Whew…that was rough. After another 2 night debate between 20 candidates, we’re all pretty much thinking the same thing: “It’s time to go home people.”
We’re now some 400+ days away from the election and 22 candidates have made their cases. Some good, most bad, some…very forgettable. In the time in between our last list and this one, Congressman Eric Swalwell dropped out, the 88-year old Mike Gravel was denied to compete on the debate stage and thus suspended his campaign, and billionaire Tom Steyer has officially joined the race.
That, along with some very interesting (and heated) debate performances will line up our list. This time we’re doing it a little differently. Starting with the candidates we’ve officially heard enough from and are placing our bets on which one drops out first.
#23 – Congressman Seth Moulton (D-MA): Moulton’s been in last place since he’s entered the race, simply because he does nothing to elevate himself or his ideas. He hasn’t clearly stated what his major issue is, or what he plans to do about it. All we know is he definitely doesn’t want things to change, and that message isn’t going to get you anywhere.
#22- Fmr. Rep. John Delaney: If ever there was a candidate where you could hear the entire country screaming, “Drop out already!”, it was John Delaney. Delaney has continued to drop significantly on our list for his illegitimate criticism of Medicare For All, but his most egregious offense came at the latest debate when he advocated for the Trans-Pacific Partnership — a trade deal so detrimental to the sovereignty of the country, it’s almost laughable it was ever considered. And the sad thing was that wasn’t even the worst part of Delaney’s night, he got taken to task time and time again by Elizabeth Warren and exposed for his stake in healthcare companies that he’d lose a not so insignificant amount of money if we switched to a Medicare For All system, so it’s time John. Time to go home.
#21 – Fmr. Gov. John Hickenlooper: Hickenlooper delivered another abysmal debate performance, his only argument being that he was against Medicare For All, and he still couldn’t tell us why. He even played into Bernie’s hand by telling him to throw up his hands, he thought it would be clever to mock him, instead it made him look like a substitute teacher being embarrassed by the class president.
#20 – Fmr. Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke: There’s no shame in being the first big name to drop out of the presidential race, but you can tell Beto doesn’t want to be the one to do it. But he should. His embarrassing dodge in the last debate to speak in Spanish was bad enough, but even though he didn’t resort to that tactic again this time, he still had nothing to say. He’s offering milquetoast plans that are so obviously status quo that he’s drifting in a field of moderates and being crushed by those with far more progressive ideas.
#19 – Fmr. Penn. Rep. Joe Sestak: Sestak’s campaign hasn’t really gotten off the ground. He’s yet to make the debate stage and doesn’t seem to be closing the gap by the time September arrives. Sestak has all the worldly and military experience needed to lead the country, but if no one knows who he is, how is he going to convince us of that?
#18 – Fla. Mayor Wayne Messam: Messam holds true to every progressive value, but it’s no secret he was running to build up his name recognition. And sadly, it hasn’t worked. The Florida mayor hasn’t had much screen time to be included in most polls, that makes it pretty hard to raise donations from all over the country. It’s okay Wayne, you’ve still got a great job and a lot of hard work to do there anyway. Stay focused on the task at hand.
Now for those who either need to kick it up a notch or move out of the way…
#17 – Billionaire Tom Steyer: Steyer has just entered the race so he wasn’t eligible to be on the debate stage, but it’s also going to be a hard road for him to get there considering the DNC requires you reach a certain amount of donations, and it’s going to be hard for a billionaire to pry money out of the hands of hard working Americans. Still Steyer kicked off his campaign with a long-winded video about himself and his background, and of course, shaming Donald Trump. Which is fine, but it isn’t policy. And it’s this lack of policy that is concerning. When even Meghan McCain thinks you’re unfit because you’re rich, wow. We really are in the twilight zone.
#16 – Sen. Michael Bennett (D-CO): Bennett tried. I mean, he really really tried to sound like the reasonable guy on stage. But he also sounds like a guy who took a sleeping pill before getting up there. Bennett droned on a lot. Telling anecdotes and complaining, but rarely ever standing up for even a moderate plan. He also threw what little interest he had away when he walked away from an interview after the debate for seemingly no reason.
#15 – Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH): Yikes! It’s bad enough to have one bad debate performance, but to have two? Where you get owned by the most progressive candidates on the stage, both times! Jeez, that’s gotta be rough. Ryan has really good ideas and if he would just express them instead of trying to jab with the furthest left candidate on the stage he might get somewhere. Instead he ends up looking like a frat boy who just found out date rape is an actual crime. Tim was responsible for the most highlighted moment of the debate when he tried to challenge Bernie Sanders on what was in HIS Medicare For All bill, and it didn’t go his way at all.
#14 – Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT): Bullock finally made the debate stage, and didn’t quite disappoint, but certainly didn’t inspire. Bullock is actually a pretty strong advocate for getting money out of politics, and it would’ve been great to hear him explain his plans for that on stage, instead he fell into a bickering war to jockey with the other moderate candidates on who was more centrist. Bullock will possibly get another chance to shine, but here’s hoping he actually does something worthwhile his next time at bat.
#13 – Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN): Amy’s coming up. Don’t be surprised if she hangs in there. She’s not a terribly exciting candidate, in fact, her main appeal is that she’s an aggressive pragmatist. It’s not popular, but she’s running on being unpopular. It has some appeal that’s for sure, and she’s wise not to show too much disdain for progressive proposals. She’s a solid choice for those seeking a woman and a moderate candidate.
#12 – Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY): You know, I was in your corner right up until the end. Gillibrand is a solid debater and is an even better choice for those people seeking a moderate female candidate. She’s not as shrewd as Klobuchar, she’s defined what her campaign stands for and she articulates her points well. Still, she faltered big time when she tried to challenge Joe Biden on his record on women’s rights. Biden has certainly written some dismissive things but his voting record has always been pro-women. Her attack came across as disingenuous, unnecessarily vicious, and cheap. It definitely put a chink in her armor, and if she doesn’t find a way to recover, don’t be surprised if she’s the first of the 6 female candidates running to head home.
And now, for those who may actually have a chance…
#11 – Fmr. Vice President Joe Biden: Biden was reeling after what had happened in the first debate, so he rested up, reset and tried again. This time it went better, but not great. Biden merely survived as seemingly every moderate candidate on stage tried to take their shot at the former Vice President, and have their own ‘Kamala moment.’ But it would be to no avail. Because the attacks were so calculated and abrasive, Biden then became sympathetic. With every one trying to impugn his record and character, it simply looked like dog-piling on one person. Even though Biden fought back a little better this time, he gained most of his points off of sympathy rather than enthusiasm.
#10 – Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA): How quickly the winds have changed. Harris was all the rage after the first debate when she chastised Joe Biden over his stance on busing, only to reveal days later that she had a similar stance. Then she backtracked on Medicare For All, releasing her own disastrous bill with the same label, but none of the actual facets that would make it a Med4All bill including keeping the private insurance companies and a ten-year rollout that is practically useless even if she did win the presidency. Top all that off with Tulsi Gabbard finally exposing her flawed record as Attorney General and you have Harris on the ropes. Her retort was even worse as instead of trying to defend her record, she deflected to smearing and name-calling Tulsi and demeaning her rank in the polls. It wasn’t a good look for the senator and her team better come up with something quick.
#9 – South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D-IN): Mayor Pete has had a bit of a bounce back. He was more measured in the debates, spoke very firmly about his beliefs and seemed utterly thrilled that Eric Swalwell wasn’t there to bring up the issues going on in his hometown. But Pete spoke reasonably about his healthcare plan which pretty much sounds like his way of saying, “Let’s try this first and if it doesn’t work, we’ll see about moving to Medicare For All.” But Pete let the zingers fly that he knew would get the crowd on his side, when he borrowed a line from several progressive commentators when he said , “If we go too far left, the Republicans will call us socialists, if we got too far right, they’ll call us socialists, so we might as well fight for what we believe in.” True Pete, but is that really you speaking or do you just want to say the right things?
#8 – New York Mayor Bill De Blasio: De Blasio came out swinging in the last debate and really shocked a lot of people with his no-nonsense attitude. He still had some of it here, but it didn’t stand out as much among the back and forth. De Blasio took his shots at Biden that were pretty ill-contrived and he didn’t have as good of a stand out moment as he had in the previous debates. It gave the impression that he can chew up the little pups, but he might not be able to hang in there with the big dogs.
#7 – Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA): I think someone saw our list last time. Jay Inslee gave a practically transformative performance in this debate and dramatically improved his standing. He was certainly more issues focused this time around and completely neglected to go into any tit-for-tat squabbles with any of the candidates, looking firmly like the adult in the room. It’ll be interesting to see if Inslee brings this same attitude to the next few debates and continues to deliver his policy ideas that we can sink our teeth into.
#6 – Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ): Of all the candidates who took potshots at Joe Biden, Booker’s was the only ones that landed. He challenged Joe Biden on criminal justice, civil rights and his crime bill. All valid critiques. He even managed one of the viral moments of the night by using an inner-city saying against Biden about how he was “dipping in the kool-aid, and didn’t know the flavor.” It may have been Booker’s most contrived moment of the night, but at least he didn’t have t-shirts already printed up with the kool-aid man going “OH YEAH!” on it.
And now…for the heavy hitters.
#5 – Fmr. San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro: Julian Castro has been making a lot of really good points lately, particularly when it comes to the issue of immigration. Castro seems to have a firm understanding of what immigration means to this country and how best to implement it fairly and with consideration to other issues such as jobs and housing. Castro was even the beneficiary of some protesters at the debate who made notice of Fmr. President Obama’s 3 million deportations when he was in office. Castro made sure to distance himself and claim he would have a solution if elected.
#4 – Andrew Yang: Yes, Andrew Yang wants to give you $1,000 a month for his freedom dividend. If you don’t know anything else about him, he’s making sure you know that. It was his go-to answer for pretty much every issue in the debate from criminal justice to climate change to healthcare. But Yang found other ways to hit it out of the park. He called out the debate process as a whole and shamed the proceedings for only giving candidates 30 seconds to explain complex policies and solutions, which he’s right. And even if Yang doesn’t grab the nomination, the sheer fact that he’s brought universal basic income into the conversation is a win.
#3 – Marianne Williamson: Marianne has found a unique niche in this race. She has just as much experience as Trump in politics, and has the exact opposite attitude. She gets made fun of a lot for preaching love, but we would argue in a time of so much hate and division, isn’t love the answer? Marianne had a good showing on the same stage as Bernie and Liz Warren as the only other progressive who shamed all the corporate Dems asking, “How are you even democrats?” Good question, Marianne.
#2 – Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA): We’ve got our first tie in our Presidential rankings, but it was such a good showing between both candidates, we couldn’t decide who came out on top. Tulsi Gabbard delivered the hardest hitting blow to one of the “top-tier” candidates and Elizabeth Warren battled back the corporate assaults from Democrats against her plans and Bernie’s. Gabbard once again topped Google’s most searched candidate after her performance, and she garnered the 130k donors needed to qualify for the next debates. It was no secret the first debate was more policy focused and this was Warren’s wheelhouse. She took down Hickenlooper in spectacular fashion and beat back false claims from John Delaney. These two were a tour de force on their debate nights, but still couldn’t top our reigning champion…
#1 Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT): In 2016, in Portland, Oregon, Bernie Sanders had the moment of his campaign when a little bird flew into the stadium he was speaking at, and landed directly in front of him. It was happenstance and magical. It was the kind of thing you don’t think could ever happen again, and then during the debate, Tim Ryan told Bernie he didn’t know what was in his bill, and Bernie replied, “I do know that, I wrote the damn bill.” That phrase has now replaced the bird as it proved you can’t come for Bernie if you haven’t done your homework. Ryan was left silenced for much of the night after that (and that was early on in the debate.) and Bernie didn’t stop there. He called out Delaney for making money off of healthcare, called out Hickenlooper for his blatant lies, and even called out the moderators for using right-wing framing in all of their questions, AND called out CNN for running the ads of the drug companies DURING the debate. Bernie was on fire. There had been many calling on Bernie to take the gloves off, and he certainly did.
So there’s our power rankings this month. We hope and pray, our list continues to get shorter after this because there are too many candidates in the race, and it’s time to leave a lot of them behind. As we get closer to the Iowa Caucuses, it’s becoming more and more apparent who has the staying power and verbal chops to best President Trump and who doesn’t.
Edit: Shortly after posting this article, Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) has officially suspended his campaign.