Democratic Power Rankings: May Edition

It’s been a couple of months since my last Power Rankings, but I’ll now try to make them a consistent post on the first Monday of each month. With Joe Biden’s entry into the race, we now have its last big runner (barring a late sprint from Stacey Abrams). Though we still might get a couple more names — I’m skeptically looking at you, Bill de Blasio and Steve Bullock — I think we’re done with the “major planets.”

Speaking of major planets, remember that this election cycle I’m comparing my tiers of candidates to solar bodies. Read this for an explanation of each tier.

Without further ado, let’s get to the May rankings, which is a ranking of likelihood to win the 2020 Democratic nomination. The ranking of each candidate from March’s version will be listed in parentheses.

Tier 5: Small Solar System Bodies (SSSBs)

As of April 29, there are 700 official candidates for the 2020 presidential election, including 236 Democrats. All but 20 of them are part of this tier. The biggest SSSB is Tallahassee Mayor Wayne Messam. Though the Failing New York Times considers him a “major candidate” since he’s a notable elected official, his campaign isn’t going anywhere, and I doubt he makes the debates.

The excepted 20 are listed below.

Tier 4: Unknown Dwarf Planets (a tier for technically major candidates who might make the debate stage, but I don’t see any realistic path to the nomination)

20. Marianne Williamson, California best-selling author and spiritual teacher (previously ranked 20): Though more candidates have been added since my March ranking, two also announced they weren’t running, so Ms. Williamson’s ranking broke even. Since she has a chance at achieving the 65,000 donors necessary to make the debate stage, she barely noses her way into Tier 4. However, with no experience, party support, or traction in the polls, she’s ranked last of the 20 non-SSSB candidates.

19. John Delaney, former Congressman from Maryland (2013-2019) (19): Delaney drops a spot. He’s been running longer than any candidate (since June, 2017!), and it hasn’t gotten him anywhere. He’s my leading early drop-out candidate.

18. Seth Moulton, Congressman from Massachusetts (2015-) (unranked): The 40-year-old veteran with four tours of Iraq under his belt is a recent entry into the race. He wants to make this a national security election. Unfortunately for him, the Democratic Party does not. Even if a terror incident or looming war turned it into one, not only are there more high profile candidates with military experience (Buttigieg, Gabbard), but I’d wager the party sooner turns to Joe Biden — the recent two-term Vice-President and long-time Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — or other U.S. Senators, than it does to a Congressman.

17. Eric Swalwell, Congressman from California (2013-) (17): Swalwell shares a Moulton weakness: they’re both obscure House members from dark blue states with little claim to national viability, whether in the primary or general. Swalwell gets the edge here because, unlike Moulton, whose top issue doesn’t mesh with the current Democratic Party, Swalwell’s #1 issue is gun control, which does.

16. Tim Ryan, Congressman from Ohio (2003-) (Unranked): Ugh, enough with the young, white, obscure Congressmen! Voters won’t be able to keep you all straight. Maybe Ryan inherits some support that was going to go to Sherrod Brown? I don’t know. These guys are all 50/1, if you ask me.

15. Michael Bennet, Senator from Colorado (2009-): Bennet just got in a few days ago, because apparently the race needed a seventh U.S. Senator. I’m giving him the edge over the Congressmen because he’s a state-wide official who has proven his ability to win over rural voters, which gives him an electability case. Yet, he’s not even the only state-wide official from Colorado in the race! (See Hickenlooper, John.)

Tier 3: Known Dwarf Planets (Highly Unlikely Nominees, but I see the path)

(Note: this is where I’d slot Mayor de Blasio if he were officially in the race.)

14. Tulsi Gabbard, Congresswoman from Hawaii (2013-) (13): My initial doubts are confirmed. Just about everyone who loves Gabbard loves Bernie Sanders… only they love Sanders more. Just like the above names, there’s little room for Gabbard in this race. I’ll keep her in Tier 3 for now because she’ll draw some attention in the debates.

13. Julian Castro, former Mayor of Houston (2009-2014) and Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (2014-2017) (12): Meh.

12. Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington (2013-) (14): Inslee leaps over a couple names due to his smart single-issue obsession with climate change. With many Democrats fearing the consequences of climate change as the largest issue facing not only our country but our species, a candidate who is singularly focused on the issue could see a bump after a debate hammers home the urgency. If he then hits just 3 or 4 percent in the polls, that actually allows him to break away from the dozen candidates (and counting) who regularly poll just 0 or 1. As part of the second tier, he can then start talking about other issues more.

11. Andrew Yang, New York entrepreneur (19): The biggest rise of the day goes to Andrew Yang. Like Inslee, who has turned himself into the “climate change candidate,” Yang has turned himself into the “give everyone a thousand dollars a month candidate.” Though his Real Clear Politics polling average is just 0.8, that actually puts him ahead of everyone below him on this list. The markets — like oddsmakers and PredictIt — also think this election cycle can be the second straight one where a non-politician buseinessman catches fire to become a contender; each see him as one of the seven or so most likely nominees. I’m a bit more skeptical because I don’t think the Democratic Party is ready, just four years after making the case against Trump, to all of a sudden say someone without government experience can be president.

10. Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator from New York (2009-) (10): No major candidate should be more embarrassed about his or her performance so far. This high-profile U.S. Senator no longer appears in Real Clear Politics’s top 12 candidates in national polling; that means she’s averaging below 0.6%. She’s surely hoping that the debate scan offer a momentum shift, but very little about her public appearances makes me think she has the skill set to force that shift. Fire everybody.

9. John Hickenlooper, former Governor of Colorado (2011-2019) (15): Just like the Bennet spot topped the last tier due to electability, Hickenlooper leads Tier 3. He has policies liberal enough to appeal to Democrats but the electoral success of someone who can compete nationally. He is also… interesting. His quirky personality might help him stand out in a crowded race. (Don’t forget that Mike Huckabee rode Chuck Norris commercials to second place in 2008, which proved, yet again, that Chuck Norris can do anything.) Hickenlooper is a dwarf planet to be sure, but no dwarf planet is mightier. He’s basically the Pluto of this race. (I’m not sure which I’m insulting more — the candidate or the planetary body.)


Let’s cut it off there. Tomorrow: the major planets! See you then.

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