(Tom Toles/The Washington Post)

This is Round 48, and I’m Charles Lane. Everybody likes me!

The Commentary

It’s probably too early for Democrats to worry that their own intraparty squabbles could cost them the crucial 2020 presidential election. Nevertheless, if the eventual nominee does go down trying to defeat a very beatable President Trump in November, some may point to this week as the moment Democrats’ cross-cutting arguments over identity and ideology started to turn counterproductive.

They have certainly turned vicious. There’s no other word for 2016 nominee Hillary Clinton’s attack on the surging Sen. Bernie Sanders as a mere “career politician” whom “nobody likes” — except possibly for the aggressively male “online Bernie Bros” he has “permitted.” Her comments, which in part appear in an upcoming documentary about her, represent the open declaration of something many, many Democrats say privately, but they were impolitic, so she walked them back, partially, by saying she would “do whatever I can to support our nominee."

For his part, Sanders aimed a tendentious allegation regarding cuts to Social Security at Joe Biden’s kneecaps. That’s a line Democrats usually save for the fall campaign to use on Republicans, so it’s a sign of the times that the chief of the left used it on a party vet whose main sin in this regard seems to have been entertaining, vaguely, the idea of entitlement program tweaks as part of a grand bargain on budget deficits several years ago.

Biden entered the race saying the 2020 general contest would be a struggle for the soul of America. First, though, he will have to win a struggle for the soul of his own party. Sanders is surging and is now in a near-tie with Biden both nationally and in Iowa, setting the stage for a mano a mano struggle between the two that could crystallize the electability vs. ideology question for Democrats as never before.

Hillary Clinton ended up winning such a contest in 2016, only to lose to Trump in the fall, so her warnings that Sanders could hurt the party’s prospects in November represent what experience has taught her. Whether primary voters have drawn the same lessons now looms as the crucial question in a Democratic race that seems unlikely to get less nasty before it ends.

And don’t forget: Next week we reveal your power ranking. Yes, it’s your shot to tell us what we’ve got right and what we’ve got wrong. Fill out the form below.

— Charles Lane

Rank ’Em Yourselves

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. Joe Biden
2. Bernie Sanders
3. Elizabeth Warren
4. Pete Buttigieg
5. Amy Klobuchar
6. Mike Bloomberg
7. Andrew Yang
8. Tom Steyer

Last week’s ranking: Round 47 | Mutually assured destruction may be on the horizon

From the Annotations

Newspaper endorsements may actually mean something this time around, given the unsettled state of the electorate. But the Times endorsement that could matter most is not the one she got from the New York Times. It’s the nod from the Quad City Times — serving Davenport and Bettendorf, Iowa.

Karen Tumulty, on Amy Klobuchar

Glad to read he’s spending some of his fortune on impeachment ads. Steyer — who earlier flooded the airwaves with pro-impeachment messages when it was completely unhelpful, and then stopped — might wish to take note.

Catherine Rampell, on Mike Bloomberg

Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts in the comments. We’ll see you for the next ranking. Until then, keep practicing your punditry. You’re mano a mano with us next week.

Read more on 2020:

Jennifer Rubin: Bernie Sanders’s attack machine comes back to haunt him

David Byler: Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama want to stop Bernie Sanders. Can they actually do it?

Karen Tumulty: The path for Iowans to pick a presidential candidate is filled with twists

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