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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) fired the starting pistol for the 2020 presidential race on Monday when she announced she was forming an exploratory committee for a White House bid. Warren is the first top tier candidate to take such a major step — but plenty of others are expected to follow soon. Here, The Hill presents its initial rankings of the Democratic field. 1. Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) The old cliche holds that Republicans fall in line and Democrats fall in love when it comes to selecting presidential nominees. If that’s true, it is good news for O’Rourke, who excited Democrats nationwide even while failing in his bid to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) in the fall. O’Rourke came within 3 points of defeating Cruz in the strongly Republican state. More to the point, he proved to be a magnetic presence on the campaign trail and a fundraising juggernaut. He raised an astonishing $38 million in the third quarter of 2018 alone. A number of aides to former President Obama have also talked up O’Rourke, drawing comparisons between his appeal and that of the former president. Obama himself told his former aide David Axelrod that O’Rourke exhibited a similar sense of authenticity. “The reason I was able to make a connection with a sizable portion of the country was because people had a sense that I said what I meant,” Obama told Axelrod, adding of O’Rourke, “it felt as if he based his statements and his positions on what he believed.” There are still plenty of skeptics. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, himself a former Obama chief of staff, complained in a late November MSNBC interview, “He lost. You don’t usually promote a loser.” Commentators supportive of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have also sought to knock the gloss off O’Rourke in recent weeks, questioning the Texan’s progressive credentials. But those attacks show just how much of a threat O’Rourke poses to the rest of the field. 2. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) Sanders is a divisive figure in the Democratic Party — not least because he is not a member of it. But the Vermont independent has won a hugely devoted following with the democratic socialist ideas that he had been pushing for decades before they became fashionable. He also has the organizational advantages that come from his much stronger-than-expected 2016 showing against eventual nominee Hillary Clinton . Ironically, Sanders’s best chance for 2020 success could be to ape what President Trump did in the 2016 GOP primaries. There were plenty of Republicans implacably opposed to Trump, but their votes were split among a large field. That allowed Trump to roll up victory after victory with a plurality of the vote. Sponsored Content There are dangers for Sanders: Warren’s all-but-inevitable candidacy could split the progressive vote while O’Rourke could draw the young voters who flocked to Sanders in 2016. Sanders would also be 79 by Inauguration Day 2021. But, make no mistake, Sanders is a real contender if he runs. Biden […]