(Tom Toles/The Washington Post)

I’m Henry Olsen, and welcome to a very spooky Round 39. Halloween always brings out late-night showings of the 1970s cult-classic film “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” — especially fitting this year, as the presidential campaign seems to have time-warped us back to 1972.

The Commentary

Back then we had an unpopular president reviled by Democrats, Richard Nixon. Back then a large Democratic field was led by a bland establishment figure whose fame was that he had been nominated for vice president, Edmund Muskie. Back then, the Democratic left pushed an intellectual senator backing a program that for its time was exceedingly progressive, South Dakota’s George McGovern. Sound familiar?

The similarities continue. Back then, Nixon’s dirty tricks squad, the Plumbers, tried to dislodge Muskie from his perch. Assisted by a young Roger Stone, they finally got Muskie to famously cry in the New Hampshire snow, responding to a smear the tricksters had planted about his wife. Today, perhaps led by an aged Roger Stone, Trump’s team is taking on the famously emotional Joe Biden’s son Hunter. Can another crying-in-the-snow moment be far behind?

Even the campaign’s weird elements seem to be resurfacing. Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson falsely contended that Muskie was a user of a hallucinogenic illegal drug, ibogaine. Today, Hunter Biden has openly admitted to using ibogaine at a Tijuana treatment center. You just can’t make this stuff up.

We all know how 1972 ended up. Muskie, who had led Nixon in the polls in the summer of 1971, quickly tumbled into oblivion as McGovern surged. Biden, like Muskie, is grimly holding on but looks like he could finish as poorly as fourth in Iowa or New Hampshire as Warren seizes the McGovern mantle and wins both states. Late efforts by the establishment to stop McGovern came to naught; any attempt to push a late entrant like Michael Bloomberg or try to arrange a brokered convention so the superdelegates can choose the winner would probably splinter the party today. Ultimately, Nixon cruised to an easy reelection, painting himself as the safe alternative to the scary liberal. Democrats gnashed their teeth as Tricky Dick took the oath of office again.

Of course, back then, Democrats had the last laugh as their impeachment inquiry drove Nixon from office. Today, Democrats are unleashing the impeachment bomb early to quell the time warp’s eerie magic. Don’t be surprised, though, if this seeming treat turns into a trick as we travel back to our future.

— Henry Olsen

The Ranking

Don’t forget to click on the chart’s yellow highlighted text to see the rest of the Ranking Committee’s annotations.

Position Challenger Change Over Last Ranking
1. Elizabeth Warren
2. Joe Biden
3. Bernie Sanders UP 1
4. Pete Buttigieg DOWN 1
5. Kamala D. Harris
6. Amy Klobuchar
7. Cory Booker
8. Andrew Yang
10. Julián Castro

Also receiving votes: Michael Bloomberg, Beto O’Rourke, Tulsi Gabbard

Last week’s ranking: Round 38 | Here’s who else might jump in at the last minute

From the Annotations

Tim Ryan has dropped out of the race, and Joe Biden will likely now enjoy the support of his voter.

David Byler, on Joe Biden

Sanders is now on the record saying he doesn’t need to produce a plan for how he’d pay (or not) for Medicare-for-all; we should just, y’know, trust him that the middle class will come out ahead. Bet Warren wishes she could get away with that.

Catherine Rampell, on Bernie Sanders

Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts in the comments. We’ll see you for the next ranking. Until then, keep an eye on the Democrats’ positioning — it’s just a jump to the left, and then a step to the ri-i-i-i-i-ight.

Read more on 2020:

Jennifer Rubin: Joe Biden’s slap at Bernie Sanders sends Elizabeth Warren a warning

David Von Drehle: Trump without the Trumpiness would win reelection in a landslide

Katrina vanden Heuvel: The Democratic establishment is right to panic