Post Pundit 2020 Power Ranking social resize (Tom Toles/The Washington Post)

I’m Jennifer Rubin, and this is Round 18. You know what, I’m old enough to remember a race much like this one, way back in … 2012.

The Commentary

In the Republican presidential primary that year, Mitt Romney remained at the top of the heap for most of the race, eventually winning the nomination. One challenger or another — Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum — would gain momentum, but one by one, each fell from the top tier. Once they fell out of favor, voters didn’t give them a second chance.

Might that be the situation in the contest for 2020 challengers? Former vice president Joe Biden, even before he entered the race, sat atop the polls. He has remained in first, as much as 20 points ahead of his closest competitor, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.).

Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) had a boffo start but then fell into the middle tier. South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg caught fire, rose in the polls and settled back into the pack. And Beto O’Rourke of Texas entered with great fanfare but now is in the low single digits. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is the latest to rocket upward, but she’s still bobbing, at least for now, in the mid-teens. With a field this large, the biggest challenge for the Biden opponents may not be breaking out but just staying above the rest of the not-Biden crowd for more than a few weeks.

Keep in mind that the first debate (and first event with the potential to change lots of voters’ minds) comes at the end of June. Until then, and so long as 20-plus challengers vie for airtime as President Trump continues to single out Biden — especially by pitting him against the tag team of Trump and Kim Jong Un — the former VP probably won’t fall far.

However, Biden knows better than to coast. Just as the grumbling was getting started that he wasn’t doing many events or giving the press much access, he and his wife, Jill Biden, an educator, debuted an education plan that managed to include — imagine this! — a reference to the 1994 crime bill for which he has been criticized. His announcement said he’ll protect students “by again championing legislation to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines — bans he authored in 1994.”

Biden is not invincible, but he is formidable.

— Jennifer Rubin

The Ranking

Ranking not showing? Click here.

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

Falls off ranking: Steve Bullock, Julián Castro

Also receiving votes: Bullock, Castro, Andrew Yang

Last week’s ranking: Round 17 | 2020 Democrats are hopping on the impeachment train

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, don’t all of you coast too much, either.

Watch:

Read more on 2020:

Jennifer Rubin: Biden should keep ignoring the media’s hectoring

David Byler: Bernie Sanders should be out in front in the Democratic primary. So why isn’t he?

David Von Drehle: Elizabeth Warren’s jaw isn’t made of glass

Karen Tumulty: Why I’m swearing off Trump’s nicknames