(Tom Toles/The Washington Post)

I’m David Von Drehle, and I’m your host this week. I’m also the only panelist in Central Time, so maybe I bring a bit of down-home perspective.

The Commentary

One year, folks. It feels like forever to a kid waiting for the next birthday, but it’s an eyeblink in modern presidential politics. A year from now, Super Tuesday will be over (and remember: it’s really Super this time, thanks to California’s participation). We’ll be on the eve of the Michigan and Ohio primaries. One week away from Arizona and Florida.

Candidates hear the clock ticking as they add up all the pleading phone calls that must be made to donors and brokers of power; all the living rooms that must be visited in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina; all the silly foods that must be tasted at far-flung fairgrounds; all the social media stunts that must be undertaken in the desperate scrum for something viral; all the days of prep for all the nights of debate. Only a household name like Oprah (or a household nickname like The Rock) can afford to dally.

This explains why the past week has been busy with folks hopping off the fence. Two major players took themselves out of the running: former New York mayor and mega-billionaire Michael Bloomberg, and Hillary Clinton, winner of the 2016 popular vote. Then Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio) surprised everyone by taking himself out of the race.

An intriguing dark horse jumped in: brewpub pioneer and former Colorado governor John Hickenlooper. And an even darker horse: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee. Former veep Joe Biden, leader in most polls, looked ready to cannonball into the pool.

Mangling more metaphors, we noticed New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio waving frantically as the train doors began closing. Texas cool kid Beto O’Rourke looked up from his Finsta to see that prom will happen without him unless he stops brooding under his bangs.

In fact, deathwatches have already begun — and not just for Hawaii’s Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. Polls in New Hampshire show Sen. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) stuck in single digits, far behind Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who proved this week how fervently he wants the Democratic nomination by actually joining the party. Only one left-wing New Englander will be viable after the first primary. So Warren has 48 weeks, max, to turn things around.

— David Von Drehle

The Ranking

Ranking not showing? Click here.

Position Challenger Change Over Last Ranking
1. Joe Biden UP 1
2. (TIE) Kamala D. Harris DOWN 1
2. (TIE) Bernie Sanders UP 1
4. Amy Klobuchar
5. Cory Booker
6. Beto O’Rourke UP 2
7. Elizabeth Warren DOWN 1
8. John Hickenlooper UP 5
9. Kirsten Gillibrand UP 2
10. Michael Bennet UP 2
11. Jay Inslee ADDS TO RANKING
12. Julián Castro UP 3
13. Pete Buttigieg DOWN 4
14. Howard Schultz
15. John Delaney ADDS TO RANKING

Falls off ranking: Michael Bloomberg, Sherrod Brown

Also receiving votes: Tim Ryan

Last week’s ranking: Round 5 | This thing’s just getting started

Following week’s ranking: Round 7 | It’s time for Democrats to make a huge 2020 choice. (Republicans, too.)

Don’t forget to click on the yellow highlighted text above to expand the Ranking Committee’s annotations. Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts in the comments. We’ll see you for the next ranking. Until then, be grateful that at least you can stay comfy on the fence for another year or so.

Read more on 2020:

David Byler: Everyone is underestimating Trump. It could hurt Democrats and Republicans alike.

Karen Tumulty: Why Sherrod Brown will be missed

Jennifer Rubin: Democrats might need Biden more than they know

Megan McArdle: Democratic socialists are selling us a system that no longer works