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 Blasio2020 Democrats condemn decision not to charge officer in Eric Garner's death 2020 Democrats call Trump's tweets about female Democrats racist #RacistPresident trends amid criticism over Trump tweets MORE announced his candidacy.

Who are the top contenders?

1. Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenCan Biden's canceled cancer initiative be salvaged? Biden's health care gaffe shows he's not ready for prime time The Hill's Morning Report - Trump seizes House impeachment vote to rally GOP 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 SandersSanders to call on 2020 Democrats to reject money from drug, health insurance industries The hidden connection between immigration and health care: Our long-term care crisis Harris tops Biden in California 2020 poll MORE (I-Vt.).

Biden’s appeal is simple: He bills himself as the best candidate to beat President TrumpDonald John TrumpPentagon sending 500 more troops to Saudi Arabia: reports Dozens of British lawmakers stand behind minority lawmakers amid Trump attacks #IStandWithIlhan trends after crowd at Trump rally chants 'Send her back' 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 MayTheresa May calls Trump remarks 'completely unacceptable' British police probe leak of diplomatic memos Trump changes tune on ex-British ambassador: 'We wish him well' 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 WarrenDemocratic Houston councilwoman announces Senate bid Biden's health care gaffe shows he's not ready for prime time The Hill's Morning Report - Trump seizes House impeachment vote to rally GOP 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 ClintonTrump thanks 'vicious young Socialist Congresswomen' for his poll numbers Will Trump's racist tweets backfire? Democrats fret over Trump cash machine 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-CortezOmar responds to 'send her back' chant with Maya Angelou quote Trump blasts minority Democrats, rally crowd chants 'send her back' Trump refers to Ocasio-Cortez as just 'Cortez' because it 'takes too much time' to say full name 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 HarrisBiden's health care gaffe shows he's not ready for prime time The Hill's Morning Report - Trump seizes House impeachment vote to rally GOP Dems open to killing filibuster in next Congress 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 ButtigiegHarris tops Biden in California 2020 poll The Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump digs in ahead of House vote to condemn tweet 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 CruzGoogle official denies allegations of ties to China The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Cruz in 2016 said 'something fundamentally wrong' with Christians who back Trump: book 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 BookerThe Hill's Morning Report - A raucous debate on race ends with Trump admonishment Lawmakers pay tribute to late Justice Stevens Schumer throws support behind bill to study reparations 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 KlobucharKlobuchar fundraises for McConnell challenger: 'Two Amys are better than one' The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump digs in ahead of House vote to condemn tweet The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet 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 Elizabeth GillibrandThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump digs in ahead of House vote to condemn tweet 'Game of Thrones' scores record-breaking 32 Emmy nominations The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet 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 YangHarris tops Biden in California 2020 poll Jack Dorsey maxes out donations to Tulsi Gabbard presidential bid The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet 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 BennetThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump digs in ahead of House vote to condemn tweet The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Fundraising numbers highlight growing divide in 2020 race MORE (D-Colo.), Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump digs in ahead of House vote to condemn tweet Fundraising numbers highlight growing divide in 2020 race Inslee raises over million in second quarter MORE (D), New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), former Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyMoulton campaign makes formal case to DNC to be added to debate stage Bullock makes CNN debate stage Sanders draws line as 2020 health care battle heats up MORE (D-Md.), Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardDemocrats ask Labor Department to investigate Amazon warehouses Jack Dorsey maxes out donations to Tulsi Gabbard presidential bid Sanders praises Gen Z for being 'profoundly anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic' MORE (D-Hawaii), Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska), former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn Wright HickenlooperMoulton campaign makes formal case to DNC to be added to debate stage Bullock makes CNN debate stage Sanders draws line as 2020 health care battle heats up MORE (D), Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeNew Trump rules prompt Planned Parenthood to forgo federal funds The Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump digs in ahead of House vote to condemn tweet Oregon to require schools to teach about Holocaust MORE (D), Miramar, Fla., Mayor Wayne MessamWayne Martin MessamMoulton campaign makes formal case to DNC to be added to debate stage Bullock makes CNN debate stage Top Democrats who could win presidential nomination MORE (D), Rep. Seth MoultonSeth Wilbur Moulton2020 Democratic candidates rip Trump remarks at campaign rally Here are the 95 Democrats who voted to support impeachment Moulton campaign makes formal case to DNC to be added to debate stage MORE (D-Mass.), Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John RyanMoulton campaign makes formal case to DNC to be added to debate stage Bullock makes CNN debate stage 2020 Democrats call Trump's tweets about female Democrats racist MORE (D-Ohio), Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellMatt Gaetz hints prosecutor won't press charges against threatening caller for political reasons Fundraising numbers highlight growing divide in 2020 race The Hill's 12:30 Report: Pelosi looks to squash fight with progressives MORE (D-Calif.), author Marianne WilliamsonMarianne Williamson2020 Democrats adapt to changing social media landscape Bullock makes CNN debate stage Williamson defends her views on vaccines MORE.