The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Buttigieg is leaving Beto in the dust

The ninth installment of the Post Pundit 2020 Power Ranking.

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Christine Emba here this week. Yes, I’m a millennial. Yes, I speak for all of us. No, I’m not sorry for killing chain restaurants. Next up: the electoral college.

The Commentary

This is the week of Pete Buttigieg.

He’s a Rhodes scholar, Navy veteran, the young mayor of a midsize city (he was elected to lead South Bend, Ind., at age 29; he’s now 37), and apparently moonlights as an Arabic translator for hospital patients in tragic need. The hopeful gay millennial candidate has come out of nowhere and caught the nation’s eye — Cory Booker, formerly America’s Sparkliest Young Mayor™, must be grinding his teeth.

Evangelicals helped get Trump into the White House. Pete Buttigieg believes the religious left will get him out.

Buttigieg (it’s “Boot-edge-edge,” if you’re still struggling) has distinguished himself from the current Democratic field, and from most politicians generally, by seeming to have a well-thought-out and comprehensive position on almost any topic. He’s developed an opinion on everything from white nationalism (not just “economic anxiety,” but a larger context of disorientation and lost community and identity) to Chick-fil-A (does not approve of its politics, kind of approves of its chicken). Potential voters approve: Last weekend’s Emerson Poll showed him shooting up to third place in the race in Iowa, behind Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, but ahead of Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren.

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D) spoke about looking ahead to the future and "picking up the pieces of reckless policies that are being made right now." (Video: Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

What are his chances of actually winning the nomination? Still slim — his experience is in governing a midsize city, he’s unusually young, and he’s still not really a household name. That said, in a field as wide as this one, anything could happen.

Other happenings?

Continuing in her role as the most policy-oriented candidate, Warren rolled out yet another substantive proposal, this one focusing on family farms and antitrust measures for agriculture. Is anyone listening? Hard to tell.

Kirsten Gillibrand released 12 years of her tax returns and called President Trump a “coward” from a stage outside a Trump-branded high-rise in Manhattan. She’s clearly trying to goad the president and increase her visibility, but it’s getting harder to pay attention to any candidate whose name doesn’t begin with the letter B.

Meanwhile, rumors of Stacey Abrams as a potential Joe Biden VP pick continue to fly, and her team continues to bat them down in ever-sharper terms terms. One adviser: “What makes it particularly exploitative is that Biden couldn’t be bothered to endorse Stacey in the gubernatorial primary. Now he wants her to save his a--. That’s some serious entitlement.” (Biden did endorse Abrams, but he bowed out of a visit to campaign for her because of a “scheduling conflict.”)

Still… yikes.

— Christine Emba

The Ranking

Ranking not showing? Click here.

Change Over Last Ranking
Joe Biden
Bernie Sanders
UP 1
Kamala D. Harris
Pete Buttigieg
UP 4
Beto O’Rourke
Elizabeth Warren
UP 1
Cory Booker
Amy Klobuchar
Kirsten Gillibrand
UP 3
Stacey Abrams
John Hickenlooper
Michael Bennet
Julián Castro
14. (TIE)
Jay Inslee
14. (TIE)
Howard Schultz

Falls off ranking: Andrew Yang

Also receiving votes: Yang, Terry McAuliffe, Tim Ryan, Larry Hogan

Last week’s ranking: Round 8 | What 2020 Democrats and Richard Nixon have in common

Following week’s ranking: Round 10 | Joe Biden is getting dragged down by his own hands

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, watch your back: We millennials are everywhere. One might even become president.

Read more on 2020:

David Byler: Pete Buttigieg could become the first gay president. Americans are ready for one.

George F. Will: Thanks to Mueller, 2020 won’t be about 2016

Jennifer Rubin: The Democratic primary race is taking shape

Paul Waldman: First infrastructure plan of 2020 campaign — what it is and why it matters