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Post Debate IQ Rankings for 2020 Dems

It’s time to update our IQ, interesting quotient, ratings for the Democratic Presidential field after several days for the impact of the first debates in Miami settle.

Reminder: this IQ ranking focuses on the ability of candidates to capture attention, a critical factor for success in this obnoxiously over-sized field. The IQ rankings are not a statement of preference and don’t assess the general election impact of the primary process (which is a whole different topic, especially after some of the policy positions taken in these first debates).

Attention is especially valuable as the criteria to qualify for the fall DNC debates escalates enough to likely (and mercifully) wean out a good chunk of the field.

On to the post-Kamala Harris-had-Joe Biden-on-the-ropes-in-Miami rankings!

1. Kamala Harris (Previously 4)

Who Nellie. Someone has a debate presence. Were it a smaller crowd on stage the moderators might have needed to do a standing 8 count to make sure Biden could still stay on his feet.

She’s still awfully chamelon-like on issues and doesn’t have a clearly defined “why I’m running” answer…but she slays on that debate stage, which had an immediate fundraising boost after an impressive night:

2. Elizabeth Warren (2)

The sooner we see all the top candidates on the same stage the better. I’m not sure her “I have plan for that” approach that vaulted her into the top tier will hold water as well against Buttigieg and Harris given their respective debate styles, but she looks a lot more viable than her fellow arch liberal, boring Bernie, which will keep the attention coming.

3. Joe Biden (1)

Last week’s debate was a no good, very bad day for the Biden campaign. Will he recover, much like incumbent Presidents who come roaring back in the 2nd general election debate after often losing the 1st? Maybe.

But an essential fact in this race is Joe Biden was a poor candidate for President twice before. He has to prove he has changed. Last week had the opposite effect. Now there is blood in the water, and increased attention on Biden’s past record. That will keep him in the headlines for a while, though probably not in a good way.

4. Cory Booker (6)

He’s a good communicator when not pulling a Spartacus. He has high favorability ratings. He has a well-built campaign that could surprise in Iowa. But he’s still lurking below the top tier and the risk of Harris becoming the dominant candidate of the black community if Biden fades might be the biggest threat to Booker’s path to victory. His campaign had to be happy with this result though, especially the geography:

5. Pete Buttigieg (3)

He’s an impressive speaker on stage, with a thoughtful, liberalism that appeals to the wine track in Democratic primaries. He showed accountability with police shooting in South Bend. And he has raised a ton of money. *But*…until he shows he can win over black voters (which the shooting won’t help), he’s an important role player in a very interesting game, not the star.

6. Tulsi Gabbard (10)

She’s easy to bust on with her pro-Assad fetish and dalliances defending tyrannical and autocratic regimes. Yet, there remains a real market niche in a Democratic primary for an articulate, charismatic voice against interventionism abroad. Until someone pounds her directly on the Assad issue she’s likely to benefit from the exposure of each debate, like the Google Trends pictured above highlight.

7. Julian Castro (Unranked)

Our original IQ rankings had Castro 4th for a reason. He’s articulate, has an interesting resume, and stands out as a Latino. He’s also shown no ability to grab attention for himself when not making mincemeat of Beto on the debate stage. Worth keeping an eye on for now.

8. Bernie Sanders (5)

Bernie is the most consistent candidate in the field. Which is his problem. Many voters and almost the entire political press corps have heard it all before. He disappeared amidst a talented 2nd night debate field. There’s no reason to think the crazy uncle can change that dynamic, potentially locking him into his hard core supporters as Warren and Buttigieg woo others away.

9. Beto O’Rourke (8)

Vacuous. There’s no there, there when he’s not speaking about issues more akin to morality (such as NFL players kneeling) than policy issues. That won’t work on Presidential debate stage. I’d be surprised if he gets past Iowa on this trajectory.

10. Amy Klobuchar (7)

Biden faltering should benefit her. In theory. But nothing in her just-ok debate performance showed she can stand out on a crowded stage. Unless she’s a killer grassroots campaigner on the ground in Iowa she’s in trouble.

11. Marianne Williamson (Unranked)

She’s entertaining as hell and while surreal when appearing next to seasoned pols, she’s got more of a potential constituency among lay voters than some might think. America deserves her on the debate stage for the remainder of the year…even if only for the merry drinking games.

12. Michael Bennet (Unranked)

He did a decent job pursing a moderate lane and could rise if both Biden and Klobuchar fail to gain traction in Iowa. Similarly, Steve Bullock, who qualified for the July debates, is worth watching on the bubble here as a comparative moderate who could move some needles.

The Also Rans

The IQ rankings sadly don’t directly include a “this dude really annoyed” me factor, which Bill de Blasio, Eric Swalwell, and John Delaney competed fiercely for last week.

In addition to the trio of interrupting annoyance, John Hickenlooper, Kirsten Gillibrand, Jay Inslee, Tim Ryan, and maybe even Andrew Yang seem destined to be chopped from the fall debate stage.

Faster, please.

Do you agree or disagree?


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