One Year Until We Know the Democratic Nominee: PPFA’s First 2020 Power Ranking

The Democratic Primary’s “Super Tuesday” will be held on March 3, 2020. In the largest single-day delegate allocation of the primary, at least ten states will go to the polls, including delegate-rich California and Texas. I expect, therefore, that on March 4 we’ll know who the Democratic nominee is likely to be.

This prognostication is based on recent history in both major parties. In the 16 primaries dating back eight elections (through the 1988 cycle, which is about when “Super Tuesday” started becoming a thing), the candidate who won more states and more delegates on Super Tuesday either obtained or retained the primary lead — and never gave it up on their way to the nomination. Take a look:


Every single Super Tuesday winner became their party’s nominee. This sample convinces me that one year from today, we’ll know who’s on the way to winning the 2020 Democratic Primary.

The question, of course, is who will it be? One year before we know the answer sounds like a perfect time to have my first “Democratic Power Rankings” of the election cycle. And we’re going to go DEEP into it.

I’ll break the candidates into five tiers, and they’ll align with my planetary classifications explained here. We’ll have:

  • Tier 5: Small Solar System Bodies (SSSBs) — These are candidates almost totally unknown outside of their families and small circles of supporters. Not only do they have no chance, but most voters will never hear their name.
  • Tier 4: Unknown Dwarf Planets — Our solar system likely has many dwarf planets, though only five are confirmed. Candidates here have either not declared or they have but are likely to stay non-contenders. Some are respected, even state-wide elected officials, but they top out at a two or three percent chance to win the nomination, either because I’m skeptical of their upside or they might not even enter the race.
  • Tier 3: Known Dwarf Planets — These are official candidates but long shots. If I squint enough, I can see their almost impossible path to victory.
  • Tier 2: Rocky Planets — For the first time I’m further dividing the “major planets” into the smaller rocky ones and the massive gaseous giants. In the rocky tier we get into the most serious candidates, all of whom I can see with a realistic path to the nomination. Still, due to the size of the field, they all have under a 10 percent chance to win the primary.
  • Tier 1: Gas Giants — In my estimation, these are the co-favorites.

Finally, I’ll only be including candidates that have officially declared or are I think are likely to run. Other big names — Hillary Clinton, Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, and Mark Cuban come to mind — can be added at a later ranking if necessary, as can more moderately sized names — Erik Holder, Terry McCauliffe, Jeff Merkley, and others.

I’ll want to take my time with the first ranking, as it it’ll form a firm foundation on top of which I can build future, shorter rankings that can reference the original. Since this pre-amble has gone on long enough, today I’ll only list…

Tier 5: Small Solar System Bodies (SSSBs)

As of February 25, 559 people have filed the required papers with the Federal Election Committee to be official presidential candidates, and 192 of them are Democrats. They are almost all irrelevant in the quest for the presidency. The most high profile of the SSSBs are:

  • Michael E. Artha 2018 Florida gubernatorial candidate, he won 0.35% of the vote
  • Harry Braun: a two-time nominee for Congress like 30 years ago
  • Ken Nwadike Jr.: the Free Hugs Guy
  • Robby Wellsformer head coach of Savannah State University’s football team

I’ve already said too much about them. Tomorrow I’ll get into the “dwarf planets.” See you then!



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