I’m Megan McArdle, and this is Round 34. It’s Impeachment Week here in Washington — which is like Shark Week, except that the sharks all work in and around federal buildings. They’re primarily identifiable not by their fins but by the multiple security lanyards around their necks.

The Commentary

While the sharks are circling the White House, it’s possible that Joe Biden’s presidential campaign may end up an incidental casualty. Biden’s son Hunter may not have done anything wrong, but in politics, reality is comparatively unimportant; what matters is appearance. Whatever the underlying truth, it doesn’t really look good when your family name keeps getting repeated in the same sentence as the word “corruption.”

We can be sure President Trump will mention it just that way, over and over and over in the coming weeks. He’ll be trying to paint himself as the good guy who was just trying to keep Democrats on the straight and narrow. Even before this story broke, Biden must have seen Elizabeth Warren coming up uncomfortably close on his heels. This could be the stumbling block that lets her overtake him.

Alternatively, Democrats might decide to venerate Biden as St. Joseph of Ukrainegate, the first true martyr of the #Resistance. This seems, I confess, somewhat less likely than the first scenario, but it’s certainly not impossible. Warren’s presidential ambitions probably hang in the balance.

“But what about … everyone else?” I hear you cry. Aren’t there going to be a dozen contenders on the Democratic debate stage in October?

At this point, the field of true possibles is down to no more than five. Yes, a sudden breakout performance is theoretically possible, but with the primaries just months away, I am reminded of the wise words of Adelaide, Nathan Detroit’s long-suffering fiancee in “Guys and Dolls,” when told they would get married “sooner or later”: “It is already too late to be sooner. And if it gets much later, soon it will be too late even to be later.”

For most of the Democratic field, potentially including a knocked-down Biden, it’s already later than they think.

— Megan McArdle

The Ranking

Position
Challenger
Change Over Last Ranking
1.
Elizabeth Warren
2.
Joe Biden
3.
Bernie Sanders
4. (TIE)
Pete Buttigieg
UP 1
4. (TIE)
Kamala D. Harris
6.
Cory Booker
7.
Amy Klobuchar
8.
Beto O’Rourke
9.
Andrew Yang
10.
Julián Castro
11. (TIE)
Michael Bennet
11. (TIE)
Tom Steyer
UP 1
13.
Tim Ryan
DOWN 1
14.
Steve Bullock
15.
Marianne Williamson

From the Annotations

I have finally come to grips with the fact that Warren is the rebooted version of John McCain 2008 — the back-from-the-dead-in-the-primaries candidate who just gritted it through. If Biden would recognize the inevitable and move aside (ditto Bernie), then we’d have a pay-per-view show of her vs. Trump underway, but like NBA stars on long-term contracts after debilitating injuries, they just sit there absorbing cap space.
Hugh Hewitt, on Elizabeth Warren
His aides and surrogates have been going after Warren on Twitter, much to the consternation of, well, her aides and surrogates. On the one hand, Sanders is running a campaign, so of course his team wants to go after a rival. On the other, the left coalition may need to unite at some point during the race, perhaps post-New Hampshire, if it’s to have any hope of knocking Biden out.
Molly Roberts, on Bernie Sanders

Don’t forget to click on the chart’s yellow highlighted text to see the rest of the Ranking Committee’s annotations. Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts in the comments.

We’ll see you for the next ranking. Until then, if you’re so inclined, light a votive for a little protection for Holy Joe.

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