So there was a 4th Democratic debate that featured 12 candidates. One the same night. On the same stage. What could possibly go wrong? Why no one suggested splitting this one up into two nights to give 6 candidates the opportunity to explain their case with more time was baffling to me. It’s almost as if the people who run debates aren’t all that interested in policy discussions. Who woulda thunk it?
Instead, we got this clunky mess of scattering applause and middle of the road centrists taking potshots at a new perceived front runner. More important than the debates are the days that follow and how the candidates follow up their good or not so good performances. Some did well, some faltered, and some disappeared and (strangely) reappeared. But it doesn’t matter who won the debate (Hint: It wasn’t who mainstream media told you it was), all that matters is how they fared on our list.
Here’s our take on our still unnecessarily huge pool of candidates. Starting with…
#18 – Fmr. Rep. John Delaney: For reasons no one can explain, John Delaney is still in the presidential race. Despite many of his campaign staff quitting and many more telling him to give it up after the candidate drew a whopping 11 people to his rally in Iowa, he’s still sticking around and we can only assume it’s because he’s a glutton for punishment. I sincerely hope I don’t have to keep his name on this list the next time we do this.
#17 – Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH): You may have noticed that Ryan wasn’t on our last power rankings list. That’s because it was believed that he had officially dropped out of the race. In fact, we struggled with even adding him back on as he’s done nothing to re-establish himself in the race. The only thing he’s done is give an shameful interview on The Young Turks where he admitted he wouldn’t support Medicare for All even if a progressive president enacted it. And his reasoning was not good. In our eyes, Ryan was better off perceived gone cause now he’s just embarrassing.
#16 – Fmr. Penn. Rep. Joe Sestak & Fla. Mayor Wayne Messam: Look, I can’t take it anymore. Both of these guys have done little to nothing in this presidential race. I’m sure both have solid ideas, but they’re doing an abysmal job getting their word out there. You both meant well, and I’m not trying to discourage long shot candidates, but it would appear that if you really had something to say, you would’ve said it by now.
#15 – Sen. Michael Bennett (D-CO): If Mufasa had held on as long as Bennett has, The Lion King would’ve been a very different movie. It’s hard to move the needle when no one knows what you’re fighting for, if anything, and especially when you’re staking your claim in a spot currently being fought over by 13 other centrist democrats. Bennett doesn’t have the name recognition nor the fight or attitude to even challenge the President, let alone beat him. It’s a wasted effort that should end sooner, rather than later.
#14 – Billionaire Tom Steyer: Steyer spent a lot of money to make it onto the 4th debate stage, and once he got there, he didn’t do much at all. For Steyer, it was all about timing. His main claim to fame was going to be impeachment for Donald Trump, and to push Democrats in that direction. If he could’ve done that, he could’ve claimed direct involvement. Unfortunately for him, the president commits a crime on the daily and the Democrats didn’t need him to push for impeachment, Trump did it for them. Left with nothing else in the tank, he wasn’t able to chime in on foreign affairs, healthcare or any other domestic policy, so he was relatively silent for much of the night. Good thing you’re a billionaire Tom. I mean, there are worse ways to waste money, I guess.
#13 – Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA): No candidate has fallen off a cliff faster than Kamala Harris. She came in on a wave of momentum mainly for her identity above anything else. Unfortunately, she couldn’t maintain any ground after her strong first debate performance. Tulsi really kneecapped her campaign when she brought up Harris’s horrendous record as a prosecutor, and she hasn’t been able to recover since. In fact, her not answering the question, then smearing Tulsi and putting out a watered down healthcare plan only tanked her further. Even in the last debate, she couldn’t get her mojo back. Her new plan was to try to circumvent the constitution to deny the president of his freedom of speech rights by banning him on Twitter. It’s the kind of virtue signaling politics that everyone sees right through. Harris’s only play at this point is to drop out and endorse someone else in the race while she still has some clout.
#12 – Fmr. Vice President Joe Biden: The issue here is that Joe Biden has become a roadblock for the rest of the field. A lot of candidates could really see where they stand if Joe would get out of the way. The problem is he’s still technically the front runner. And the main reason is because his base doesn’t watch debates. They don’t follow the primary. Many of them aren’t paying attention right now, and he’s got all the name recognition in the world. He’s the former VP to the most liked president in the modern age. But if any of his voters were actually paying attention to the things he’s saying, they’d be flabbergasted. It’s bad enough that Biden doesn’t look to be cognitively prepared for the long haul, but his son’s Ukrainian scandal isn’t helping matters much either. Joe really needs to start considering his health, and may look to make his exit either before or immediately following Iowa. Look for some centrists to stick around till then just in case the tide changes.
#11 – Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN): If you listened to the mainstream media (which we strongly encourage you not to do), you may have heard that Amy Klobuchar was the best of the night. She wowed the crowd, and won people over to her side with her wit and charm and her graceful etiquette on the finer issues. If you heard that, I hate to break it to you, but you were lied to. Amy did not win the debate in any shape or form. She didn’t look the best up there, she was just given a lot more time to talk. More time than she’s probably had all debate season, and she still didn’t say anything. There’s enough people on the stage arguing against a lot of people’s ideas, but no one is saying what they’re for except for maybe Amy, and Amy is for…not much really. Nothing big or bold, nothing that would transform the economy or the country. Nothing that would ease tensions after the divisions we’ve gone through before or since Trump was elected. So if that’s what the mainstream media thinks a winner looks like, they must have some unbelievable losers.
#10 – South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg: Honestly, if you just put a tie on a watermelon and put it behind the podium, it would give you more substance and less lies than Pete Buttigieg did in the 4th debate. He spent most of the night attacking Warren and medicare for all, and strangely kept attributing it to her as if it were her plan. It clearly isn’t, so making that claim was dubious at best. But past that, he wouldn’t stop lying about it. Anyone who’s read Bernie’s or Congresswoman Pramilya Jayapal’s bills on Medicare for All know what’s in them, how to pay for them, and how long the transition will be, and what happens to people once it kicks in. But if you don’t, don’t go asking centrists about it. Their job is to muddy the waters and clearly Pete knows that’s exactly what he’s doing.
#9 Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT): Bullock didn’t make the first, third, or fourth debates. And it’s looking like he won’t make the fifth either. Even though the debates can be seen as contrived and often times meaningless, where they get their power is from showcasing the candidates to a wider audience. It’s a chance for someone to steal the show, punch through and draw eyes to their candidacy. Bullock hasn’t had the chance or opportunity to do that. Maybe it’s his policies or his character, we may never know unless he manages to get some eyes on him.
#8 – Sen. Corey Booker (D-NJ): There’s no doubt in my mind, Corey Booker may be the sleeper candidate in this race. He’s firmly committed to staying in the race at least through the first few primary states, and he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with, no matter how many SNL parodies of him there are. Booker’s secret weapon is that he’s actually quite likable even if he’s fairly weak on most policies. I see him biding his time, and might be one of the people who could benefit the most from a Biden dropout.
#7 – Fmr. HUD Sec. Julian Castro: Julian made one fatal flaw that we’ve already warned you all against. He listened to the mainstream media. After the third debate, Castro went after Biden and Buttigieg aptly and soundly, but the “pearl clutchers” in the media couldn’t believe Castro would be so brazen as to attack their chosen candidate and they slammed him as the biggest loser of the debate, But he wasn’t. Not even a little bit. And in the fourth debate, he kept quiet. He acted as if he had been out of line last time even though he wasn’t. That’s why you shouldn’t listen to mainstream media, Julian. Castro also is very likable and he could continue that by being more upfront of policy ideas and perhaps sliding more into the progressive camp. It’s not too late to follow the mood of the country, and get in with the good guys.
#6 – Fmr. Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke: Beto’s making noise in all the ways you wouldn’t want to be, but it’s enough to keep his name in the race, and that’s really all you could ask for right now. He’s lost a tremendous amount of support since he entered the race. A lot of people saw through the phony Obama-like exterior he was putting on, and going in raw has proved a much better strategy for him. He declared at the last debate that he would support a ban on assault rifles, even going so far as to propose a mandatory buy back program. Then heightened it up even further by stating that he’d consider removing a church’s tax exempt status if they denied rights to LGBTQ citizens. He even got into a small tiff with Mayor Pete by claiming he was a poll-tested candidate. (Hint: He is.) Beto’s making noise. We’ll see if it gets any louder.
#5 – Marianne Williamson: Marianne isn’t a politician and even she knows if you’re in the race for President, and you really want it, you’ve got to show your face and push your ideas. Especially when you’re an outsider candidate and the DNC doesn’t want you on their debate stage. In fact, Marianne’s strategy might be even smarter than trying to squabble with 12 other people for 30 seconds of airtime. Just go on different podcasts and get a solid hour to yourself to discuss your ideas. That’s what she’s been doing, and one could argue it’s been working out pretty good. She managed to raise 3 million dollars in the third quarter. That’s more than Bennett, Delaney, Bullock, Ryan, Sestak, and Messam combined. Marianne is actually in this race, so I retract my prediction that she would be the next to drop out. I suspect she might hang in longer than anyone in the DNC wants her to.
#4 – Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA): Congratulations! Elizabeth Warren is currently the front runner for the Democratic nomination. WOO! But on our list, she’s in hard fourth. Her debate performance was a new place for her. As the perceived (or possibly anointed) front runner, she had to spend the night fending off repetitive blows from centrist democrats that ranged from silly to downright dastardly. Playing defense all night was not a good place for Warren as she fended off a lot, fumbled a few, and crumbled under others. What they don’t tell you about being the front runner is that there’s a lot more eyes on you and more scrutiny that you come under. Warren will be a little harder to kick out of the top spot than Biden was, but her lying about why she left teaching, and her giving in to dishonest actors’ calls to have her create her own Medicare for All plan is starting to weaken her foothold. However, Warren did just release a comprehensive public education plan that should stabilize her standing for awhile.
#3 – Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI): It’s been a bit of an up and down trajectory for Ms. Gabbard. She returned to the debate stage after being inexplicably denied the last time, but when she got there, she wasn’t as poignant and precise as she normally was. She tried to take a shot at Warren that ultimately backfired, and she made a few more questionable decisions along the way like backsliding on Medicare for All and defending Ellen’s friendship with war criminal George W. Bush. It seemed like she would remain in the lower class of candidates when she suddenly got a gift in the form of Hillary Clinton. Clinton, completely unprompted, decided to smear Tulsi as a Russian asset for committing the crime of being anti-war. Clinton’s baseless and downright delusional claim has only given Tulsi a boost as the hate for Clinton will undoubtedly transfer into support for Gabbard.
#2 – Businessman Andrew Yang: Yang has managed to creep up our list by just being consistent, but make no mistake, the distance between 1 and 2 is monumental. Yang makes compelling cases for why his plans are superior to others even if they’re not really giving people the full information. It’s safe to say Yang is a progressive libertarian. He sees a future in which a universal basic income can be a game-changer, and he’s smartly in favor of decriminalizing all drugs, which would also be a game-changer. But his refusal to back Medicare for All, a federal jobs guarantee and a wealth tax leads us to believe his overall vision for the country would still exacerbate the same class tensions we’re seeing now. But no one can deny his strong online and grassroots following. He raised an impressive 10 million dollars in the third quarter and has already qualified for the next coming debate. Yang is an important voice in this race, but the longer it goes, it may reflect that his vision for society is not one as progressive as it seems.
#1 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT): They say blessings come in disguise. Well, Bernie’s blessing came in the form of a heart attack. The Senator had the most aggressive ground game of any candidate. Doing close to 5 or 6 rallies a day. At 78, his heart needed two stents in it to clear a blood clog. But it gave him an edge no one saw coming. He came into the debate looking healthy, recharged and fully prepared to go on offense against his democratic opponents. (In case you’re wondering, Bernie actually won the debate.)
But that wasn’t even the best part, he announced a special guest he was having at his #BerniesBack rally, and it was Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The youngest woman ever elected to congress and the most high profile congresswoman currently serving, and she was there to give her endorsement to the Senator. His rally was packed. Over 26K people met in Queensbridge, and even more thousands had to be turned away due to capacity. The rally featured incredible speeches and endorsements from AOC and Michael Moore, but the one who brought the house down had to be Nina Turner whose fiery indictments of Senator Warren and Fmr. VP Joe Biden were music to the ears of the thousands in attendance. But at last, it was the Senator himself who would have the moment when he asked his crowd of supporters if they would be willing to fight for someone they don’t know. It was a strong and powerful challenge that encapsulated the message of his entire campaign: #NotMeUS. Bernie is definitely back, and stronger than ever.
And that’s our list. Still, way too many candidates than we need. Let’s hope by the next round, we’ll have shrunk the field significantly. One can only hope.
Let us know what you thought of our list, and who you’d like to see at the top of the democratic ticket in 2020, and we’ll see you next time we power rank the candidates.
EDIT- 11-1-2019: Shortly after the publication of this list, Congressman Tim Ryan (D-OH) officially ended his campaign. Here is where he placed on our lists: 8, 13, 15,17.
11-6-2019: Fmr. Texas Rep. Beto O’ Rourke has also officially ended his campaign. Here is all of his placings on our list: 8, 14, 18, 20, 10, & 6