(Tom Toles/The Washington Post)

This is Round 12, and I’m Eugene Robinson hosting this week, back just in time from Pulitzer judging. If there’s a prize for power ranking next year, you’ll be the first to know.

The Commentary

This week, it’s mostly about Bernie.

The two other B’s who might conceivably win the Democratic nomination, Joe Biden and Pete Buttigieg, also made news — Biden for continuing to lead all comers in the polls, despite not formally being in the race, and Buttigieg for continuing to make history as the first viable openly gay presidential candidate in history. But my attention — and, notably, President Trump’s — was on Bernie Sanders.

The democratic socialist from Vermont made headlines by surviving a trip to the lion’s den: a Fox News town hall. Far from being ripped to shreds, he emerged in something resembling triumph. Politely grilled by Fox journalists Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, Sanders came off as strong, confident and passionate. His highlight-reel moment came when the audience was asked whether anyone supported his Medicare-for-all health-care plan, supposedly anathema to Republicans. Hands shot up across the room.

For Sanders, going on Fox was a smart move. In the Rust Belt states that gave President Trump his victory in 2016, there are tens of thousands of voters who chose Sanders in the Democratic primaries and then opted for Trump in the general. Trump needs to keep their loyalty if he is to have any chance at reelection, but these are not dyed-in-the-wool Republicans. Biden might be able to connect with white working-class voters. So might Sanders.

The town hall certainly got Trump’s attention. His reaction tweet was that of a jilted suitor, essentially “Fox! I thought you loved only me!” It’s conceivable that Trump wants to boost Sanders’s profile because he thinks the senator would be toast as soon as Trump raised the specter of socialism. It’s also conceivable Trump is genuinely scared.

In any event, according to the RealClearPolitics average of polls, the contours of the Democratic race remain the same: Biden leads at 30 percent, followed by Sanders at 22.5 percent. And then there’s everybody else. You could argue that a second tier has clearly emerged: Beto O’Rourke, Kamala D. Harris, Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren. But none of them reaches even 10 percent. Yes, it’s still early. But the clock is ticking.

— Eugene Robinson

The Ranking

Ranking not showing? Click here.

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

Falls off ranking: Michael Bloomberg

Also receiving votes: Tim Ryan, Andrew Yang, John Delaney, Bill Weld

Last week’s ranking: Round 11 | Here’s a little secret about the money primary so far

Following week’s ranking: Round 13 | Trump is a bulldozer. His 2020 challengers should stop searching for ‘lanes.’

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, we’d suggest avoiding any lion’s dens yourself, unless you’re a Daniel — or a Bernie.

Read more on 2020:

David Byler: The Buttigieg Bump is real. But Mayor Pete still has a long way to go.

Karen Tumulty: Dear Bernie Sanders: Welcome to the 1 percent

Henry Olsen: Bill Weld’s 2020 challenge will be a spectacular failure. And he deserves it.

Helaine Olen: Elizabeth Warren was once a Republican. She shouldn’t hide it.