It’s been a couple of weeks since my last ranking and every two weeks feels like a good interval to make updates to this list. The big news in candidate world is that Beto O’Rourke bowed out of the race. I wasn’t high on Beto in my last ranking – #8. Lack of funds finally did him in. As I said in the last ranking, he wasn’t adding anything to the discussion, so it was a good time for him to go.
Also, we had the Liberty and Justice Dinner (L&J) in Iowa last Friday, which I wrote about here. I understand this is sometimes a big deal in the Iowa race, but there doesn’t seem to have been any breakouts among the lower tier candidates.
And, speaking of tiers, I should probably update that as well. I think tier 1 is Warren, Biden, Sanders, and Buttigieg. I’m moving Yang up into Tier 2 with Harris, Klobuchar, and Booker. With O’Rourke out, that leaves Castro in Tier 3 by himself. All of the others who haven’t been on the debate stage are in the “why don’t you drop out already” Tier 4.
Now, to my rankings, with some speculation about VP picks as a bonus.
- Elizabeth Warren – Staying steady. I had Warren at #3 in my ranking of the L&J performances. She’s got some headwinds with the Medicare For All questions. But no change for me. There’s discussion of how she has some problems with the African-American community. I had thought maybe Mayor Pete would be a good VP pick, but he’s also not great with that community. So Cory Booker is the obvious choice here.
- Pete Buttigieg – staying steady. He’s been hitting Warren hard on the Medicare for All issue. He’s playing for the win in Iowa, since it’s probably between them for first place. With his problems with the African-American community, Kamala Harris is the choice for the #2 job.
- Cory Booker – staying steady. Even though he’s most likely to be a VP choice (he’s averaging 1.3% in the Real Clear Politics average of Iowa polls), this list is whom I’d like to see in the job. He’s my third favorite of the candidates.
- Kamala Harris – up 3 spots. She’s too inconsistent and, at this point, is probably just a VP choice. But she was good at the L&J and, if she got her stuff together has the highest ceiling of all of the candidates. She’s a good VP choice for Mayor Pete or Joe. Or Bernie for that matter.
- Andrew Yang – up 5 spots. This is probably a temporary blip for Yang, but I liked his performance at the L&J and I’m down on the other candidates for various reasons. I don’t see him in either the top spot or as anyone’s VP choice. I think he’s going all the way to the convention and going to leverage his delegates for a speaking spot.
- Joe Biden – down two spots. I’ve documented my issues with Joe. He may be the national polling leader, but I’m just not sure he’s up to the job. Or even up to the rest of the campaign. He’s low on cash and polling 3rd or 4th in Iowa. If he loses Iowa and New Hampshire, I don’t see a comeback story in the cards for him. He’s nobody’s VP.
- Bernie Sanders – down 2 spots. I really haven’t changed on Bernie. Just don’t see him winning the nomination. Top job or bust for Bernie.
- Amy Klobuchar – down two spots. She’s doing her thing, but her message doesn’t speak to me. Good VP choice for Biden
- Julian Castro – staying steady. He pulled in enough cash to stay in for the next debate. But after that, he just needs to go. Potential VP for Warren or Harris, but Booker is probably better for Warren.
- Tom Steyer – previously off the list. I said it’s a top ten list, so I have to put someone here. Gabbard is not making this list again, so it’s Tom. If a few more drop out, I may just have to change it to top 8.
Others: 11 – Tulsi Gabbard.