- With 21 major candidates, the Democratic 2020 presidential field is 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.
- 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.
- This week, we said goodbye to Gov. John Hickenlooper, upgraded Andrew Yang and the billionaire Tom Steyer, and downgraded Gov. Jay Inslee and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke.
- Here’s what our power ranking looks like as of August 16, 2019.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
With 21 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.
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.
We dramatically switched up our ranking following the second Democratic primary debates, which took place July 30-31, and saw some candidates stand out from the pack while others faltered. And with stricter requirements to make the September debate, the field is quickly stratifying into the top and lower tiers – and is likely to get much smaller very soon.
We also upgraded Andrew Yang and the billionaire Tom Steyer for either qualifying or almost-qualifying for the fall debates, and downgraded Gov. Jay Inslee and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who spent most of the week in the position of fending off calls for him to run for US Senate.
Here’s what our ranking looks like as of August 16, 2019.
21: Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts
Moulton, who on April 22 became the 19th Democrat to enter the primary, is polling at 0% in Morning Consult’s surveys.
He came out in favor of impeaching Trump ahead of many other 2020 contenders, and he also made news by opening up about being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder following his service in the Marine Corps and by unveiling a plan to improve mental-health care for active-duty service members and veterans.
Moulton is in last place because of his standing in Morning Consult’s survey and because he both failed to qualify for either of the first two rounds of Democratic debates and has virtually no chance at making the September debate.
20: Former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland
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 unlike other candidates with similar levels of attention, such as Pete Buttigieg or John Hickenlooper.
While Delaney has met the polling requirement for the June debates, we dropped him one spot in our ranking between May 31 and June 7 after he publicly picked a fight with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and ended up on the losing side.
We moved Delaney to the second-to-last spot in our ranking on August 2 after 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.”
19: Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio
Ryan is in the tier of candidates polling behind people who have not entered the race.
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 19th 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.
18: Marianne Williamson
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 September and October Democratic debates are next to nothing.
17: Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana
On May 14, Bullock became the 22nd candidate to enter the race.
Even though he’s polling at 0% in Morning Consult, Bullock had a surprisingly impressive first week of his candidacy. We moved up him seven spots, to 11th place from 18th, in our ranking in May.
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, Bullock had the rug pulled out from under him in terms of qualifying for the debates when the Democratic National Committee retroactively disqualified one of the polls in which Bullock reached 1% support, so we moved him down to 24th place.
Bullock had a solid performance in the late-July Democratic debates, earning him a promotion to 17th place from 21st in August.
16: Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City
The candidacy of de Blasio, who entered the race May 16, is one of the most unusual given his unpopularity.
A Monmouth University poll released in March found that of 12 declared and potential Democratic presidential candidates, de Blasio was the only one who had a negative favorability rating, with 18% of respondents holding a favorable view of the mayor compared with 24% who had an unfavorable opinion of him.
A Quinnipiac University poll conducted in April also found that not only was de Blasio’s approval rating underwater in New York City, but an overwhelming 76% of New Yorkers also believed he shouldn’t run for president.
Despite making waves at the Democratic debates, de Blasio still holds an underwater approval rating and 0% support in Morning Consult and has virtually no chance of making the fall debates.
15: Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado
Bennet, who recently underwent successful surgery for prostate cancer, formally announced his presidential campaign on May 2.
But 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, but he got lucky and met the polling requirement for the first Democratic debates as people who didn’t know who he was still picked him as their first choice in a CNN poll.
Because of his debate qualification, we moved Bennet up two spots, to 18th place from 20th, between May 31 and June 7, but we dropped him a point for being one of the candidates to mention Lincoln as his political hero.
Bennet moved up a spot from 16th to 15th place on August 16 thanks to his fellow Coloradan, centrist rival John Hickenlooper dropping out of the race.
14: Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington
Among serious candidates with political experience at any level, Inslee is doing among the poorest when it comes to generating attention in the field.
Despite serving as governor and previously serving in Congress for 15 years, he’s barely managed to secure 1% in the Morning Consult polls.
While Inslee’s performance in the polls hasn’t markedly improved, we moved Inslee up toward the top of the pack in July for meeting both debate qualifications and having a unique message.
His ambitious climate plan, his impassioned climate advocacy at the Democratic debates, and his push for a Democratic National Committee climate debate helped him make a powerful ally in Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and situate him as a principled fighter for climate action.
We moved Inslee down three spots on August 16. While he’s reached the required 130,000 donors to qualify for the fall debates, he still doesn’t have a single qualifying poll and is unlikely to make the stage.
13: Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii
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, earning her a spot among the top 13 candidates. She’s managed to secure the required 130,000 donors to make the fall debates but has only one qualifying poll.
12: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York
Gillibrand, while known by about 40% of likely Democratic primary voters, according to INSIDER polling, has been struggling considerably in the shadow of Harris and Sanders.
She has fairly miserable polling numbers for a candidate of her caliber, not breaking through 2% in Morning Consult surveys despite being one of the earliest to announce.
Gillibrand’s supporters also like many of the other candidates ahead of her, and just 14% of respondents polled by INSIDER believe she could beat Trump in the general election – the second-worst result of all the female candidates and the third-lowest overall.
Gillibrand hasn’t been able to improve in the polls in the past month, but she did make waves in the July debates with her impassioned advocacy for women’s issues and healthcare, putting her in 10th place on August 2.
We moved her back down a couple of spots on August 8, however, after the buzz around her campaign faded postdebate.
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 on August 16 after he reached the grassroots fundraising requirement and picked up three qualifying polls for the fall debates thanks to his huge online advertising push, putting him on track to make the debate stage in September and October.
10: Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota
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 1% in Morning Consult. She’s remained in eighth place in our ranking for several weeks.
While Klobuchar famously launched her campaign in a snowstorm, her position in the top 10 is melting away as 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 lost buzz.
We upgraded her two spots, to 10th place from 12th place, on August 8 after she qualified for both the September and October Democratic primary debates.
9: 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, 31% of respondents believe O’Rourke could beat Trump – the third-highest of any candidate and below only only Sen. Bernie Sanders and Biden.
In the past few weeks, O’Rourke’s poll numbers have begun falling at a rapid pace despite a campaign relaunch effort and media tour.
O’Rourke’s numbers in Morning Consult have dipped from 6% in late April to 3% in early August. And in the past two months of Quinnipiac University’s polling, O’Rourke’s support has plummeted from 12% in late March to just 2% as of May 21.
We upgraded O’Rourke four spots up to ninth place on August 8 after he rose to the occasion following a tragic mass shooting in his hometown of El Paso, being an important source of leadership and comfort and not shying away from sharply criticizing both Trump and the media.
But we moved Castro above O’Rourke on August 16. While Castro had a strong week with a new TV ad that generated significant buzz around the country, O’Rourke spent the week re-booting his campaign and fending off calls for him to run for Senate.
8: Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro
While about one-third of Democrats surveyed are aware of Castro, this has not translated into good polling numbers for the former cabinet secretary.
According to Morning Consult, Castro has been in the doldrums of polling at 1% for 2019. And he raised only $1.1 million in 2019’s first quarter, less than other lesser-known candidates like Yang, Williamson, and Hickenlooper.
Moreover, 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 and moral authority on the issue of immigration, putting the pressure on fellow candidates to support decriminalizing unauthorized border crossings and taking a strategic shot at O’Rourke on the subject.
We placed Castro above O’Rourke this week after he was able to generate lots of positive press coverage with a powerful TV ad directly calling out Trump’s rhetoric on immigration.
7: Andrew Yang
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 2% in Morning Consult, but his online army of supporters and meme creators, known as the Yang Gang, helped Yang raise $1.7 million in just seven weeks in February and March almost entirely from small donations after he went viral online following an interview with Joe Rogan.
Yang’s candidacy tests whether his unprecedented online popularity, an asset few candidates have in this election, can translate not just into fundraising dollars but also into votes.
Yang has been able to sustain the buzz around his campaign for weeks despite his lack of political experience, has built a grassroots network of over 200,000 unique donors, and hasn’t let Biden’s entrance into the race undermine his appeal and policy ideas.
We upgraded Yang to seventh place after he qualified for the next round of Democratic primary debates in September and made a splash in the July debates, generating buzz over his compelling pitch for a universal basic income and the future of the American economy.
6: Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey
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-five percent of Booker supporters would be happy with Biden, 66% would be satisfied with Harris, and 50% would be happy with O’Rourke or Sen. Elizabeth Warren as the nominee, according to INSIDER polling.
We moved Booker up to sixth place on August 2 after he met both requirements to qualify for the next debate in September and gave a fiery, powerful showing in the July Democratic debates, making the case for his candidacy and successfully exposing Biden’s weaknesses on criminal justice, immigration, and more.
5: Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana
“Mayor Pete” is having a moment. Despite 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.
Buttigieg raised the most money of all 2020 Democrats in 2019’s second quarter – bringing in $24.8 million. But we dropped him down a spot on August 16 after a few weeks where he was largely overshadowed by other candidates in media attention and buzz.
5: Sen. Kamala Harris of California
Harris is fairly well-known for a first-term senator, and she is perceived as being most able to defeat Trump in a general election out of all the senators running for president for the first time.
Harris also enjoys the greatest support among other candidates’ supporters, INSIDER polling found.
Seventy-three percent of Gillibrand supporters, 72% of Klobuchar supporters, 67% of Buttigieg supporters, 76% of Castro supporters, and 67% of Hickenlooper 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 upgraded Harris to first place from fourth place after her strong performance at the first round of Democratic debates. She took a strategic shot at Biden over his record on racial issues and opposition to busing, both establishing herself as an authority on racial issues, putting Biden on the defense, and knocking him down from his frontrunner status.
While Harris had disappointing second-quarter fundraising and struggled to defend herself against criticism over her record on criminal justice, we moved her up a spot to fourth place in this week’s version of the ranking for her strong showing at the Iowa State Fair, where she got lots of favorable press coverage and made an impression.
3: Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont
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 quarter.
He is considered the top rival of Biden, and 37% think Sanders would beat Trump in a general election compared with 10% 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 28.
But with Warren’s surge, Sanders is being put on the defensive early, with maxed-out name recognition and sliding poll numbers.
Sanders is in third place in this week’s version of our ranking because of his strong showing at the second Democratic debates, in which he went on the offensive and vigorously defended his policy positions.
2: Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts
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 40% of Biden supporters and 40% 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.
Despite Warren’s name recognition, however, INSIDER polling respondents don’t think she can beat Trump as easily as Biden, Sanders, Harris, or Buttigieg.
Warren is in second place in our ranking this week after her strong performance in the second round of Democratic primary debates, and continues to improve in Morning Consult and early state primary polling.
1: 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.
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 33% 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.