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 BlasioBloomberg compared civil libertarians, teachers union to NRA 'extremists' in 2013: report De Blasio endorses Sanders for president While Klobuchar surges, Warren flounders MORE announced his candidacy.

Who are the top contenders?

1. Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenBiden leads Sanders by single digits in South Carolina: poll Pro-Trump super PAC hits Biden with new Spanish-language ad in Nevada Biden will go after Bloomberg, Sanders at Las Vegas debate, aides say 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 SandersBiden leads Sanders by single digits in South Carolina: poll Pro-Trump super PAC hits Biden with new Spanish-language ad in Nevada Biden will go after Bloomberg, Sanders at Las Vegas debate, aides say MORE (I-Vt.).

Biden’s appeal is simple: He bills himself as the best candidate to beat President TrumpDonald John TrumpFed saw risks to US economy fading before coronavirus spread quickened Pro-Trump super PAC hits Biden with new Spanish-language ad in Nevada Britain announces immigration policy barring unskilled migrants 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 MayNo 'post-Brexit doom' indeed: Watch Britain boldly move forward Labour's loss should tell Democrats not to tack too far to the left Is Corbyn handing Brexit to Boris Johnson? 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 Ann WarrenBiden leads Sanders by single digits in South Carolina: poll 2020 Democratic candidates support Las Vegas casino workers on debate day Sanders takes lead in new Hill/HarrisX poll 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 ClintonClinton asked if she'd be Bloomberg's vice president: 'Oh no' Trump launches three-day campaign rally blitz Free Roger Stone 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 Sanders running as a Democrat: It's 'more than what you call yourself' House Oversight accuses Border Patrol of blocking investigation into secret Facebook group Company to provide free clothing to any female candidate 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 Devi HarrisDemocratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe CNN signs Andrew Yang as contributor How the media fall in and out of love with candidates 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 ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegBiden leads Sanders by single digits in South Carolina: poll 2020 Democratic candidates support Las Vegas casino workers on debate day What to watch in the debate tonight 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 CruzTed Cruz takes aim at Alabama vasectomy bill: 'Yikes' 'Medicare for All' will turn into health care for none Cruz 'impresses' his daughter with Chris Evans meeting 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 Anthony BookerDemocratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe CNN signs Andrew Yang as contributor Bloomberg qualifies for South Carolina primary debate 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 Jean Klobuchar2020 Democratic candidates support Las Vegas casino workers on debate day Democratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe What to watch in the debate tonight 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 GillibrandClinton to honor Ginsburg at fashion designer's awards show Hillicon Valley: US hits Huawei with new charges | Judge orders Pentagon to halt 'war cloud' work amid Amazon challenge | IRS removes guidance on Fortnite game currency Gillibrand proposes creating new digital privacy agency 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 YangCNN signs Andrew Yang as contributor Trump seeks split-screen moments in early primary states More accusers come forward after Evelyn Yang breaks silence on alleged assault by OBGYN 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 Bennet2020 race goes national in sprint to Super Tuesday Toward 'Super Tuesday' — momentum, money and delegates Trump seeks split-screen moments in early primary states MORE (D-Colo.), Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockStates, cities rethink tax incentives after Amazon HQ2 backlash Democrats redefine center as theirs collapses Democratic governors worried about drawn-out 2020 fight MORE (D), New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), former Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyLobbying world The Hill's Campaign Report: Four-way sprint to Iowa finish line John Delaney drops out of presidential race, Krystal and Saagar react MORE (D-Md.), Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardSanders takes lead in new Hill/HarrisX poll The Hill's Campaign Report: Bloomberg to face off with rivals at Nevada debate Where the 2020 Democrats stand on taxes MORE (D-Hawaii), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska), former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperSenate Democrats outraise Republicans, but GOP has cash edge Lobbying world GOP leader warns lawmakers on fundraising: 'Getting our ass kicked' MORE (D), Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeAndrew Yang ends presidential bid Bloomberg, Steyer focus on climate change in effort to stand out Our government and public institutions must protect us against the unvaccinated 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 MoultonTrump set to confront his impeachment foes Biden lines up high-profile surrogates to campaign in Iowa The DCCC's 'blacklist' protects a white male political status quo MORE (D-Mass.), Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanDemocrats tear into Trump's speech: It was a 'MAGA rally' Democrats walk out of Trump's address: 'It's like watching professional wrestling' Trump set to confront his impeachment foes MORE (D-Ohio), Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellChris Wallace: 'Just insane' Swalwell is talking impeaching Trump again McCarthy says Trump did not interfere in Roger Stone case House intelligence briefing on worldwide threat assessment delayed MORE (D-Calif.), author Marianne WilliamsonMarianne WilliamsonDemocrats: The road to kumbaya The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump, Pelosi take the gloves off; DNC wants Iowa recanvass Iowa and New Hampshire haters should think twice MORE.