain cancer in May 2015, and Biden ultimately chose not to force himself thorough the rigors of a presidential campaign.

This time around, The Hill has reported that he is almost certain to declare a candidacy soon.

Biden has weaknesses in the race, including his age — he would be 78 on Inauguration Day 2021 — and past votes that sit uneasily with the current Democratic base on everything from the Iraq War to a 1994 crime bill.

But his skills as retail politician, his experience and the loyal service he rendered for eight years to President Obama would all stand in his favor.

Previous ranking: 3

3. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

Sanders entered the race early Tuesday, following weekend reports that he had recorded a video announcing his candidacy.

Sanders will clearly be a top-flight contender. Polls generally put him second, behind Biden.

He could end up being a victim of his own relative success in one sense, however. His stronger than expected challenge to eventual Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham Clinton5 things to know about Boris Johnson Trump says Omar will help him win Minnesota The Hill's Morning Report — Trump applauds two-year budget deal with 0 billion spending hike MORE in 2016 showed there was an appetite in the party for more left-wing policies. Now, several other declared or likely candidates are running on progressive platforms that could blunt Sanders’s formerly unique appeal.

He has other problems as well, including the enmity he earned among Clinton supporters in 2016. 

In January, he apologized to women who say they were harassed or mistreated by male staff during his 2016 campaign. 

His decision to give his own rebuttal to President TrumpDonald John Trump5 things to know about Boris Johnson Conservatives erupt in outrage against budget deal Trump says Omar will help him win Minnesota MORE’s State of the Union speech aggravated some activists who believed he was taking the spotlight from the Democrats’ official speaker of the night, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. 

Age is an issue for Sanders, too. He is 77.

Previous ranking: 2

4. Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas)

Will he or won’t he?

That’s the key question around O’Rourke, who ignited enormous Democratic enthusiasm in his ultimately unsuccessful challenge to Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTed Cruz: 'Fox News went all in for Trump' 2 Republican senators introduce resolution to label antifa as domestic terrorists Ted Cruz: Trump's chances of winning reelection are '50-50' MORE (R-Texas) last year.

O’Rourke’s intentions are far from clear. He embarked on a road trip in January, earning some mockery from detractors for his introspective musings in an online diary. 

On the other hand, when Trump held a rally in O’Rourke’s home base of El Paso recently, the former Texas congressman headlined his own event nearby, which drew a crowd several thousand strong.

The longer O’Rourke stays out of the race, the greater the danger that someone like Harris could really catch fire. On the other hand, his prodigious fundraising ability — he raised an eye-popping $38 million in 2018’s third quarter during his Senate bid — ensures he would be a serious candidate.

Previous ranking: 1

5. Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenPoll: Biden leads 2020 Democratic field by 15 points, followed by Sanders and Warren Warren introduces bill to cancel student loan debt for millions Democrats, advocacy groups urge Pompeo to abolish new 'unalienable rights' commission MORE (D-Mass.)

It’s been a largely uninspiring start to the campaign for Warren, who had been considered one of the leading candidates in the early running.

Part of the problem is the issue that won’t quit — her prior self-identification as a Native American and her decision last year to take a DNA test to prove that she was telling the truth.

The test affirmed that she had a Native American ancestor six to 10 generations ago. But even some Democrats believe the whole episode played into the hands of Trump, who continues to deride Warren, whom he has long mocked as “Pocahontas.”

Warren is betting that there is a strong electoral market for someone who can combine her professorial in-depth knowledge, especially of financial regulation, with a style that savors confrontation with Trump.

But her initial poll ratings are average at best, fueling suspicions that she is being overtaken by other figures, particularly Harris, who may have a stronger personal magnetism.

Previous ranking: 5

6. Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBooker takes swipe at Biden criminal justice reform plan Democrats, advocacy groups urge Pompeo to abolish new 'unalienable rights' commission Biden announces plan to counteract mass incarceration MORE (D-N.J.)

Booker is one of the most recent entrants into the race — he announced on Feb. 1.

The New Jersey senator divides opinion, especially inside the Beltway. To his supporters, he is a likable, energetic candidate who speaks passionately and has the capacity to fire up young and nonwhite voters with particular vigor.

His detractors, however, assail him as an inauthentic lightweight, who has long been more interested in promoting himself than anything else. That critique stretches from his time as the Twitter-friendly mayor of Newark to his self-proclaimed “Spartacus moment” during the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughTrump pays respects to late Justice Stevens at Supreme Court McConnell challenger faces tougher path after rocky launch Lindsey Graham's Faustian bargain MORE.

Booker will likely need to show he can get traction fairly soon, before the expected arrival of other big stars on the stage — including Biden — threatens to push him toward the margins of the race.

Previous ranking: 7

7. Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharDemocrats, advocacy groups urge Pompeo to abolish new 'unalienable rights' commission Equifax breach settlement sparks criticism The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump targets Mueller ahead of testimony MORE (D-Minn.)

Klobuchar certainly had an eye-catching campaign launch — she gave a speech declaring her candidacy in the midst of a heavy snowstorm.

The visuals were memorable and underlined Klobuchar’s core message that she is a down-to-earth contender from the heartlands.

But that in itself won’t assuage the doubts about Klobuchar’s ultimate chances of success: Do Democrats really want someone who leans toward centrism as their standard-bearer against Trump?

Recent allegations that she mistreated staff have further complicated Klobuchar’s chances. 

Some of the milder accusations against her carry more than a whiff of sexism, but it is harder to make that case when it comes to the most dramatic allegations, including one instance where she purportedly threw a binder that struck a staff member.

Previous ranking: 8

8. Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump applauds two-year budget deal with 0 billion spending hike The Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment On The Money: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency | Tech giants on defensive at antitrust hearing | Democrats ask Labor Department to investigate Amazon warehouses MORE (D-Ohio)

Brown has long been a political curiosity: a progressive Democrat who continues to win reelection in the increasingly red state of Ohio by wide margins.

Brown has been building up some momentum with a tour of early-voting states. But it is not clear he is getting into the race, and the likely entrance of Biden — who has a similar blue-collar appeal — would greatly complicate the Ohioan’s possible path to the nomination.

Previous ranking: 6

9. Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten Elizabeth GillibrandDemocrats, advocacy groups urge Pompeo to abolish new 'unalienable rights' commission Harris, Nadler introduce bill to decriminalize marijuana Gillibrand says she doesn't regret calling for Franken to resign MORE (D-N.Y.)

Gillibrand launched her campaign in mid-January with an appearance on Stephen Colbert’s “Late Show” on CBS. Sadly for the New York senator, that’s the most memorable thing she has done so far.

Gillibrand always faced an uphill climb toward the nomination. There is nothing to suggest the gradient has become any less steep. 

Previous ranking: 10 

10. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg

Bloomberg continues to toy with a bid, but it is enormously difficult to see a credible route for the former New York City mayor, despite his vast fortune. 

Bloomberg’s business-friendly centrism seems a poor fit for today’s Democratic Party, and he is far from a natural politician on the stump, which would hinder him in the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Previous ranking: 9

Updated at 7:18 a.m.