- With 17 major candidates, the Democratic 2020 presidential field is one of the largest, most competitive, and most unpredictable in modern history.
- 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 2020 candidates.
- With stricter requirements to make the next rounds of debates and fundraising becoming more important, the field is quickly stratifying into the top and lower tiers.
- Here’s what our power ranking looks like as of October 18, 2019.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
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.
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 and a big quarterly fundraising deadline that just passed on September 30, the field is quickly stratifying into the top and lower tiers.
Here’s what our ranking looks like as of October 18, 2019.
17: Former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland
- 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.”
Now that he hasn’t qualified for the fall debates and is on the outside looking in, the rationale for him staying in the race is less and less clear.
16: Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana
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, landing him in second-to-last place in our ranking.
15: 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.
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.
14: Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado
- Lucas Jackson/Reuters
Despite being a relatively 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 spots from 16th to 14th 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, but his low fundraising and lack of debate qualification places him at the back of the pack.
13: Marianne Williamson
- 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. While Williamson has gotten lots of publicity, she hasn’t cracked 1% in Morning Consult all year, and her chances of qualifying for any future Democratic debates are next to nothing.
12: Tom Steyer
Steyer 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.
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 dropped Steyer down three spots on October 4. Despite Steyer getting a major win for his Need To Impeach campaign with the House formally launching an impeachment inquiry into Trump, Steyer has been virtually silent and unheard of on the campaign trail, failing to capitalize on his huge political victory.
Steyer dropped down to 12th place on October 11 after his lackluster fundraising quarter, bringing just $2 million despite spending millions on Facebook ads in early states, and his largely flat and unremarkable performance in the fourth Democratic debate.
11: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii
- 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.
We bumped Gabbard up a few spots for making the October debate, but dropped her back down due to 1) her walking back her threat to boycott the debate and 2) getting called out by Pete Buttigieg in the debate itself for referring to US involvement in Syria as a “regime change war.”
10: 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, placing him towards the bottom of the middle tier.
We dropped O’Rourke down another two spots after his lackluster performance at the fourth Democratic debate, where he mostly feuded with Pete Buttigieg over his gun buyback plan but didn’t make much of a mark for himself.
9: Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota
- 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 to 12th place on the week of October 11 due to her now polling at just 1% 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.
But we bumped her up three spots to 9th place on October 18 after her strong debate performance. Klobuchar successfully revitalized her campaign by landing strategic punches on other candidates, making the case for her pragmatic agenda, and raising over $1 million the day after.
8: Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro
- 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 two spots by September 27 after his targeted attacks on Biden in the third debate massively backfired on him, leading people to accuse him of ageism. So far, Castro hasn’t successfully bounced back.
7: Sen. Kamala Harris of California
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 7% in October, and she’s ranked in the low single-digits in every other recent poll, too, earning just 3% in a Monmouth poll of New Hampshire and a national Quinnipiac poll.
She’s also at just 8% in her home state of California, according to a recent LA Times/UC Berkeley poll – a troubling sign for her viability.
We dropped Harris down another spot for her underwhelming performance at the fourth Democratic debate, where her attempt to attack Warren for not agreeing that Trump should be banned largely fell flat.
6: Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey
- 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 2% 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.
We dropped Booker down four spots to 8th place after his campaign released a memo on September 21 warning that Booker’s campaign might no longer be viable if he doesn’t raise another $1.7 million by the end of quarter deadline on September 30.
But Booker’s campaign met their fundraising goal, and Booker performed well in the October debate and qualified for the next debate in November, earning him a bump up to 6th place in our ranking.
5: Andrew Yang
- 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.
We bumped Yang up a spot on the week of October 4 because of his outstanding third-quarter fundraising haul in which he brought in $10 million, an increase of $7.2 million over his second-quarter fundraising.
4: Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana
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.
While Buttigieg’s numbers have slightly dipped in Morning Consult’s polling, his sustained strong performance in polling and fundraising shows both that he’s not a flavor-of-the-month candidate and that he has lots of room to grow.
We moved Buttigieg up one spot after his strong and spirited performance in the fourth Democratic debate in Ohio.
Buttigieg went on the attack and was far more assertive than in previous debates, successfully landing punches on Warren over healthcare, on Gabbard over foreign policy, and on O’Rourke over gun control policy.
His combative approach paid off. According to senior campaign adviser Lis Smith, Buttigieg received more traffic to his website than any other day of his campaign, and raised over $1 million the day after the debate.
3: Former Vice President Joe Biden
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.
Despite taking hits from his rivals at both of the first Democratic primary debates, Biden maintains high levels of support, leading the field with 31% support in Morning Consult and being perceived as most likely to beat Trump in Insider polling and most other polls.
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 spot on August 30. Even though he still holds the position of the frontrunner, he’s now lost the frontrunner position to Warren, who is gaining on him more in more in polling, enthusiasm, and favorability.
Biden dropped down another place in our ranking in October due to his lackluster showing in the fourth Democratic debate and his poor fundraising performance, bringing $15 million in 2019’s third fundraising quarter behind Buttigieg, Warren, and Sanders.
2: Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont
- 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 18% of Democrats, according to Morning Consult, down four percentage points from April and in third place.
We bumped him a spot to second place on October 11 due to him raising a monster sum of $25 million in the third fundraising quarter of 2019, outpacing all his fellow candidates. Even more impressive, Sanders doesn’t do private, closed-door fundraising, relying on 100% grassroots donations.
In early October, Sanders, who is 78, suffered a heart attack and a week later announced he was slowing the pace of his campaign.
Even while recovering from this, he still had a better week politically than Biden, performing well at the fourth debate and receiving the coveted endorsements of high-profile progressive Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar.
1: Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts
Warren is the best-known candidate who has not previously run for president, and is quickly proving herself to be a top-tier candidate.
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.
Not only does Warren have high name recognition, but Insider polling respondents see her as the third most electable candidate behind Sanders and Biden.
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 on track to overtake Biden if her momentum is sustained.
She received the most attacks out of any other candidate – including Biden and Sanders at the fourth Democratic debate – further cementing the perception that she’s now the candidate to beat.