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Editors' Picks Election 2016 National

Democratic Power Rankings: October Edition

With the first Democratic debate just around the corner (and with a high bar of entertainment value to reach), we figured it was time for us to update our take from the spring on the Democratic presidential field. When we have a few weeks to spare, we’ll do the Republicans.


1. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (80% with Biden; 90% without)

The summer has not treated the Democratic frontrunner well; with her use of a private email server while Secretary of State as a persistent distraction, her campaign has lacked focus. Her favorable ratings have plummeted to below 40% in major polls, while her lead in Democratic primary polls has fallen as well, with both Sen. Bernie Sanders and Vice President Joe Biden rising. However, she is still by far the Democratic frontrunner, especially if Biden chooses not to run. And her standing against Sen. Sanders alone is quite similar to that of Vice President Al Gore at this stage in 1999; he too faced a challenger from the left who had surged ahead of him in New Hampshire and had closed a substantial gap nationally. But Sen. Bill Bradley peaked with a close second-place finish in New Hampshire, failing to win a single primary.

2. Vice President Joe Biden (15% if he runs)

The media is itching for the Vice President to enter the two-horse Democratic race, and the clock is ticking. Every day that Joe Biden waits is a day that his campaign would lose to prepare to fight the battleship in Brooklyn. If he does enter, he will face an uphill battle. Even though he is currently showing similar favorables to Clinton among Democrats and doing even better among the general electorate, the brutal coverage of a campaign could reverse that in a heartbeat. But Clinton is sufficiently weakened that we give Biden a fighting chance if he jumps in.

3. Senator Bernie Sanders (3% with Biden; 7% without)

If you’re reading this, you probably go to Yale. If you go to Yale, you might have seen a couple hundred classmates be carted off to the Bern Ward after feeling a bit too much of the Bern on a hot August day. And with a lead in New Hampshire and a strong second in Iowa, Sanders has fully taken the role that many saw for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who opted against a run, in this race. I will let the person next to you in section extol Sanders’ appealing qualities in great detail, and instead just mention that he has had difficulty gaining support outside of two Democratic constituencies: organized labor and highly-educated urban white voters. To resurrect the Obama coalition that defeated Clinton in 2008, he will need to make substantial inroads in minority communities. That’s an uphill battle, especially since Clinton has sky-high approval ratings there.

4. Former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (<1% with Biden; 2% without)

In theory, Martin O’Malley is the “establishment” candidate waiting behind Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. Also in theory, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell would be seventh-in-line to the presidency if she were American (click the link, it’s worth it). But if it is possible to generate negative enthusiasm, his campaign has done it. Maybe he could have a decent debate performance and capitalize on a Hillary collapse. I guess.

5. (tie) Former Virginia Senator Jim Webb, Former Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee and Harvard professor Lawrence Lessig (<0% each with Biden, 0% without)

I really don’t know which of these campaigns is more quixotic. Lessig is standing for something worth talking about, but he’s no more likely to make this campaign a referendum on campaign finance reform than Chafee is to make it about the metric system. And Webb took the stance of supporting the Confederate flag, sure to be well-received among Democrats.

6. Field (1% with Biden, 2% without)

A convention fight would be so much fun for us!