(Tom Toles/The Washington Post)

I’m Eugene Robinson, and this is Round 25.

The Commentary

If Joe Biden is toast, why is he still so far ahead in all the polls?

According to the conventional wisdom, Biden’s shaky performance in last month’s debate stripped the cloak of inevitability from his candidacy and wrapped it around … somebody else. Maybe Sen. Kamala D. Harris or Sen. Elizabeth Warren, crowned as winners of that debate by the conventionally wise. Maybe somebody else who will somehow spring out of single-digit limbo into the sunlight. Anybody but Biden.

So then why is Biden still leading the polls, both nationally and in the battleground states? According to the RealClearPolitics polling averages, he has nearly twice the support nationally of his nearest rivals, Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders. He also holds substantial leads in the early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

The way I see it, this race is still Biden’s to lose. He’s capable of doing so, to be sure, but the idea that his lead has somehow evaporated is false. One lousy debate outing didn’t doom President Barack Obama’s reelection effort in 2012. Neither has Biden’s lion-in-winter campaign been derailed.

Two lousy debate outings would be another thing entirely, however. That’s why he has more at stake in next week’s clash than anyone else. If he blows it again, he could indeed be finished. But imagine a sharper, more vigorous Biden on the debate stage — one who returns to the theme with which he began his campaign: the urgent need to defeat President Trump. That Biden could get quickly back on track.

Firing upon Trump is my advice to all the Democratic candidates this Tuesday and Wednesday. The party faithful are looking for a fighter — someone who will focus less on quibbling among fellow Democrats (or even on detailing their policy proposals) and more on unshrinkingly calling out the president’s racism, misogyny and xenophobia. Democratic voters are in a mood to be rallied. Why not oblige them?

— Eugene Robinson

The Ranking

Ranking not showing? Click here.

Position Challenger Change Over Last Ranking
1. Joe Biden
2. Kamala D. Harris
3. Elizabeth Warren
4. Bernie Sanders UP 1
5. Pete Buttigieg DOWN 1
6. Cory Booker
7. Amy Klobuchar
8. Beto O’Rourke
9. Julián Castro
10. Michael Bennet
11. Tom Steyer
12. Tim Ryan
13. Seth Moulton
14. (TIE) Jay Inslee
14. (TIE) Andrew Yang

Also receiving votes: Tulsi Gabbard

Last week’s ranking: Round 24 | Mayor Pete strikes it rich

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.

Watch:

Read more on 2020:

Eugene Robinson: We can’t pretend this is a normal election

Marc A. Thiessen: Bernie Sanders runs into socialist reality

Max Boot: What comes after Trump may be even worse