Hello, dear readers! I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. Welcome to December.
As it’s the first Monday of the month, it’s time for another edition of PPFA’s Power Rankings. If you recall, the last couple rankings have had a theme. In October’s “Spoooky” Power Rankings, I identified what each campaign was scared of. In November, the month of gratitude, I identified what each candidate should be thankful for.
For December, let’s have some fun. This month, I’ll pick out a Christmas carol for each candidate — often modified with a presidential politics spin. You’ll see what I mean.
The big question for these rankings — where will Deval Patrick and Michael Bloomberg rank in their PPFA Power Rankings debut?? Let’s get to it.
(The candidates’ November ranking will be in parentheses, and here’s a reminder of this cycle’s planetary “tiers” theme.)
Tier 6: Ejected from Solar Orbit
Wayne Messam (17) — Every month he was our lowest ranked candidate. Finally, he realized it.
Joe Sestak (14) — And Sestak probably worried about replacing the vacuum left behind by Messam in my “Small Solar System Body” tier. About 14 hours before today’s rankings were scheduled to post, Sestak dropped out too.
Tier 5: The Asteroid Belt
17. Marianne Williamson (16)
16. John Delaney (15)
15. Steve Bullock (13)
14. Michael Bennet (12)
13. Julian Castro (11)
Not only did each of these campaigns drop in the rankings thanks to the Bloomberg and Patrick candidacies, but I’m demoting them from “Unknown Dwarf Planets” to the measly “Asteroid Belt.” They don’t deserve to have planets in their name. They’re now just chunks of rock orbiting around Iowa and New Hampshire.
Once these Tier 5 candidates stopped making debates, people stopped paying attention to them. Their polling numbers dropped, their fundraising dried up, and few news outlets cared about their opinions anymore. They’ve greeted their obscurity with denial, but some part of them surely knows it’s over. What’s their Christmas carol? “Silent Night”
Tier 4: Dwarf Planets
12. Tulsi Gabbard (10)
11. Tom Steyer (9)
10. Andrew Yang (8)
They, too, all drop a couple spots. As long as they’re still making debates, they’ll be in the top four tiers, but I still see limited upside for all of them.
Gabbard is doing a great job alienating nearly every Democrat, which is fun to watch (and it was the highlight of Saturday Night Live’s debate sketch), even if it’s a questionable strategy when courting Democratic voters. She’s one qualifying poll from making the December 19 debate, and another New Hampshire poll should get her in. Her Christmas carol: “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like a Third Party Run”
Steyer’s Christmas carol, “Steyer and Gold,” reflect that he’s used his personal wealth to keep buying his way into the debates by running ads in the early states, but he’s just barely hitting debate thresholds nonetheless. Others who are spending less are doing better. He’s going to make the fourth debate, but he needs to find a few thousand more donors, likely by spending millions more to get them. Nationally, despite having appeared in two debates now, Democrats just don’t seem interested. Money can only go so far.
Yang has cooled. After slowly building for months, he has now leveled around 3 percent, with early states looking no better. He’s also just one poll away. Still, the fact that his debate qualifying now comes so much later in the process — he used to be among the first handful of candidates to qualify — is evidence that times gone past were better for him. His Christmas carol: “Auld Yang Syne”
Tier 3: Rocky Major Planets
9. Cory Booker (7): He’s been at this all year. He’s debated wonderfully. He has a positive message. He’s one of my three or four most preferred candidates in this field.
None of it seems to matter. Here’s the latest qualifying numbers for the sixth Democratic debate. (In addition to meeting a 200,000 donor threshold, candidates need either four DNC-approved polls of four percent or higher in the early states and/or nationally, or they can get in with two polls of six percent of higher in the early states.)
Booker has yet to have a single qualifying poll in the sixth debate polling window, which began on October 25 and will end on December 12, which is next Thursday. That gives Booker just ten more days. It’s not happening, barring two full-court, six-point, early-state miracles. (It’s been all New Hampshire for him since the 15th, so the Granite State is his last hope.) As we’ve seen, candidates who don’t make debate stages are no longer relevant in the national conversation. Debate qualification has been the greatest winnower of this crowded field.
Unlike just about everyone ranked below him today, however, Booker still has a bright future in the party. If he fails to make the debate stage, I don’t think he drags out his failed bid. His Christmas carol: “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”
8. Deval Patrick (unranked): Patrick’s early polling trails Booker and Tier 4, but at least his late entry means we don’t know for sure his campaign won’t work.
Still, this Patrick bid is stupid, dumb, annoying, and stupid. (Or, to quote a wise blogger: “No. NO! No no no. No.”) I’m starting to think Democrats agree with this assessment. As of this writing, his national Real Clear Politics polling average is an asteroidy 0.4. His primary strategy was likely to make a big splash in New Hampshire — next door to Massachusetts, where he served two terms as Governor — but there, too, he’s struggling. In the three New Hampshire polls conducted with him as a candidate, he’s netted 0, 1, and 0 points, for an average that trails his national popularity — 0.33. Most pleasingly, he arranged an event at Moreshouse College — a historically black school in Atlanta, where you’d think a high-profile, African American governor running for president would get some interest — but he had to cancel when only two people showed up.
Again, he’s ranked above Booker and Tier 4 only because those candidates have basically been ruled out nationally and in early states, but so fat this has been a well-earned disaster. His Christmas carol: “Hark! Even the Herald Angels Say No One Likes You”
7. Amy Klobuchar (6): Nationally, Klobuchar isn’t polling much better (and in a couple cases worse) than the handful of candidates ranked directly below her. However, she comfortably qualified for the next debate — one of only six candidates to do so — and, more importantly: Iowa, Iowa, Iowa. The season of surges isn’t over, and it’s better to surge in January than at any time before. Keep an eye on the Midwestern problem-solver who gets things done. I have a hunch it’s what Iowans will want to hear.
Her Christmas carol: “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” Have you been to Minnesota in December? Me neither, and it’s staying that way. Bonus: woke progressives hate this song just like they do Senator Klobuchar.
6. Kamala Harris (5): Harris, like Klobuchar, drops a spot thanks to the Bloomberg Wildcard. I still see ways for Klobuchar and Harris to catch some fire as we near the early states, but in both cases it’s more likely that their 2019 performance will continue for another month. Neither can really be considered Tier 2 candidates until they convert their potential into real growth.
Her Christmas carol: “The Twelve Days of Harris” The most annoying Christmas carol goes to Kamala Harris, the most annoying candidate in the field. Now that Beto O’Rourke is gone, no remaining candidate makes me roll my eyes more than Kamala Harris. She’s relied on substanceless charisma too long. She ferociously charged into this primary, but she’s proven to be a paper tiger. What’s amazing, though, is that all the way back in June even I, Mr. Skeptical, was taken aback by her on-point first debate performance. She saw a resulting polling pop, but it didn’t last. In fact, it seemed to wear off after about, you guessed it, 12 days.
Tier 2: Ice Giants
Oh boy, we’re over 1300 words. I’ll save the top two tiers for Tuesday. I’m sure I’ll use more words for those five candidates than I have for these other fourteen.
Where will Bloomberg rank? You’ll find out tomorrow. See you then.