POWER RANKING: Here’s who has the best chance of becoming the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee

With 17 major candidates in the race, the Democratic 2020 presidential field is set to be one of the largest, most competitive, and most unpredictable in modern history.

To help make sense of where all these candidates stand, INSIDER has been conducting a recurring SurveyMonkey Audience national poll. You can download every poll here, down to the individual respondent data.

Read more about how the INSIDER 2020 Democratic primary tracker works.

At this point in the race, we’re mainly interested in using our polling to figure out:

  • What percentage of Democratic voters are familiar with each candidate in the first place.
  • How Democrats rate each candidate’s chances of beating President Donald Trump in the general election.
  • If a given candidate were to drop out of the race, who that candidate’s supporters would flock to next.

We’ve combined INSIDER’s polling and results of Morning Consult’s daily survey of the 2020 Democratic primary to create a power ranking of declared and potential 2020 candidates.

With stricter requirements to make the next rounds of debates, the field is quickly stratifying into the top and lower tiers – and is getting much smaller very quickly.

Read more: Julian Castro’s attacks on Joe Biden could backfire on him, but he may have just done Democrats a huge favor

The third Democratic debate on September 12 didn’t do much to shift the overall state of the race, but as the months go on, some candidates are surging while others are flaming out.

This week, we said goodbye to Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City, who was previously in last place in our ranking and dropped out of the race on September 20.

We upgraded Sen. Cory Booker, former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, and Andrew Yang, but downgraded Sen. Kamala Harris, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and former HUD Secretary Julian Castro.

Here’s what our ranking looks like as of September 20, 2019.


17: Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana

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Reuters

Bullock raised $1 million in the first 24 hours of his candidacy and has been able to attract some sizable crowds and support from statewide and local politicians in Iowa.

Despite his strong opening week and qualifying for the July Democratic debate, Bullock is still at 1% in Morning Consult’s polling and 0% in early states.

Bullock had a solid performance in the late-July Democratic debates, earning him a promotion to the top 15 in August. But having failed to qualify for the fall debates and lacking significant support, it’s hard to see Bullock’s candidacy staying viable for much longer.

As the race narrows down, it makes less and less sense for Bullock to stay in the race with an upcoming Senate race in his state and numerous other opportunities he could pursue, leading him to fall down three spots on September 6.

Read more about Steve Bullock’s campaign.


16: Former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland

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Delaney, right, on the debate stage with former Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado.
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Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Delaney enjoys a surprising amount of name recognition but has been unable to translate that into support in a meaningful way.

He’s among those at 1% in Morning Consult polls. According to INSIDER’s polling, he’s known by about 20% of Democrats, but he has been unable to build a base of support having to compete with former VP Joe Biden for moderate voters.

We moved Delaney to the bottom of our ranking in early August he was thoroughly walloped by Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the July Democratic debates.

Warren had the line of the night in criticizing him, saying, “I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for.”

But we dumped Delaney up two spots on September 6 since he, as a former congressman with virtually unlimited campaign funds, has nothing to lose by staying in.

Read more about John Delaney’s campaign.


15: Marianne Williamson

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Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Despite having one of the longest-running campaigns, Williamson, a motivational speaker and New Age spiritual guru, has not been capable of consolidating support or name recognition.

Williamson raised $1.5 million in 2019’s first quarter and earned the 65,000 individual donors required to make the first Democratic debates.

Despite her low name recognition and lack of political experience, Williamson debated in both the June and July Democratic debates and made a huge splash – making her an online sensation and the subject of countless jokes and memes.

But that online enthusiasm hasn’t translated much into the real world. Williamson hasn’t cracked 1% in Morning Consult all year, and her chances of qualifying for the October Democratic debates are next to nothing.

We moved Williamson up a spot on September 6 because her presence in the race is still boosting her national profile, and she was even the subject of an extensive New York Times Magazine profile by prominent writer Taffy Brodesser-Akner.

Read more about Marianne Williamson’s campaign.


14: Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio

While Ryan is pitching himself as a pro-labor alternative to Trump for Rust Belt voters, he sows doubt about his ability to beat Trump in the general election.

He has climbed to just 1% in Morning Consult in the past several months and does not have national name recognition, even compared with other former members of the House.

Ryan is 14th in our ranking because despite qualifying for the first two Democratic debates, he’s failed to generate much buzz amid former Vice President Joe Biden’s entry into the race.

Ryan pitched his campaign on his blue-collar, working-class appeal and his track record winning in rural communities – which is the exact lane Biden is successfully running in -and has failed to make much of an impact in the race.

But we upgraded Ryan three spots to 14th place during the week of September 6, however, because he has much less to lose by staying in the race than other candidates.

Read more about Tim Ryan’s campaign.


13: Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado

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Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Despite being a relaitvely savvy politician, Bennet – who has been in the US Senate for 10 years – has the distinction of being both the least recognized and worst-polling person with any political experience in the 2020 field.

Bennet is at 1% in Morning Consult’s polling, and his would-be constituency has not materialized.

Bennet moved up two spot from 16th to 13th place in late August thanks to his fellow Rocky Mountain and West Coast-based rivals John Hickenlooper and Jay Inslee dropping out of the race.

Read more about Michael Bennet’s campaign.


12: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii

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JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Gabbard has some serious viability problems among Democrats.

Not only do a significant proportion of respondents in INSIDER polling say they are unhappy with her as the nominee compared with her rivals, but Gabbard has not been able to consolidate support in a meaningful way.

Despite being one of the first to enter the race, Gabbard is still polling at 1% in Morning Consult and is considered a less viable opponent to President Donald Trump in the general election than most other candidates.

Unlike other candidates, Gabbard isn’t running in the same lane as Biden and still has a unique message and a dedicated base of supporters.

She’s managed to secure the required 130,000 donors to make the fall debates but only has two qualifying polls, giving her a slim chance of qualifying for the October debate.

Read more about Tulsi Gabbard’s campaign.


11: Tom Steyer

Steyer, who is 62, achieved billionaire status as an investor and hedge fund manager – but he has since focused his efforts on advancing Democratic causes with two organizations, Need To Impeach and NextGen America, the latter of which is focused on combating climate change and electing climate-focused Democrats into office.

He entered the race late, on July 9, and has pledged to spend $100 million of his own money on his presidential race. For context, the highest-fundraising candidate of 2019’s second quarter – Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana – raised $24.8 million.

In determining where to place Steyer in our ranking, we wondered: “Which candidates are worth more than Tom Steyer and $100 million?”

Given the TV ads and campaign infrastructure that money can buy, we placed him ahead of several of the lowest-polling and lowest-fundraising candidates, but we’re still not sure that $100 million can buy him more support and better polling numbers than the ones above him.

We moved Steyer up from 14th to 11th place in September after he met the requirements to compete

Read more about Tom Steyer’s campaign.


10: Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota

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Amy Klobuchar
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Mike Blake/Reutrers

Klobuchar is known by about a third of the Democratic electorate, and she has one of the better-perceived chances of beating Trump, according to INSIDER polling.

She’s still largely overshadowed by her other Senate colleagues with higher name recognition, polling at 2% in Morning Consult.

While Klobuchar famously launched her campaign in a snowstorm, her campaign has failed to gain much traction.

Klobuchar has slipped to the doldrums of 1% in Morning Consult’s polling along with far lesser-known candidates as her campaign has failed to generate much buzz, despite making the fall debates.

We dropped Klobuchar down two spots to 10th place on the week of September 20 due to her now polling at 0% in early primary states in Morning Consult – a very ominous sign for a candidate whose entire strategy revolves around winning in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Read more about Amy Klobuchar’s campaign.


9: Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro

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Jim Waton/AFP/Getty Images

Castro became a breakout candidate in June when he distinguished himself as an authority on immigration and proved himself to be a smart and savvy debater.

About 40% of Democratic primary voters are aware of him and about a quarter would be satisfied with him as the nominee.

However, many of Castro’s supporters would be satisfied with other candidates, according to INSIDER polling.

Sen. Kamala Harris, in particular, is consolidating a base of support that could eat Castro’s lunch in early primary states like California, Nevada, South Carolina, and Arizona.

But Castro took advantage of the first Democratic primary debate to establish himself as an expert on the issue of immigration, putting the pressure on fellow candidates to support decriminalizing unauthorized border crossings.

But we knocked Castro down a spot to 9th place on September 20 after his targeted attacks on Biden in the third debate massively backfired on him, and led people to accuse him of ageism.

Read more about Julian Castro’s campaign.


8: Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas

For a three-term congressman, O’Rourke impressively commanded the attention of Democrats by coming within striking distance of unseating Sen. Ted Cruz in Texas in 2018, shattering fundraising records along the way.

Half of those who say they’re likely to participate are aware of him, the best result for anyone not a senator or former vice president and a testament to the energy surrounding his 2018 Senate race.

According to INSIDER polling, 23% of respondents believe O’Rourke could beat Trump and around 30% would be satisfied with him as the nominee – a significant drop since this spring.

In the past few months, O’Rourke’s poll numbers have begun falling at a rapid pace despite multiple campaign relaunch efforts and media tours.

But we bumped O’Rourke up a couple spots from 10th to 8th place on the week of September 20 after his strong debate performance in his home state of Houston, Texas, where he outshone both Castro and Klobuchar.

Read more about Beto O’Rourke’s campaign.


7: Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana

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Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Despite relatively low name recognition, he’s enjoyed a strong past few months in the polls and in fundraising.

The Democratic primary voters who do know him are fairly confident in his ability to beat Trump, compared with his more experienced and nationally known rivals, INSIDER polling found.

Buttigieg has enjoyed a considerable polling bump. In late April, Morning Consult had him ranked third behind Biden and Sanders at 8%, up from 0% in late February and 1% in March. He’s now at 5% in fifth place.

We initially underrated Buttigieg’s chances, given the quickness of his rise and the nature of national electoral politics, but he’s proved himself to be a lasting top-tier candidate.

While Buttigieg’s numbers have slightly dipped in Morning Consult’s polling, his sustained strong performance across multiple polls shows both that he’s not a flavor-of-the-month candidate and that he has lots of room to grow should his name recognition increase.

We dropped Buttigieg down to 7th place in late August as a result of his polling numbers in Morning Consult dipping four percentage points from 9% to 5% over the summer and his difficulty sustaining momentum.

Read more about Pete Buttigieg’s campaign.


6: Sen. Kamala Harris of California

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Senator Kamala Harris speaks during the 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential debate in Houston
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Reuters

Harris is fairly well-known for a first-term senator, and 42% of Insider Democratic primary poll respondents believe she could beat Trump.

Harris also enjoys the greatest support among other candidates’ supporters, INSIDER polling found.

Seventy-seven percent of Gillibrand supporters, 74% of Booker supporters, 72% of Klobuchar supporters, 67% of Buttigieg supporters and 76% of Castro supporters would also be satisfied with Harris as the Democratic nominee, meaning she could consolidate a lot of support when her rivals drop out.

We bumped Harris down two spots on September 19 due to her polling average dramatically dropping. In Morning Consult, Harris’ support fell from 13% in late July to just 6% in late September, and she’s ranked in the low single-digits in every other recent poll, too.

Her campaign’s strategy to re-boot her campaign is to hire dozens of new staff and Iowa and have Harris herself spend most of her time there.

But as the Daily Beast reported, Harris’ problem in appealing to voters and actually maintaining a consistent message goes far beyond the Hawkeye State.

Read more about Kamala Harris’ campaign.


5: Andrew Yang

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Andrew Yang
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Jonathan Bachman/Reutrers

Yang, despite the low name recognition that accompanies running for president without political experience, is actually doing fairly well in INSIDER polling.

He isn’t a favorite by any measure, polling at 3% in Morning Consult, but his online army of supporters and meme creators, known as the Yang Gang, have helped him sustain the buzz around his campaign for months despite his lack of political experience.

He’s steadily rising in the polls, built a grassroots network of over 200,000 unique donors, and hasn’t let Biden’s presence into the race undermine his appeal and policy ideas.

Yang not only did well in the September debate and qualified for the next round of Democratic primary debates in October, but has been able to successfully play the media and outpace many of his rivals in campaign savvy.

We moved Yang up a spot on September 20 because he capitalized on the debate by promising a universal basic income giveaway of $12,000 a year for 10 families, and saw a big fundraising bump in the wake of the debate– proving he’s not in danger of flaming out anytime soon.

Read more about Andrew Yang’s campaign.


4: Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey

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Randy Shropshire/Getty Images for The Human Rights Campaign

Booker is known by half of likely Democratic primary voters, but he has not been able to translate that into good polling numbers, staying stagnant at 3% to 4% of the vote for the duration of 2019 in Morning Consult surveys.

His support is precarious in the sense that people who like Booker also like lots of other candidates.

Seventy percent of Booker supporters would be happy with Biden, 76% would be satisfied with Harris, and 74% would be satisfied Warren as the nominee, according to INSIDER polling.

While Booker is still at 3% in Morning Consult, we moved him up a spot to 4th place on September 19 because of his strong performance in the third Democratic debate.

Read more about Cory Booker’s campaign.


3: Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont

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Sanders, middle, on the debate stage.
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Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Sanders enjoys widespread name recognition among Democrats from his decades serving in Congress and his 2016 run against Hillary Clinton. He’s also established a grassroots army of small donors that helped him lead the pack in fundraising with an $18.2 million haul in 2019’s first and second quarters.

He is considered the top rival of Biden, and 47% think Sanders would beat Trump in a general election compared with 27% who think he’d lose, according to INSIDER polling.

Furthermore, INSIDER polling found that Sanders would be a satisfactory nominee for half of Biden supporters, which could seriously benefit him in case Biden’s candidacy falters.

Sanders is supported by 20% of Democrats, according to Morning Consult, down 3 points from April.

But with Warren’s surge, Sanders is being put on the defensive early, with maxed-out name recognition and sliding poll numbers.

Read more about Bernie Sanders’ campaign.


2: Former Vice President Joe Biden

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Reuters

Biden, who announced his long-awaited presidential bid on April 25, has unparalleled name recognition among Democrats from his eight years as President Barack Obama’s vice president and 36 years in the US Senate.

Biden is also the only candidate who more than half of Democrats believe can win against Trump – according to INSIDER polling.

Despite taking hits from his rivals at both of the first Democratic primary debates, Biden maintains high levels of support, leading the field with 32% support in Morning Consult.

Biden has managed to recover from his setbacks along the way and bounced back in the polls. He ranks first also due to his high levels of support among older and African-American voters– two crucial constituencies in Democratic primaries.

We knocked Biden down from the first place on August 30. Even though he still holds the position of the frontrunner, he’s in real danger of losing that status to Warren, who is gaining on him more in more in polling, enthusiasm, and favorability.

Read more about Joe Biden’s campaign.


1: Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts

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Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
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Reuters

Warren is the best-known candidate who has not previously run for president and is considered to be a strong general-election contender against Trump.

Warren overlaps considerably with Sanders and Biden’s bases, with 50% of Biden supporters and 57% of Sanders supporters also being satisfied with her as the nominee in INSIDER polling.

This puts her in a good position as a possible strong compromise choice if either of or both Biden’s and Sanders’ campaigns end up falling flat.

Not only does Warren have high name recognition, but INSIDER polling respondents see her as the third most electable candidate behind Sanders and Biden.

Warren is in third place at 16% in Morning Consult polling, and her favorability ratings and perceived electability numbers only keep getting better over time.

We moved Warren to 1st place the week of August 30, and she’s stayed there since due to her consistent surging across multiple polls in support, favorability, enthusiasm, and perceived electability – putting her in a position to overtake Biden if her momentum is sustained.

Read more about Elizabeth Warren’s campaign.

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