(Tom Toles/The Washington Post)

I’m Charles Lane … Round 35. (The previous sentence is transcribed word for word without any omissions or alterations.)

The Commentary

Fortune, Machiavelli wrote, is the ultimate X-factor in politics, like “one of our destructive rivers which, when it is angry, turns the plains into lakes, throws down the trees and buildings, takes earth from one spot, puts it in another.” Just as communities build dikes to channel raging floods, the wise prince will take precautions to resist Fortune, Machiavelli believed, although in the end, there is only so much that can be done.

“Get me a chair up here for a moment. I'm going to sit down here. It's been a long day here,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) at a campaign event in Las Vegas on Tuesday — and with those words he reaffirmed the enduring relevance of Fortune even in today’s data-driven and micromanaged politics. Hours after his uncharacteristic energy loss, the 78-year-old was in the hospital, receiving urgent treatment for a blockage in an artery near his heart, and suspending campaigning until further notice.

It isn’t fair, necessarily, but the democratic socialist’s heart health issues suddenly and seriously damaged his already waning chances for the Democratic nomination, and immediately boosted his competitor for progressive votes in the primary, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.

Warren was already on a roll, buoyed by upbeat poll numbers and press coverage, as well as betting odds that now make her the favorite to beat former vice president Joe Biden. Warren’s rise also illustrates the role of chance, in that she is the beneficiary of a political bank shot, by which the sudden impeachment case against President Trump hurts not only the incumbent but also Biden — because his son Hunter’s Ukrainian connections are getting aired, too.

In terms that read repellently today, Machiavelli also likened Fortune to a woman, who must be controlled by violence: “Therefore always, like a woman, she is the friend of young men, because they are less cautious, more spirited, and with more boldness master her.” One can recoil at this metaphor while still noting that — inconceivable to the Renaissance philosopher — it is a 70-year-old woman who actually has Fortune on her side in American politics today.

But here Machiavelli would agree: Warren must continue to be spirited and bold if she is to turn her momentary advantage into a permanent one.

— Charles Lane

The Ranking

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

Falls off ranking: Steve Bullock, Marianne Williamson

Last week’s ranking: Round 34 | Impeachment Week puts Warren in a prime 2020 position

From the Annotations

Biden may well end up a civilian casualty of the impeachment wars. Unfortunately for his rivals in the moderate lane of the primary, it’s already a bit late for him to clear out and let someone else assume the mantle of “centrist heir apparent.”

Megan McArdle, on Joe Biden

His going-out-of-business sale seems to have worked: After threatening to close his campaign if he couldn’t raise enough money in the final days of September, he … raised a ton of money.

Catherine Rampell, on Cory Booker

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, best start brushing up on Nietzsche, too, just in case things really go south.

Read more on 2020:

Jennifer Rubin: It’s time to hijack the Democratic debates

David Byler: Why Elizabeth Warren is getting such good press

Gary Abernathy: How does this all end? Just as it should — with the 2020 election.

Watch the latest from the Post Opinions video team: