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 WarrenChris Wallace: Trump struggling with attacks on 'shape-shifter' Harris Markey riffs on JFK quote in new ad touting progressive bona fides Howard Kurtz: Kamala Harris 'getting walk on water coverage' by media after VP pick 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 SandersChris Wallace: Trump struggling with attacks on 'shape-shifter' Harris Kamala Harris: The outreach Latinos need Biden and Harris seen as more moderate than Trump and Pence: poll 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 ObamaUS blocking private charter flights to Cuba Biden, Harris to address Democratic convention from Chase Center in Delaware Kamala Harris is now under the protection of Secret Service: report 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 BidenHarris to host virtual Hollywood campaign event co-chaired by Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling Trump plans to accept Republican nomination from White House lawn US seizes four vessels loaded with Iranian fuel MORE or Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisHarris to host virtual Hollywood campaign event co-chaired by Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling Democrats hammer Trump for entertaining false birther theory about Harris Hillicon Valley: 'Fortnite' owner sues Apple after game is removed from App Store | Federal agencies seize, dismantle cryptocurrency campaigns of major terrorist organizations 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 TrumpUSPS warns Pennsylvania mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted Michael Cohen book accuses Trump of corruption, fraud Trump requests mail-in ballot for Florida congressional primary 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 ClintonUSPS warns Pennsylvania mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted Senate leaves until September without coronavirus relief deal Gloria Steinem: Selection of Kamala Harris recognizes that 'black women ... are the heart and soul of the Democratic Party' 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 ButtigiegThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - The choice: Biden-Harris vs. Trump-Pence California Democrats back Yang after he expresses disappointment over initial DNC lineup Obamas, Clintons to headline Biden's nominating convention 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 BookerOn The Money: Pelosi, Mnuchin talk but make no progress on ending stalemate | Trump grabs 'third rail' of politics with payroll tax pause | Trump uses racist tropes to pitch fair housing repeal to 'suburban housewife' The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden, Harris make first public appearance as running mates Booker hits back at Trump tweet, mocks misspelling of name 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 CruzFiorina: Biden picking Harris for VP 'a smart choice' Russian news agency pushed video of Portland protestors burning a Bible: report After trillions in tax cuts for the rich, Republicans refuse to help struggling Americans 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 KlobucharElection security advocates see strong ally in Harris The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - The choice: Biden-Harris vs. Trump-Pence California Democrats back Yang after he expresses disappointment over initial DNC lineup 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 GabbardTrump and allies grapple with how to target Harris It's Harris — and we're not surprised Democrat Kai Kahele wins Hawaii primary to replace Tulsi Gabbard 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 BennetKamala Harris makes history — as a Westerner Expanding our health force can save lives and create jobs simultaneously How Congress is preventing a Medicare bankruptcy during COVID-19 MORE (D-Colo.), Montana Gov. Steve BullockSteve BullockLincoln Project expands GOP target list, winning Trump ire Republicans uncomfortably playing defense 300 green groups say Senate has 'moral duty' to reject Trump's public lands nominee MORE (D), New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioCuomo calls on NYPD to 'step up' in enforcing coronavirus regulations at bars Feehery: Weak mayors destroy America's great cities Dozens of state, local health leaders fired or resigned amid pandemic: report 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 GillibrandIn the next relief package Congress must fund universal COVID testing Expanding our health force can save lives and create jobs simultaneously Sanders offers bill to tax billionaires' wealth gains during pandemic MORE (D-N.Y.), former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska), former Colorado Gov. John HickenlooperJohn HickenlooperDemocrats struggle to harness enthusiasm of Gen Z voters Kamala Harris makes history — as a Westerner Coronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority MORE (D), Washington Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeHarris climate agenda stresses need for justice OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Watchdog report raises new questions for top Interior lawyer | Senate Democrats ask Trump to withdraw controversial public lands nominee | Border wall water use threatens endangered species, environmentalists say Why a rising star is leaving Congress 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 MoultonPortland: The Pentagon should step up or pipe down House panel votes to constrain Afghan drawdown, ask for assessment on 'incentives' to attack US troops Overnight Defense: House panel votes to ban Confederate flag on all Pentagon property | DOD report says Russia working to speed US withdrawal from Afghanistan | 'Gang of Eight' to get briefing on bounties Thursday MORE (D-Mass.), Rep. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) RyanThe Hill's Coronavirus Report: HHS Secretary Azar says US plans to have tens of millions of vaccine doses this fall; Kremlin allegedly trying to hack vaccine research Democrats see victory in Trump culture war House Democrat calls for 'real adult discussion' on lawmaker pay MORE (D-Ohio), former Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.), Rep. Eric SwalwellEric Michael Swalwell'This already exists': Democrats seize on potential Trump executive order on preexisting conditions Swalwell: Barr has taken Michael Cohen's job as Trump's fixer The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Chris Christie says Trump team wasn't aggressive enough early in COVID-19 crisis; Tensions between White House, Fauci boil over MORE (D-Calif.), author Marianne WilliamsonMarianne WilliamsonMarianne Williamson touts endorsements for progressive congressional candidates The Hill's 12:30 Report: Warren becomes latest 2020 rival to back Biden The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden looks to stretch lead in Tuesday contests MORE, businessman Andrew YangAndrew YangThe Hill's Campaign Report: Trump threatens Postal Service funding l Biden proposes national mask mandate l Democratic convention takes shape Bloomberg to speak at Democratic convention Allegations roil progressive insurgent's House bid MORE.