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 BlasioDe Blasio calls for investigation into former aide's claims against Cuomo The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Finger-pointing on Capitol riot; GOP balks at Biden relief plan New Yorkers should double mask until at least June, de Blasio says MORE announced his candidacy.

Who are the top contenders?

1. Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors Biden celebrates vaccine approval but warns 'current improvement could reverse' 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 SandersHouse Democrats pass sweeping .9T COVID-19 relief bill with minimum wage hike House set for tight vote on COVID-19 relief package On The Money: Democrats scramble to save minimum wage hike | Personal incomes rise, inflation stays low after stimulus burst MORE (I-Vt.).

Biden’s appeal is simple: He bills himself as the best candidate to beat President TrumpDonald TrumpNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech On The Trail: Cuomo and Newsom — a story of two embattled governors McCarthy: 'I would bet my house' GOP takes back lower chamber in 2022 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 MayThe Hill's Morning Report - Biden takes office, calls for end to 'uncivil war' Money talks: Why China is beating America in Asia China is winning the war for global tech dominance 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 WarrenExclusive: How Obama went to bat for Warren Minimum wage setback revives progressive calls to nix Senate filibuster Democratic strategists start women-run media consulting firm 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 ClintonMedia circles wagons for conspiracy theorist Neera Tanden The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by The AIDS Institute - Senate ref axes minimum wage, House votes today on relief bill Democratic strategists start women-run media consulting firm 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-CortezDemocrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' Progressives fume over Senate setbacks Budget Committee chair pledges to raise minimum wage: 'Hold me to it' 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 HarrisDwayne 'The Rock' Johnson vs. Donald Trump: A serious comparison Exclusive: How Obama went to bat for Warren To unite America, Biden administration must brace for hate 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 ButtigiegExclusive: How Obama went to bat for Warren The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden vs. Trump, part II Chasten Buttigieg jokes about his husband biking home from work 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 CruzNoem touts South Dakota coronavirus response, knocks lockdowns in CPAC speech Sunday shows preview: 2024 hopefuls gather at CPAC; House passes coronavirus relief; vaccine effort continues Texas attorney general hits links with Trump before CPAC appearance 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 BookerObama says reparations 'justified' Congressional Black Caucus unveils '100 Day Plan' Menendez reintroduces corporate diversity bill 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 KlobucharOpen-ended antitrust is an innovation killer FBI, DHS and Pentagon officials to testify on Capitol riot Five big takeaways on the Capitol security hearings 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 GillibrandPentagon launches civilian-led commission to address military sexual assault Capito asks White House to allow toxic chemicals rule to proceed Lobbying world 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 YangDozens of famous men support ,400 monthly payments for mothers for 'unpaid labor at home' Yang intervenes after man threatened with metal pole on Staten Island Ferry NYC's largest union endorses Maya Wiley in mayoral race 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 BennetDemocrats: Minimum wage isn't the only issue facing parliamentarian Democrats plan crackdown on rising drug costs Overnight Health Care: Biden officials announce funding to track virus variants | Senate Dems unveil public option proposal | White House: Teacher vaccinations not required for schools to reopen MORE (D-Colo.), Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockOvernight Health Care: CDC calls for schools to reopen with precautions | Cuomo faces rising scrutiny over COVID-19 nursing home deaths | Biden officials move to begin rescinding Medicaid work requirements Montana governor lifts state mask mandate Lobbying world 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 GabbardTulsi Gabbard blasts new House rules on gender neutral language as 'height of hypocrisy' A vaccine, a Burrito and more: 7 lighter, memorable moments from 2020 Growing number of House Republicans warm to proxy voting MORE (D-Hawaii), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska), former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperDemocrats hesitant to raise taxes amid pandemic The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump's second impeachment trial begins Sanders says Biden sees progressives as 'strong part of his coalition' MORE (D), Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeWashington state officials warn providers offering VIP vaccine access Legislators go after governors to rein in COVID-19 powers Inslee rebukes hospital over vaccine appointments for donors 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 MoultonLawmakers want Pentagon, DOJ to punish current, former military members who participated in riot House chairman endorses Michele Flournoy for Biden's Pentagon chief Trump critic: I am not afraid of Trump MORE (D-Mass.), Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanTim Ryan: Prosecutors reviewing video of Capitol tours given by lawmakers before riot Acting chief acknowledges police were unprepared for mob Six ways to visualize a divided America MORE (D-Ohio), Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellDemocrats don't trust GOP on 1/6 commission: 'These people are dangerous' The Memo: New riot footage stuns Trump trial New security video shows lawmakers fleeing during Capitol riot MORE (D-Calif.), author Marianne WilliamsonMarianne WilliamsonRush Limbaugh dead at 70 Marianne Williamson discusses America's "soulless ethos" Marianne Williamson discusses speaking at People's Party Convention MORE.