Ranking the Democrats: Who has best chance of winning nomination?

The battle for the Democratic nomination is nearing crunch time with roughly one month left before the Iowa caucuses.

Some big-name candidates have dropped out — most notably Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisHarris on 2020 endorsement: 'I am not thinking about it right now' Panel: Is Kamala Harris a hypocrite for mulling a Joe Biden endorsement? The Hill's Morning Report — Dems detail case to remove Trump for abuse of power MORE (D-Calif.) — while former New York City Mayor Michael BloombergMichael Rubens BloombergPoll: 68 percent of Democrats say it 'makes no difference' if a candidate is a billionaire Chicago mayor weighing possible Bloomberg endorsement Judge Judy's verdict: Ignoring Bloomberg's record to endorse others made no sense MORE has joined the field.

Who has the best chance of winning the nomination?

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1. Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenDes Moines Register endorses Elizabeth Warren as Democratic presidential nominee Sanders faces lingering questions about appeal to women voters George Conway: Witness missing from impeachment trial is Trump MORE (July ranking: 2) 

Biden has led national polls since he launched his campaign in April. 

His advantage has eroded since then, but it is still significant. The former vice president is roughly 10 points ahead of his nearest challenger, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersKaine: Obama called Trump a 'fascist' during 2016 campaign Des Moines Register endorses Elizabeth Warren as Democratic presidential nominee Sanders faces lingering questions about appeal to women voters MORE (I-Vt.), in the polling averages of both RealClearPolitics (RCP) and data site FiveThirtyEight.

Biden’s support has proved more resilient than many observers predicted, despite halting debate performances, attacks from rivals and smears from President TrumpDonald John TrumpKaine: Obama called Trump a 'fascist' during 2016 campaign Kaine: GOP senators should 'at least' treat Trump trial with seriousness of traffic court Louise Linton, wife of Mnuchin, deletes Instagram post in support of Greta Thunberg MORE.

There are at least three pillars buttressing Biden’s candidacy. 

First and most important, he is way ahead of his rivals in terms of black support.

Second, polls from battleground states have helped him make the case that he is the best person to take on Trump. 

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And third, Biden’s long career and centrist ideology appear to have a comforting appeal to voters who are tired of the never-ending dramas of the Trump era.

Biden has serious challenges too. 

He is trailing in polls in both Iowa and New Hampshire. If he finishes off the pace in both states, what will happen to his argument about electability? 

It’s also plausible that part of Biden’s appeal lies in name recognition — and that this advantage will be eroded as Democratic voters who are not political obsessives tune in to the race in coming weeks.

Biden is a relatively weak front-runner. But he is the front-runner nonetheless.

2. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) (July ranking: 4)

When Sanders had a heart attack in October, it could have spelled disaster for a candidacy that was already in danger of being eclipsed by Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenDes Moines Register endorses Elizabeth Warren as Democratic presidential nominee Sanders faces lingering questions about appeal to women voters Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for week two of impeachment trial MORE (D-Mass.).

But Sanders bounced back with vigor, delivering an impressive debate performance in Ohio, his first major appearance after his heart attack, while Warren has faltered.

Sanders’s candidacy also got a positive jolt when progressive icon Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezDes Moines Register endorses Elizabeth Warren as Democratic presidential nominee Sanders faces lingering questions about appeal to women voters Moore defends Sanders's reputation: 'We don't want the fake, and the phony and the fraudulent' MORE (D-N.Y.) endorsed him. The 30-year-old congresswoman has appeared with the 78-year-old senator at several rallies, helping him draw huge crowds.

The passion of Sanders’s supporters is also evident in his fundraising numbers. 

When the last quarter ended, he had more cash on hand — $33.7 million — than any other candidate in the field. It is easy to imagine him holding on to the top spot in the money race when new financial filings come out soon, covering the last three months of 2019.

Sanders is narrowly leading in the polling averages in New Hampshire, the second state to vote. In Iowa, he is right on the heels of South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegDes Moines Register endorses Elizabeth Warren as Democratic presidential nominee Candidates weighing using private jets to get to Iowa Biden nabs endorsement from Iowa Democrat in swing district MORE (D).

Sanders has his vulnerabilities too. Ill feeling lingers in some quarters of the party from his long 2016 campaign against eventual nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonKaine: Obama called Trump a 'fascist' during 2016 campaign Clinton says Zuckerberg has 'authoritarian' views on misinformation Des Moines Register endorses Elizabeth Warren as Democratic presidential nominee MORE. Centrists frequently voice fears that he could be too far to the left for the nation at large. 

Even if Sanders won both Iowa and New Hampshire, the party establishment would almost certainly try to block his path to the nomination.

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But there is no guarantee the centrists would succeed. Sanders has a real shot of becoming the nominee.

3. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) (July ranking: 1)

Warren was the clear front-runner as recently as October, when she led polls in Iowa and New Hampshire, and challenged Biden for the national lead.

Her surge provoked scrutiny — and fierce attacks from her rivals. The result has been a dip from those halcyon days.

The Massachusetts senator’s position on "Medicare for All" played a central part in her decline. 

Some rivals, such as Buttigieg, argued that this was a more sweeping proposal than the electorate wanted. But Warren also failed to placate anyone by taking a half-step back, announcing she would not try to enact her plan before her third year in office.

There is some evidence that Warren also saw some of her support move to Buttigieg. Even though the South Bend mayor is more centrist than Warren, the two appear to be fighting over a similar demographic niche — highly educated white voters.

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It’s far too early to count Warren out. 

She has a strong operation on the ground in Iowa and a good showing there — a win is by no means out of the question — could catapult her into New Hampshire, which adjoins her Massachusetts base. She is also formidable on the stump.

Warren is in a battle with Sanders to become the standard-bearer of the left. If she prevails, she could easily win the nomination.

4. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (July ranking: 5)

Buttigieg has been the one big surprise of the campaign so far. 

The 37-year-old mayor of a medium-sized Midwestern city has become one of the Big Four contesting the nomination, even as high-profile senators such as Harris and Sen. Kirsten GillibrandKirsten GillibrandGOP-Biden feud looms over impeachment trial Sanders defends vote against USMCA: 'Not a single damn mention' of climate change The Hill's Morning Report — President Trump on trial MORE (D-N.Y.) have exited.

Buttigieg’s appeal is built partly on his erudite media appearances. He offers Democratic voters a similar brand of centrism to Biden but in a more youthful, vigorous vessel. 

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Buttigieg is seeking to become the first openly gay nominee of a major party, which is a draw for some social progressives.

Buttigieg is currently topping the polls in Iowa. A win there could propel him in other states.

The mayor has struggled badly to win any significant black support at all, however. In national polls, he is in fourth place. 

That doesn’t make his path to the nomination impossible, but it is a steeper uphill climb for him than for Biden, Sanders or Warren.

5. Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharDes Moines Register endorses Elizabeth Warren as Democratic presidential nominee Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for week two of impeachment trial Moore defends Sanders's reputation: 'We don't want the fake, and the phony and the fraudulent' MORE (D-Minn.) (July ranking: 9)

The Minnesota senator’s chances rest upon her outperforming in Iowa. 

She is polling at around 6 percent there, which is better than her showing nationally or in other early states.

Klobuchar has been an effective presence on debate stages. But she is battling both Biden and Buttigieg in the centrist lane and has struggled to gain traction.

She could also run into money difficulties. Her cash-in-hand total of $3.7 million at the end of the third quarter was about one-tenth of Sanders’s total and put her in eighth place in the money race.

Klobuchar likely needs either Biden or Buttigieg to stumble badly if she is to get into real contention.

6. Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (July ranking: n/a)

Bloomberg entered the race in late November. He immediately ran into a headwind from critics alleging he was trying to buy the nomination.

The former New York City Mayor has an estimated net worth of around $54 billion, making him one of the 20 richest people in the world.

Bloomberg has already spent lavishly on campaign ads. They have lifted him to fifth place in the national polling averages of both RCP and FiveThirtyEight.

Bloomberg plans to stay out of the early primaries, instead choosing to come into the race at the relatively late stage of Super Tuesday on March 3.

That tactic seems fraught with danger, and it is far from clear that the Democratic grassroots are really seeking a billionaire technocrat who for years supported the controversial police practice known as stop and frisk. 

Bloomberg recanted that support right before joining the race, but it is still hard to see a realistic path to the nomination for him.

7. Businessman Andrew YangAndrew YangSunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for week two of impeachment trial John Leguizamo joins the 'Yang Gang' CNN to host two straight nights of Democratic town halls before NH primary MORE (July ranking: unranked)

Yang has carved out a niche as an outside-the-box thinker, and he has drawn enough of a following — the self-proclaimed “Yang Gang” — to surpass expectations.

It’s virtually inconceivable that Yang could become the nominee, but he has boosted his national profile and has performed creditably at debates.

Yang would likely be too idiosyncratic to be anyone’s vice presidential running mate, but he has built himself a solid platform to stay in public life.

8. Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerSenate Dems to Pompeo: Comments about NPR reporter 'insulting and contemptuous' Black caucus in Nevada: 'Notion that Biden has all of black vote is not true' The Hill's 12:30 Report: House managers to begin opening arguments on day two MORE (D-N.J.) (July ranking: 7)

The campaign has never quite come together for Booker, whose candidacy was talked up in its early stages.

He is mired below 3 percent in the national polling averages and is not showing obvious strength in any of the early states. The exit of Harris, the only other major black candidate, has not helped Booker’s standing.

At this stage, it seems probable that Booker will stay in the race at least until Iowa. But the rationale for an extended run is questionable when he has been so thoroughly eclipsed by his rivals.

9. Rep. Tulsi GabbardTulsi GabbardJoe Rogan says he's probably voting for Bernie Sanders Gabbard tells Fox that Clinton's 'Russian asset' remark is 'taking my life away' Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — Bezos phone breach raises fears over Saudi hacking | Amazon seeks to halt Microsoft's work on 'war cloud' | Lawmakers unveil surveillance reform bill MORE (D-Hawaii) (July ranking: 10)

Gabbard is not going to be the nominee. Her iconoclastic stances, ranging from her 2017 visit to Syrian leader Bashar Assad to her votes of “present” on Trump’s impeachment, guarantee that.

But Gabbard has a niche among a certain kind of unconventional leftist. In New Hampshire, she is in fifth place in the RCP average, with almost 6 percent support.

Speculation about a third-party run by Gabbard has not faded, despite her denials that she is contemplating such a move.

10. Businessman Tom SteyerTom Fahr SteyerPoll: 68 percent of Democrats say it 'makes no difference' if a candidate is a billionaire CNN to host two straight nights of Democratic town halls before NH primary Steyer's advice from son after overhearing Warren-Sanders hot mic dust-up: 'Don't be a snitch' MORE (July ranking: n/a)

Steyer, a billionaire and a longtime campaigner for environmental causes, has spent heavily in pursuit of his presidential ambitions.

That’s been enough to lift him above other seasoned politicians in the polls, but he’s a long way from being a genuine contender for the nomination.

Other Candidates: 

Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetSunday shows preview: Lawmakers prepare for week two of impeachment trial Impeachment throws curveball in Iowa to sidelined senators Sanders says it's 'disappointing' he's not on campaign trail in Iowa MORE (D-Colo.), former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, former Rep. John DelaneyJohn Kevin DelaneyThe Hill's Morning Report - Trump trial begins with clash over rules Elizabeth Warren moves 'bigly' to out-trump Trump DNC goof: Bloomberg should be on debate stage MORE (D-Md.), former Massachusetts Gov. Deval PatrickDeval PatrickCNN to host two straight nights of Democratic town halls before NH primary Patrick backs reparations in unveiling 'Equity Agenda for Black Americans' Buttigieg to attend MLK Day event in South Carolina after facing criticism MORE (D), and author Marianne WilliamsonMarianne WilliamsonMarianne Williamson says she supports Yang in Iowa caucuses Patrick backs reparations in unveiling 'Equity Agenda for Black Americans' Marianne Williamson drops out of 2020 race MORE.