The top 10 Democrats in the 2020 race

The race for the Democratic presidential nomination is gathering pace. 

The first debates will be held next month in Miami, even though the Iowa caucuses will not take place until February 2020.

The field grew to 24 last week when New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioCuomo gets heated with reporters over NYC schools: 'What are you talking about? Overnight Health Care: US passes 250K COVID deaths | Pfizer says vaccine shows 95-percent efficacy | Coronavirus relief at a standstill New York City schools to shut down amid rise in coronavirus cases MORE announced his candidacy.

Who are the top contenders?

1. Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden to nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador: reports Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Kasich: Republicans 'either in complete lockstep' or 'afraid' of Trump MORE

Biden has surprised skeptics with the extent of his early strength. 

His rallies have been largely gaffe-free, his initial fundraising totals — $6.3 million in his first 24 hours — have been formidable and he has vaulted to a big polling lead.


In four major recent polls — from Monmouth University, Quinnipiac University, Morning Consult and Fox News — Biden held a greater than two-to-one lead over his nearest challenger, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks What's behind the divisions over Biden's secretary of Labor? Young voters set turnout record, aiding Biden win MORE (I-Vt.).

Biden’s appeal is simple: He bills himself as the best candidate to beat President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden to nominate Linda Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador: reports Scranton dedicates 'Joe Biden Way' to honor president-elect Kasich: Republicans 'either in complete lockstep' or 'afraid' of Trump MORE, in part because of his roots in Scranton, Pa., and his cultural empathy for voters in the Rust Belt and Upper Midwest.

Trump has attacked Biden on Twitter as “Sleepy Joe.” But those attacks have boosted Biden’s cachet among Democrats, who see them as proof that the president fears him.

Biden’s appeal to nonwhite voters is, so far, stronger than anyone else in the field — in part, perhaps, a tribute to his loyal service to former President Obama.

Biden’s critics on the left insist his standing is falsely inflated right now and that he will fall to earth as his past record on everything from criminal justice to credit card companies becomes more widely known.

The 76-year-old former vice president has also had some verbal stumbles, as when he briefly referred to the late Margaret Thatcher, rather than Theresa MayTheresa Mary MayChina is winning the war for global tech dominance Are US-Japan relations on the rocks? Trump insulted UK's May, called Germany's Merkel 'stupid' in calls: report MORE, as the prime minister of the United Kingdom.

Overall, however, it’s clear Biden is the front-runner.

Previous ranking, Feb. 19: 2

2. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

The Vermont Independent has held on to his position as the main standard-bearer of the left, despite facing increasing competition from Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats brush off calls for Biden to play hardball on Cabinet picks What's behind the divisions over Biden's secretary of Labor? Alito to far-right litigants: The buffet is open MORE (D-Mass.).

Love him or hate him, Sanders is consistent. He is committed to the same democratic socialist ideals he has espoused for decades, he is as acerbic as ever about the media’s tendency to focus on personality over policies and many of his supporters display an intense devotion to him.

Sanders also has enormous resources. His campaign raised $18.2 million in the 41 days between his launch and the end of the first quarter. 

But can he recapture the same kind of magic that powered his 2016 campaign against eventual nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden to name longtime aide Blinken as secretary of State: report Understanding mixed results in Pennsylvania key to future elections What's behind the divisions over Biden's secretary of Labor? MORE

The recent Monmouth University poll, conducted May 16–20, indicated support for him had declined by 5 points since the month before.

To win, Sanders needs the left to coalesce behind him. Warren’s rise suggests the opposite is happening.

Previous ranking: 3

3. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass)

Warren is enjoying real momentum. In polls, she has broken out of the pack to become the clear No. 3.

Warren’s skill as a campaigner is evident in warmly received stump appearances. 

Her campaign has also shown a deft touch for social media and popular culture. In a video posted on Twitter, she discussed “Game of Thrones” with progressive icon Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezOcasio-Cortez defends Harry Styles wearing dress on Vogue cover: 'It looks wonderful' Democrats' squabbling vindicates Biden non-campaign GOP congresswoman-elect wants to form Republican 'Squad' called 'The Force' MORE (D-N.Y.). In another tweet, she responded to comedian Ashley Nicole Black’s request for a plan to fix her love life.

Those flippant moments work because no-one doubts Warren’s intellect — she is a former Harvard Law School professor — or her policy chops. 

Warren has rolled out policies on a broad range of issues, which she is able to explain with specificity and accessibility. Her campaign has underlined this strength, selling merchandise with the slogan, “Warren has a plan for that.”

Like Sanders, Warren is vulnerable to the suggestion that her left-leaning beliefs make her less electable than other front-line candidates. The memory of her shaky handling of the question of her Native American heritage has not disappeared.

For all that, though, Warren is snapping at Sanders’s heels. If she were to supplant him as the leading progressive candidate, the landscape of the race would shift.

Previous ranking: 5

4. Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisWomen set to take key roles in Biden administration Trump campaign appeals dismissal of Pennsylvania election challenge Pressure grows from GOP for Trump to recognize Biden election win MORE (D-Calif.)

Harris topped The Hill’s rankings in February. 

At the time, she had been boosted by a huge launch rally in Oakland, a sense that she brought more charisma to the race than any other candidate — and the fact that Biden had not yet declared.

Since then Harris’s fortunes have stagnated.

One persistent criticism is that she is too prone to caution. Her propensity to say she is willing to “have a conversation” about certain hot-button issues has been an inviting target for her skeptics.

Harris has also clarified or shifted her positions on several issues, such as whether her vision for “Medicare for All” involves the outright elimination of private insurance or whether police shootings should be investigated by independent prosecutors rather than local district attorneys.

Harris, the top-performing black candidate in the race, is so far receiving adequate but not outstanding support from nonwhite voters.

It’s far too early to count Harris out, but she needs some big moments that could push her closer to the very top of the pack.

Previous ranking: 1

5. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegButtigieg: Denying Biden intelligence briefings is about protecting Trump's 'ego' Biden's win is not a policy mandate — he should govern accordingly Pavlich: Hollow calls for unity MORE (D)

A Buttigieg Boomlet has propelled the 37-year-old mayor from near-obscurity to the higher tiers of the field. Can he go any further?

Buttigieg has embarked on an exhaustive round of media appearances, which have showcased his chief assets: likability, an ease and clarity before the cameras, and a center-left appeal to comity and cooperation.

But there are real doubts about Buttigieg’s ability to appeal beyond the upscale whites who form the main pillar of his support. Some racially-tinged controversies during his tenure in South Bend could further hamper his appeal to non-white voters.

Previous ranking: N/A

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

O’Rourke is already seeking to reboot his campaign, appearing at a CNN town hall and on ABC’s “The View” and expressing regret for telling Vanity Fair that he was “born" to run for the presidency.

The effort comes after the initial hype over O’Rourke fell flat. 

The kind of retail campaigning that helped him in his Senate bid against Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzMcSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol Capitol's COVID-19 spike could be bad Thanksgiving preview Republican senators urge Trump to label West Bank goods as 'Made in Israel' MORE (R-Texas) last fall has not broken through this time. Nor has O’Rourke enjoyed the same kind of viral moment as he did in the Senate race, when his defense of NFL players protesting racial injustice became a sensation.

O’Rourke could come back, but he is not an especially strong debater and he faces the possibility that Buttigieg — whose appeal is demographically similar — may have stolen his thunder.

Previous ranking: 4

7. Sen. Cory BookerCory BookerSenate Democrats reelect Schumer as leader by acclamation  Hill associations push for more diversity in lawmakers' staffs Sanders celebrates Biden-Harris victory: 'Thank God democracy won out' MORE (D-N.J.)

Booker has struggled to find a place for himself in the crowded primary field. 

Having started his campaign talking about the transformative power of “radical love,” he has more recently sharpened his appeal — and his willingness to attack others. 

He has taken a strong stance on some issues, including the protection of abortion rights. 

But it’s not quite clear what the rationale for a Booker candidacy — or a Booker presidency — actually is.

Previous ranking: 6

8. Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharFormer Minnesota Democratic leader quits party Top cybersecurity official ousted by Trump Lawmakers question tech CEOs about content moderation in first post-election hearing MORE (D-Minn.)

Klobuchar’s bid is predicated on the idea that Democrats are willing to choose a centrist from the heartlands as the best candidate to take on Trump.

She is a lot more circumspect than her more progressive rivals when it comes to issues such as the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. She has referred to herself as “Heartland Amy” and she, like Buttigieg, has done a Fox News town hall.

Klobuchar’s appeal does make her distinctive to some degree. But Biden’s dominance among centrist voters seriously curtails Klobuchar’s room to run.

Previous ranking: 7

9. Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro

Castro got off to a slow start in his campaign and usually polls in the low single digits. But that’s better than some better-known candidates, including Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Social media responds to Harris making history: 'I feel like our ancestors are rejoicing' Ocasio-Cortez says she doesn't plan on 'staying in the House forever' MORE (D-N.Y.), who has failed to register at all in several recent surveys.

Castro has made opposition to Trump’s immigration policies one of his signature issues. He has also sought to play up his connection to Obama, in whose Cabinet he served.

Will that take him far? Probably not. But a respectable performance in the field could put him on someone’s shortlist for vice president.

Previous ranking: N/A

10. Businessman Andrew YangAndrew YangMedia and Hollywood should stop their marching-to-Georgia talk Andrew Yang: Democrats need to adopt message that government is 'working for them' Andrew Yang moving to Georgia to help Democrats in Senate runoffs MORE

Yang, a rank outsider, has at least nurtured his own small band of supporters — the self-proclaimed Yang Gang.

Yang has an idiosyncratic approach, for sure — boosting his profile by appearing on well-known podcasts rather then cable news, for example.

He has bemoaned the power of big tech companies. He has suggested a new value-added tax on corporations, with the proceeds dispensed as a universal basic income.

It is virtually inconceivable that Yang will be the nominee. But he has at least made some kind of imprint on a race where many others have barely been noticed.

Previous ranking: N/A

Other candidates:

Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetDemocratic senators urge Facebook to take action on anti-Muslim bigotry Hickenlooper ousts Gardner in Colorado, handing Democrats vital pickup Lobbying world MORE (D-Colo.), Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Down ballot races carry environmental implications | US officially exits Paris climate accord  GOP Rep. Greg Gianforte wins Montana governor's race Senate control in flux as counting goes forward in key states MORE (D), New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), former Rep. John DelaneyJohn DelaneyCoronavirus Report: The Hill's Steve Clemons interviews Rep. Rodney Davis Eurasia Group founder Ian Bremmer says Trump right on China but wrong on WHO; CDC issues new guidance for large gatherings The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas says country needs to rethink what 'policing' means; US cases surpass 2 million with no end to pandemic in sight MORE (D-Md.), Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardSix people whose election wins made history Next Congress expected to have record diversity Native Americans elected to Congress in record numbers this year MORE (D-Hawaii), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska), former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperDemocrats frustrated, GOP jubilant in Senate fight Chamber-endorsed Dems struggle on election night OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Down ballot races carry environmental implications | US officially exits Paris climate accord  MORE (D), Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeWashington county warns of at least 17 positive tests after 300-person wedding The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by UAE - US records 1 million COVID-19 cases in a week; governors crack down Washington state issues sweeping restrictions to combat coronavirus surge MORE (D), Miramar, Fla., Mayor Wayne MessamWayne Martin MessamKey moments in the 2020 Democratic presidential race so far Wayne Messam suspends Democratic presidential campaign 2020 primary debate guide: Everything you need to know ahead of the November forum MORE (D), Rep. Seth MoultonSeth MoultonOvernight Defense: Trump fires Defense chief Mark Esper | Worries grow about rudderless post-election Pentagon | Esper firing hints at broader post-election shake-up | Pelosi says Esper firing shows Trump intent on sowing 'chaos' Democratic lawmakers lambast Trump over Esper firing as GOP remains mum Trump slight against Gold Star families adds to military woes MORE (D-Mass.), Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanHouse Democrats introduce bill to invest 0 billion in STEM research and education Now's the time to make 'Social Emotional Learning' a national priority Mourners gather outside Supreme Court after passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg MORE (D-Ohio), Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellJuan Williams: Defeated Trump is in legal peril Taylor Swift allows song to be used in campaign ad Graham says SC people of color can go anywhere in the state but 'need to be conservative, not liberal' MORE (D-Calif.), author Marianne WilliamsonMarianne WilliamsonMarianne Williamson discusses America's "soulless ethos" Marianne Williamson discusses speaking at People's Party Convention Fewer people watched opening night of Democratic convention compared to 2016 MORE.