- 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.
- Two new candidates, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, recently made very last-minute entries into the Democratic field.
- This week, we upgraded Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Cory Booker, and Sec. Julian Castro, but downgraded Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, and Tom Steyer.
- Here’s what our power ranking looks like as of November 22, 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.
The last two weeks have been incredibly eventful in the 2020 field, with teo new candidates, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, making last-minute entries into the race.
Here’s what our ranking looks like as of November 22, 2019.
17: Former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland
Delaney is 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: Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado
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 practically non-existent fundraising and lack of debate qualification places him at the back of the pack.
14: Former Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts
Like Bloomberg, Patrick also made an extremely late entry into the race, officially announcing his campaign on November 14.
While Patrick hasn’t been very active on the political scene for the past few years, he’s led a long career in business and politics. He served as the governor of Massachusetts from 2007 to 2015, and was most recently a managing director at Bain Capital, the private equity firm founded by Sen. Mitt Romney.
Patrick will have a tough uphill battle in his presidential bid, and it’s almost impossible to see a clear path to him winning any primary contests at all, much less a path to the nomination, which is why we put him in 14th place near the bottom of our ranking.
He’s already missed the filing deadline for two key Super Tuesday state primaries in Alabama and Arkansas, and unlike Bloomberg, he doesn’t have billions of dollars in personal wealth to draw from.
More importantly, Patrick doesn’t seem to have a clear rationale for running for president other than trying to position himself as a unifying Obama-type figure – the exact lane Biden is occupying.
Governor @DevalPatrick was supposed to have an event at Morehouse College tonight. An organizer with the college who planned the event told CNN that Patrick cancelled the event when he arrived and learned that he would not have an audience. (Note, two people came, not pictured) pic.twitter.com/CzNjWYcWKJ
— Annie Grayer (@AnnieGrayerCNN) November 21, 2019
13: 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. 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: 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.
But we gave Gabbard another boost on November 1, moving her up two spots from 12th to 10th place following her very public and nasty feud with 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, who Gabbrard called “the embodiment of corruption” and the “personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party.”
The bump in media attention clearly worked in Gabbard’s favor when it comes to polling. She’s fully qualified for the fifth Democratic debate on November 20, and has three out of the necessary four qualifying polls for the December debate.
We dropped Gabbard down a spot, however, on November 22 after she spent most of her time at the November Democratic debate blasting her own party as “not the party that is of, by, and for the people” and “influenced by the foreign policy establishment in Washington represented by Hillary Clinton, as well as getting into spats with Sen. Kamala Harris and Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
While Gabbard’s performance earned her lots of praise from right-wing media and even the Trump campaign, its exceedingly difficult to see how it helps her win over Democratic primary voters.
11: 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 bumped Steyer up one spot on October 25 for qualifying for the fifth Democratic debate in November, and moved him up another two spots on November 1 due to his strong polling, placing in 6th place at 6% in early primary states in Morning Consult.
But we dropped down Steyer to 11th place on November 22. After spending close to $50 million of his own money on his presidential campaign, Steyer still has largely failed to articulate a clear rationale for his candidacy just a few months before the first primary contests, putting forth a rather lackluster performance at the November debate.
10: Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro
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.
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.
We knocked Castro down to 12th place after he threatened to drop out of the race if he didn’t raise $800,000 by Halloween and failed to qualify for the November Democratic debate.
But despite not making the stage, Castro capitalized on the debate far more effectively than Gabbard and Steyer, who we knocked down in our ranking.
Castro spent the week around the debate doing lots of press to highlight the issues on which he’s shown strong leadership, including immigration and housing, and ended up making his name a trending topic during the debate and raising more money that day than he had after the debates he actually participated in.
9: Michael Bloomberg
On November 7, The New York Times reported that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to make a late entrance in the 2020 Democratic primary. He has filed to run in the Democratic primary presidential primaries in Alabama and Arkansas.
Bloomberg will have to work quickly to get his campaign off the ground just three months out from the Iowa caucus on February 2, and New Hampshire primary on February 9, but he has the luxury of being able to self-fund his campaign with his estimated $52 billion net worth.
But there’s a big catch: Bloomberg has announced he’s sitting out the first four primary contests altogether, and will try to rack up victories in Super Tuesday states, making his impact on the race hard to predict.
In a best-case scenario, Bloomberg will end up splitting the vote in some primary states, winning some delegates, and maybe participating in a brokered convention scenario. Because of his extreme personal wealth but the highly quixotic nature of his bid, we placed him one spot about Tom Steyer but below the rest of the field.
8: Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota
Klobuchar is relatively well-known, but 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 in light of Biden dominating the centrist lane.
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.
We bumped Klobuchar up another spot on October 25 for qualifying for the fifth Democratic debate on November 20, but she stayed in eighth place ever since.
7: Sen. Kamala Harris of California
Harris is fairly well-known for a first-term senator, and 35% of Insider Democratic primary poll respondents believe she could beat Trump.
Harris also enjoys the greatest support among other candidates’ supporters, Insider polling found.
74% of Booker supporters, 72% of Klobuchar supporters, and 76% of Castro supporters would also be satisfied with Harris as the Democratic nominee, meaning she could consolidate some 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.
Her quarterly fundraising hasn’t improved during the time she’s been running, resulting in her campaign having to lay off dozens of employees both in her Baltimore headquarters and around the country, according to a recent report in Politico.
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.
Harris has also seen some concerning poll numbers for a candidate supposedly in the top tier, coming in at 3% in a Monmouth poll of Iowa, 3% in a Quinnipiac poll of South Carolina, and only 1% in a Quinnipiac poll of New Hampshire.
6: 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 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 performance.
5: 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 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.
We bumped Booker up a spot in our ranking to fifth place on November 22 after his resoundingly strong performance at the November 20 Democratic debate, after which his campaign reported raising hundreds of thousands of dollars and crossing the donor threshold to qualify for the December debate.
4: 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 and second quarters.
He is considered the top rival of Biden, and 49% think Sanders would beat Trump in a general election compared with 29% 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 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.
We dropped Sanders down one spot on November 15. In early October, Sanders, who is 78, suffered a heart attack and a week later announced he was slowing the pace of his campaign.
While Sanders cinched the endorsements of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and other prominent progressive congresswomen, he’s since somewhat faded from the spotlight and taken a back seat to Biden and Warren publicly feuding with each other over Warren’s wealth tax – even though Sanders has proposed a similar policy.
3: Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts
Warren is the best-known candidate who has not previously run for president, and has proven herself to be a top-tier candidate.
She 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 second most electable candidate behind Biden.
We moved Warren to 1st place the week of August 30 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.
We dropped Warren back down to second place on November 15, and down to third place on November 22 after Biden regained his lead in Democratic primary polling. Warren also didn’t receive a significant boost from finally releasing her long-awaited plan for financing Medicare for All, and Buttigieg is outpacing her in Iowa.
2: 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 has 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 7% in fourth 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.
There’s no denying that Buttigieg is having a great month.
On November 15, we moved Buttigieg up another spot to third place due to him successfully positioning himself as the heir to Biden’s dominance over the moderate lane.
And since then, Buttigieg’s position has only gotten better, earning him a promotion to second place.
A recent CNN/Des Moines Register poll conducted by Ann Selzer – one of the nation’s best and most highly-respected pollsters – found Buttigieg with 25% support in Iowa, a huge lead ahead of Warren at 16% and Sanders and Biden at 15%.
He’s also making gains in New Hampshire, the second state to vote. And while Buttigieg went into the fifth Democratic primary debate with a huge target on his back due to his strong polling, he emerged relatively unscathed and wasn’t attacked during the actual debate.
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.
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 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.
After a couple months where Biden was second to Warren, we moved Biden back up to first place on November 15 due to him regaining his lead in RealClearPolitics’ polling average, coming in first place in a Quinnipiac poll of New Hampshire, and being within the margin of error of Warren and Sanders in a Monmouth poll of Iowa, two states where Sanders and Warren should be overperforming.
Aside from a clumsily-phrased reference to “punching away” at domestic violence, Biden also had a remarkably gaffe-free and strong performance at the fifth Democratic debate on November 20.