This is Round 20. I’m Megan McArdle. You’re either a subscriber or very frustrated you can’t read this in Incognito anymore.

The Commentary

Whatever happened to Beto O’Rourke?

I’ve long had a soft spot for his candidacy. He does have a kind of boyish charm, and besides, he came achingly close to unseating Ted Cruz. In Texas. Anyone who can do that should be a man to watch.

But what we’ve watched him do is flail. His campaign operation is less than professional, and his public profile is well below that of the mayor of South Bend, Ind. — as are his polls. One can’t help but suspect that what excited people about Beto was not the man himself but the chance to unseat one of the progressive movement’s least favorite politicians.

But in this election, progressives now have options who are more experienced, more focused and, well, more progressive. Bernie Sanders is still leading the pack here, but Elizabeth Warren is coming up fast behind. She’s a woman, ticking at least one of the identity-politics boxes. But she’s also far more adept with the technocratic policy detail that a certain flavor of Democrat craves. However, with the notable exception of health care, she and Sanders aren’t all that far apart on either their breathtaking promises for new spending or their lack of any realistic mechanism to pay for them.

But Warren manages to convey the impression she’s got all that under control, and those wonk lovers aren’t wonky enough to notice that the math doesn’t add up; Warren’s major revenue proposal, the Ultra-Millionaire Tax, won’t yield enough new taxes to cover all the things she’s promised to spend it on.

Meanwhile, she’s speaking directly to key constituencies: young people and working-class folks struggling to pay their rent, college grads struggling to pay their student loans, suburban parents struggling to pay for child care, African Americans who long to close the wealth gap between black and white. This is exactly the sort of microtargeting Clinton embraced and Sanders resisted. 2020 will show us who had the better of that argument.

That is, if anyone can knock Joe Biden out of first place. Biden’s campaign platform is currently “I’m Joe Biden”, and that seems to be working for him — at least better than “I’m still not Ted Cruz.”

— Megan McArdle

The Ranking

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

Falls off ranking: Steve Bullock

Also receiving votes: Andrew Yang, John Delaney

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, pour one out for Robert Francis O’Rourke.


Read more on 2020: