January Power Rankings! (New Year’s Resolution Edition)

You were there for October’s Spooooky Power Rankings.
And November’s Thankful Power Rankings.
And who can forget December’s Christmas Carol Power Rankings?

Now I bring you the first Democratic Power Rankings of 2020 — January’s New Year’s Resolution rankings. They’re pretty straight forward, really. What should each candidate resolve to do this month?

But first, on the heels of yesterday’s rant about the DNC’s polling thresholds and lack of early state polls, CBS News and YouGov released Iowa and New Hampshire polls, our first surveys from the state in 52 days. Though they’re by far the most recent early state data we have, I’ll try not to overrate them in these rankings. Reading into any single poll is not wise.

Still, when polls confirm preconceived notions, we love them. In this case, one thing I’d like to point out is my suspicion that mid-tier candidates Yang, Steyer, and Booker, who all asserted that the lack of recently early state polls meant their early state support wasn’t detected, were not actually surging. This new poll found that Biden, Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar all hit at least 7% in both states, but no other candidates earned more than 3 in New Hampshire and 2 in Iowa. And this is before the possibly five-person January debate acts as a winnower.

With all that in mind, let’s get into it. (The candidates’ December ranking is in parentheses, separated into this cycle’s planetary tiers.)

Tier 5: Asteroid Belt

14. Marianne Williamson (17): Still in it… but without paid staff.
13. John Delaney (16): He climbs three more spots! Once ranked #22, he’s now in the top 13. What a strategy.
12. Michael Bennet (14): He’s long been my favorite asteroid, but he’s stuck in the orbit.

Their New Year’s Resolution? Drop out! It’s over. I know candidates like to point to late charges from Carter, Clinton, and Obama, but for several reasons those comparisons don’t work. The writing has been on the wall for some time. Better to thin Democrats’ choices then contribute to the chaos.

Tier 4: Dwarf Planets

11. Tulsi Gabbard (12): It’s hard to rank behind Deval Patrick these days, but Gabbard has pulled it off. With a 29% unfavorable number from Morning Consult’s tracking poll, she’s the field’s most disliked candidate among Democrats. Her “Present” vote on both impeachment articles likely cemented her fate. At least Patrick has room to grow, even if he hasn’t grown at all so far. New Year’s Resolution: Become a full-time Fox News contributor by year’s end. She knows what she’s doing.

10. Deval Patrick (8): A month ago, I justified his eighth place ranking by saying we basically ruled out all the candidates below him, so his late entry at least had a higher chance to work out. Well, we can all but rule him out now too. No one wants this. New Year’s Resolution: Drop out and pretend this never happened.

9. Tom Steyer (10): He was decent in the sixth (his third) Democratic debate, but Democrats outside of the four early states in which he’s spending millions on ads have had no receptivity to him. (He’s spent $37 million on Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina — more than the four front-runners combined.) He still feels like an interloper.

Still, at least he provided us some amusement by donating to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign — a donation she accepted despite later criticizing Pete Buttigieg accepting money from billionaires. Good stuff. New Year’s Resolution: In that vein, smart politics would be to pledge millions of dollars to Democratic candidates in 2020. He needs to convince primary donors that he’s not doing this for himself.

8. Cory Booker (9): I’m seeing just a little bit of life in his polling since Kamala Harris dropped out, and now with Julian Castro exiting as well, he can more convincingly make a case that minorities need better representation in the field. His national Real Clear Politics average had fallen to 1.3, a number that put him in the Asteroid Belt mix, but has since climbed to 2.3 and back into the top eight. However, the lack of DNC-approved polls have killed his chances of getting back into the debate. For example, a South Carolina Post and Courier poll was released shortly after Harris dropped out, and he hit five points in it, but the survey doesn’t count. No South Carolina poll has been conducted since. He won’t get into the January debate. His run feels over, and he’s been demoted from the major planets.

New Year’s Resolution: Do some dirty work for Elizabeth Warren, then ask nicely to be her VP nominee if she wins the primary.

Tier 3: Rocky Major Planets

7. Andrew Yang (10): It’s taken a while, but I’m convinced: Yang is now a major planet! With each debate, this likable, bright candidate garners more interest. Because his campaign leans into its nerdy love of MATH, here are some impressive numbers:

  • The last debate earned him the biggest bump in Twitter followers, more than doubling the surge of interest in the category’s runner up, Amy Klobuchar, and more than triple that of third place Bernie Sanders.
  • Morning Consult found he had the lowest unfavorable number of any candidate on whom more than two-thirds of respondents had an opinion. With so many people open to him, that means there’s plenty of room to grow.
  • Recently released Quarter 4 fundraising reveals he continues to fund-raise remarkably well; Yang had a big jump from Q3 to Q4:


On the other hand, there are numbers he doesn’t like much. He has no path to the nomination without a surge nationally or in an early state, and as impressive as his climb is, it’s slow. That’s impacted his ability to qualify for the next debate, which ramped up debate qualification thresholds:


Since candidate have only until January 10 — this Friday — to earn these qualifying polls, Yang, like all candidates ranked below him today, is running out of time to qualify for the debate and maintain relevance. It’s hard to see a leap to competitiveness in this last month, particularly without a debate appearance.

New Year’s Resolution: Handwritten thank-you notes to the entire #YangGang. He might finish them by 2024.

6. Amy Klobuchar (7): With only the one Iowa poll conducted over the last eight weeks, it’s hard to know if an increasingly popular pundit sentiment — that voters are taking another look at Amy Klobuchar — is actually true. She still slots ahead of Booker and Yang because the two gentlemen don’t seem to be competitive in any early state, so it’s hard to see them changing the primary’s dynamic in their favor at this point, whereas a Klobusurge is a real possibility based on recent trends. She’s was ticking up in Iowa polling before early state polling dried up, and, if you take another look at the above fundraising chart, you’ll see no candidate had a bigger percentage leap in fundraising from Q3 to Q4.

So, she could surge to take Iowa, which likely means inheriting a ton of Buttigieg support in New Hampshire and beyond — and sponging up some of Biden’s soft support as well. However, just because it’s realistic doesn’t mean it’s likely, which means the fop four and Bloomberg’s bank account must keep her out of the top five.

New Year’s Resolution: Isn’t it obvious? WIN IOWA! No candidate’s success is more tied to a single state.

5. Michael Bloomberg (5): Bloomberg remains unchanged. His “Ignore the early states and win a war of attrition afterwards” strategy can work as long as no candidate has a dominant February. It’s too early to know if any candidate is in a strong position to have a great run in the early states, though Biden and Sanders look increasingly likely to do so.

New Year’s Resolution: Think like a fox! Can he find a way to interfere in the February states without actually competing in them? Let’s say Buttigieg wins Iowa. Can he somehow help, say, Warren win New Hampshire? If Biden wins one of the first two states, can Bloomberg help Sanders deny him Nevada? He needs an even field heading into March, so what can he do to help make that happen?

All right, we’re nearing 1400 words here. I’ll let you get back to your Monday. Tomorrow’s Part II will address the top four, where no candidate is in the same spot as a month ago! See you then.


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