Top Democrats who could win presidential nomination

The first debates are done, second-quarter fundraising totals are rolling in and the battle for the Democratic presidential nomination is intensifying.

Here are The Hill’s latest rankings of the top contenders.

1. Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenNew Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump's reported 0 income tax payments Democrats blast Trump after report reveals he avoided income taxes for 10 years: 'Disgusting' Overnight Defense: Appeals court revives House lawsuit against military funding for border wall | Dems push for limits on transferring military gear to police | Lawmakers ask for IG probe into Pentagon's use of COVID-19 funds MORE (D-Mass.)

Warren is not leading in any national polls — yet. But she is on the rise and her message on the stump is resonating louder than anyone else’s.

The Massachusetts senator also appears to be on the brink of supplanting Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersNew Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump's reported 0 income tax payments Trump, Biden have one debate goal: Don't lose The role (un)happiness plays in how people vote MORE (I-Vt.) as the standard-bearer of the left — a development that would fundamentally reshape the race.

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Warren was the clear winner of the first night of debates in Miami late last month, even though her performance was overshadowed by a more controversial clash the following evening. 

She continues to blast out policy proposals at a rate that outpaces her rivals. On Friday, she outlined a plan to boost pay for non-white women. 

Warren is making serious efforts to court black support, an effort that suggests she hopes to create a coalition broadly similar to the one that propelled then-Sen. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTrump, Biden have one debate goal: Don't lose Is Congress reasserting itself? Trump-Biden debate: High risk vs. low expectations MORE (D-Ill.) to victory in 2008.

Warren, whom critics paint as a stiff, professorial figure, has proven a far warmer and spontaneous figure on the campaign trail than that caricature would suggest. She has posed for about 35,000 selfies in the last six months, according to her campaign.

The race is close, and a solid case could be made for having former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenNew Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump's reported 0 income tax payments Biden campaign sells 'I paid more income taxes than Trump' stickers Trump, Biden have one debate goal: Don't lose MORE or Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisTrump, Biden have one debate goal: Don't lose Dwayne Johnson backs Biden in first public presidential endorsement Pelosi: Trump Supreme Court pick 'threatens' Affordable Care Act MORE (D-Calif.) at the top of this list. 

Warren is third in national polling averages, behind Biden and Sanders. And Harris had an even better night at the Miami debates. 

But like a runner who sits comfortably at the shoulder of the leaders, Warren is perfectly positioned at this stage of the race.

Previous ranking, May 28: 3

2. Former Vice President Joe Biden

Biden can’t credibly be placed lower than second, given that he is the leader in national polls and that his fundraising prowess is prodigious. He raised $21.5 million in the second quarter.

But Biden has problems.

His subpar performance at the first debate hurt him in lots of ways. 

It eroded his support among black voters at a stroke. It raised grave questions about whether he would, after all, be the strongest candidate against President TrumpDonald John TrumpNew Biden campaign ad jabs at Trump's reported 0 income tax payments Ocasio-Cortez: Trump contributed less in taxes 'than waitresses and undocumented immigrants' Third judge orders Postal Service to halt delivery cuts MORE — the central rationale of his candidacy. And it also stoked concerns on the sensitive issue of his age. Biden is 76.

The former vice president took a long time to clean up the mess, as well. In a CNN interview broadcast Friday, he said he “wasn’t prepared” for Harris to attack him as aggressively as she did. Only on Saturday did he finally apologize for, in previous remarks, having given "the impression to people that I was praising" two deceased Southern segregationist senators.

There is an enormous amount of general goodwill toward Biden among Democrats. But will that translate to votes when the crunch comes? 

Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonAppeals court pauses 6-day extension for counting Wisconsin absentee ballots Trump, Pentagon collide over anti-diversity training push Sunday Shows: Trump's court pick dominates MORE, an ideologically similar figure, had much bigger polling leads than Biden does now in the early stages of both the 2008 and 2016 cycles — only to lose one battle to Obama and be pushed to the brink by Sanders in the other.

That’s one of many factors that augurs badly for Biden.

Previous ranking: 1

3. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.)

Harris had the biggest moment of any candidate in the debate when she took on Biden over school busing in starkly personal terms. 

The exchange, replayed frequently on cable news and on social media, was rocket fuel for Harris’s poll standings. 

She vaulted to second place in two national polls in the immediate aftermath, rising 13 points in one, from Quinnipiac University, and 9 points in another, from CNN/SSRS. 

The debate has also boosted her profile and popularity with black voters, whose support will be vital if she is to prevail.

Harris’s performance in the debate was just the kind of breakout moment that she needed, after an initially vibrant campaign has begun to stagnate in the polls.

Still, the Californian does face questions.

Her new prominence invites investigation of her own record as California attorney general and as district attorney in San Francisco. 

This history includes elements that unsettle progressives, notably a harsh approach to truancy and a resistance to appointing independent investigators to look into shootings by the police.

Harris has also been unsteady on some elements of policy. Her own view of school busing is not entirely clear and she has given confusing answers on whether or not she favors the elimination of private health insurance.

Harris has a real shot. She also has some real weaknesses.

Previous ranking: 3

4. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

Sanders’s first run for the presidency, in 2016, far surpassed expectations. This time around, the expectations were much higher — and he has failed to meet them, so far.

Sanders has made the case that he was the first to espouse the kinds of views that have grown more popular among Democrats, particularly regarding income inequality and the imperative to make college more affordable. 

This is true. But it does not appear to be expanding his support.

In the RealClearPolitics (RCP) national polling average, he is stuck around 14 percent and has recently been pushed into third place by a surging Harris.

His partisans believe his message resonates and that he has real strength on the ground in early states, particularly Iowa.

Sanders has already won a moral victory — the Democratic Party has moved in his direction. 

Whether he can win an actual victory in the battle for the nomination seems a lot more questionable.

Previous ranking: 2

5. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegBillionaire who donated to Trump in 2016 donates to Biden The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - GOP closes ranks to fill SCOTUS vacancy by November Buttigieg stands in as Pence for Harris's debate practice MORE

Buttigieg, just 37 years old, was the media flavor of the month when he launched his campaign. 

He has parlayed that attention into startling fundraising strength — he raised $24.8 million during the second quarter, a bigger total than higher-polling candidates including Biden, Harris and Sanders. (Warren has not yet declared her second-quarter fundraising total.)

Buttigieg’s appeal is his youth, his articulacy and a sense that he can appeal to voters beyond the Democratic base.

But he has an obvious shortcoming, too: his support among black voters is strikingly low. That weakness has likely been exacerbated by the controversy that followed the recent police shooting of a black man, Eric Logan, in his home city.

Buttigieg has his niche but, unless his support among black voters ramps up, it is hard to see how he breaks out of it.

Previous ranking: 5

6. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro

Castro had the best debate of any of the second-tier candidates, with his impassioned and knowledgeable responses on immigration propelling him to the fore.

Castro also very clearly got the better of his fellow Texan, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) in exchanges on that topic.

It is very hard to see Castro making a serious charge for the nomination — he polls at under 2 percent in the RCP national average. 

But he is burnishing his reputation, and would make an attractive vice presidential choice.

Previous ranking: 9

7. Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerBooker says he will ask Amy Coney Barrett if she will recuse herself from presidential election-related cases Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election The movement to reform animal agriculture has reached a tipping point MORE (D-N.J.)

Booker has always struggled to break out in such a large field, and that problem has not been resolved.

He had a solid performance in the debate, but was overshadowed by Harris. 

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He has been able to get media attention for some of his endeavors — last week he went to Mexico to meet people who were attempting to seek asylum in the United States — but that has not translated into significant support.

The bottom line is there is some “X factor” that Booker seems to lack. He has done nothing embarrassing during his campaign, but he just hasn’t caught fire either.

Previous ranking: 7

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

O’Rourke has been the single most disappointing candidate of this cycle so far.

A much-hyped launch fizzled, dogged from the start by O’Rourke’s ill-advised comment to Vanity Fair that he was “born” to run for the presidency. 

He has signally failed to create the kind of excitement that he sparked during a close race against Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzSenate GOP set to vote on Trump's Supreme Court pick before election Supreme Court fight pushes Senate toward brink Crenshaw looms large as Democrats look to flip Texas House seat MORE (R-Texas) last year.

An attempted reboot of the O’Rourke campaign has not worked. Debating has never been his strongest suit and he suffered when Castro accused him of not having done his “homework” on immigration in Miami.

O’Rourke’s campaign to date has been a slow fade. He needs something truly exceptional if he is to climb back into contention.

Previous ranking: 6

9. Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Klobuchar3 reasons why Biden is misreading the politics of court packing Social media platforms put muscle into National Voter Registration Day Battle lines drawn on precedent in Supreme Court fight MORE (D-Minn.)

Klobuchar has a niche in the race — but the problem is that Biden already occupies it.

The Minnesota senator is overtly skeptical of the leftward tilt of the party, hesitant about the electoral appeal of proposals like the Green New Deal and "Medicare For All."

She acquitted herself capably at the debate, and had a particularly effective moment when she emphasized her commitment, and that of other female candidates, to the cause of reproductive rights.

It’s just not clear, however, that today’s Democratic electorate is buying what Klobuchar is selling.

Previous ranking: 8

10. Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardRepublicans call on DOJ to investigate Netflix over 'Cuties' film Hispanic Caucus campaign arm endorses slate of non-Hispanic candidates Gabbard says she 'was not invited to participate in any way' in Democratic convention MORE (D-Hawaii)

Gabbard stoked curiosity during the debates, becoming the most googled candidate of the first night.

The Hawaii congresswoman, an Army veteran, is more vigorously critical of “regime change wars” and military adventuring in general than some of her rivals.

She is likely too idiosyncratic a figure to make it very far — not least because of her record of equivocating about Syrian President Bashar Assad — but she at least has made some kind of an impression.

Previous ranking: N/A

Other candidates:

Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetOVERNIGHT ENERGY: House Democrats tee up vote on climate-focused energy bill next week | EPA reappoints controversial leader to air quality advisory committee | Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to 'forever chemicals' Senate Democrats demand White House fire controversial head of public lands agency Next crisis, keep people working and give them raises MORE (D-Colo.), Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockCourt removes Pendley from role as public lands chief On The Trail: Making sense of this week's polling tsunami McConnell locks down key GOP votes in Supreme Court fight MORE (D), New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioNYC principals call on state to take control of city's schools, vote 'no confidence' in de Blasio OVERNIGHT ENERGY: California seeks to sell only electric cars by 2035 | EPA threatens to close New York City office after Trump threats to 'anarchist' cities | House energy package sparks criticism from left and right EPA threatens to close New York City office after Trump threats to 'anarchist' cities MORE (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.), Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandSunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for SCOTUS confirmation hearings before election Sunday shows preview: Justice Ginsburg dies, sparking partisan battle over vacancy before election Suburban moms are going to decide the 2020 election MORE (D-N.Y.), former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska), former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump previews SCOTUS nominee as 'totally brilliant' Cook Political Report shifts Colorado Senate race toward Democrat Willie Nelson playing at virtual fundraiser for Hickenlooper MORE (D), Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeBarr asked prosecutors to explore charging Seattle mayor over protest zone: report Bottom line Oregon senator says Trump's blame on 'forest management' for wildfires is 'just a big and devastating lie' 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: Nearly 500 former national security officials formally back Biden | 40 groups call on House panel to investigate Pentagon's use of coronavirus funds The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Markey defeats Kennedy; Trump lauds America's enforcers in Wisconsin Moulton fends off primary challenges in Massachusetts MORE (D-Mass.), Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanNow's the time to make 'Social Emotional Learning' a national priority Mourners gather outside Supreme Court after passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lincoln Project hits Trump for criticizing Goodyear, 'an American company' MORE (D-Ohio), former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael SwalwellHouse to vote on resolution affirming peaceful transition of power Swalwell calls for creation of presidential crimes commission to investigate Trump when he leaves office 'This already exists': Democrats seize on potential Trump executive order on preexisting conditions MORE (D-Calif.), author Marianne WilliamsonMarianne WilliamsonMarianne Williamson discusses speaking at People's Party Convention Fewer people watched opening night of Democratic convention compared to 2016 Marianne Williamson: Democratic convention 'like binge watching a Marriott commercial' MORE, businessman Andrew YangAndrew YangThe shape of guaranteed income Biden's latest small business outreach is just ... awful Doctor who allegedly assaulted Evelyn Yang arrested on federal charges MORE.