We Ranked Each 2020 Candidate by How Sweaty They Got in Miami Weather

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders looking very uncomfortable in Homestead
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders looking very uncomfortable in Homestead Joe Raedle / Getty Images
Miami summers have a way of defeating the weak-willed. Locals, who already don't go to the beach that much, truly stop sitting by the ocean. You start ordering takeout for dinner every night because it's too hot to carry groceries outside. Walking your dog for 15 minutes will annihilate any hairstyle you've bothered with and force you to take a shower before doing anything else that day. For six months of the year, Miamians sorta constantly feel like they're breathing through a damp sock.

So when an extremely large and mostly boring slate of 2020 Democratic presidential candidates came to town this week, we noticed something: Many of them were clearly unprepared for the heat. To be fair, it was one of the hottest weeks in Miami history, according to University of Miami scientist Brian McNoldy. Some candidates held strong on days when the heat index felt, quite literally, like 110 degrees. But others, e.g. pallid California bot Eric Swalwell, utterly wilted under the literal and figurative heat. Thus, the Sweat Index, a definitely scientific ranking of the 2020 Democratic candidates based on their relative preparation for and imperviousness to Miami humidity, was born.

For the record, this list wound up skewing along gender lines for unfunny reasons — female candidates face an unfair double standard by which they're judged more harshly on their looks and thus must work harder to keep up appearances — and funny reasons, in that guys like John Hickenlooper and Tim Ryan are huge oafs who look like their skin is rotting even in perfect conditions.

(These rankings also very clearly are not political endorsements and have zero bearings on whether anyone deserves to be president.)

So without further ado, here's the Miami 2020 Democratic Debates Sweat Index:

1. Elizabeth Warren
Elizabeth Warren has plans for many things, apparently including the heat. Light cardigan. Athletic shoes. Sunglasses. Perhaps a bit too much black for the midday sun but otherwise perfectly executed. Not a coincidence that she seemingly had the most energy out of anyone who turned up in Homestead this week. Crushed it.
2. Marianne Williamson
It's entirely possible Williamson does not feel the concepts of "hot" or "cold" like mere mortals, and that she's elevated her consciousness to some higher plane where she only feels pure love, energy, and bliss at all times. That, or she had the chills from doing mushrooms at lunch that day. Or maybe her sweat glands were zapped away in some Gwyneth-Paltrow-style medical procedure. She also gets points for being one of only two people who opened their third eyes enough to realize you need sunglasses in the sun. Regardless: Cool as a cucumber.
3. Kirsten Gillibrand
One of the only four or five candidates who didn't seem to crack at all in the humidity. She could have been giving a speech in Montana for all we knew.
4. Tulsi Gabbard
Gabbard, who was born in American Samoa and grew up in Hawaii, should have been able to handle some humidity. For once with Tulsi's campaign, her Homestead visit seemingly occurred without incident.

5. Kamala Harris
It really seemed like Harris was going to pull through and make a run for Warren/Williamson territory here. But during her speech, a thin layer of sweat appeared to peek through. Still, she did significantly better than any of the huffing, wheezing dudes we're about to stare at. Kudos.

6. Jay Inslee

Inslee wants to be the Climate Guy, and — honestly? — good for him for standing at a podium in the middle of a swamp and facing the sun head-on without flinching. (Alternately, Inslee has Big Golf-Dad Energy and is probably used to standing in direct sunlight.) Still, he seemed like the only dude who didn't show signs of falling apart in the heat.
Moreover, Inslee gets added points here because he actually bothered to get outdoors and take a walking tour of Little Haiti, a neighborhood currently fighting climate-based gentrification.

Temperatures hit 97 degrees on Tuesday, but Inslee seemed to handle it like it was nothing.

7. Amy Klobuchar
There's a worthwhile debate over whether wearing a cap in the sun will make your head sweat worse or not. But sunglasses — they're not expensive, folks! Never a bad idea. No big deal here, but she just sorta seemed uncomfortable at all times?

8. Seth Moulton
New Times actually ran into Seth Moulton on the night of the second debate. That's because Moulton didn't even poll high enough to make the debate stage this week. So, in an utterly sad display, he showed up at the Arsht Center's front door and just kinda hung out for a while and took some photos with people outside. (And then presumably went back to his hotel room with a big, sweaty bag of empanadas.) Moulton benefited from showing up in the late afternoon, and there was some serious cloud cover at that point in the day. But that hair was starting to come apart and his shirt was getting sticky.

9. Andrew Yang
Way overdressed and looking like it's just dawning on him how uncomfortable he's going to be all day.

10. Pete Buttigieg
A full tie? In this economy level of carbon-induced warming? Those cheeks were getting flushed!

11. Bill De Blasio
The Blaz spent more time outdoors than some of the other candidates. He visited both Homestead and a worker strike at Miami International Airport. He started to turn a bit red after a while, but we're docking de Blasio points not for losing his physical composure in the hotbox that is Summer Miami, but for letting the heat get to his head. Bill the Butcher was having a great morning of press on Thursday when he grabbed a mic and decided to shout a Che Guevara quote in Miami, fully tanking any possible shot his campaign had in Florida.

12. John Hickenlooper
Hickenlooper is pretty much only known for being the one Democratic presidential candidate who still openly supports the oil-and-gas industry and the concept of hydraulic fracking. This dude is gonna cook the earth. So he better learn to handle himself better in swampy weather — he looked at times like he was about to pass out. Also, Hickenlooper wore a full tie (!) in 100-degree weather. Our man here might not be that bright.

13. Julián Castro
This reporter's face also sweats profusely. So, from one swampy comrade to another: sorry, Julián.

14. Beto O'Rourke

The Texans — Castro and O'Rourke — surprisingly did not fare well in Miami weather. From afar, it seemed like Beto was holding it together, but Getty Images captured a few shots of him sweating like he was in a Gatorade commercial.

15. Bernie Sanders

It gives us great pain to report that this brief trip outside damn-near killed poor Bernie. There are some absolutely harrowing high-res images of a frighteningly pink Bern circulating from this trip. He was seriously beginning to look like the inside of a grapefruit by the end of his visit. He's simply too old to be turning that red at any time. Please, for all of us, stay indoors.

16. Tim Ryan
It doesn't matter how hot it might have been under that MIA departure terminal overhang — one gets the sense Tim Ryan is cold-sweating 100 percent of the day, all day. That's a clammy man if we've ever seen one.

17. Eric Swalwell
Our pasty Bay Area boy and Large Adult Congressman Eric Swalwell got absolutely annihilated in the heat. He looked so horrible that he's the entire reason we started this Twitter thread and subsequent list. Swalwell typically keeps his hair combed tight in one of those Ivy League, good-old-boy, business-guy cuts. Whatever he put in his hair this week, the Miami weather made quick work of it.
Eric — and we cannot stress this enough — Sweatwell.

18. Cory Booker, Michael Bennett, John Delaney, and Joe Biden

These guys participated in the debate but pretty much never ventured outdoors at all. Booker's only trip outside was a brief appearance at a protest at 7 a.m. before the true heat hit.
The rest of these guys seemingly held no public events outdoors — thus losing the Sweat Index by default on account of cowardice. Bennett and Delaney likely know they've got no shot in the race, but Biden is, allegedly, the frontrunner at the moment. And so, much like he unequivocally lost the Miami debates, he loses the Sweat Index for never bothering to break a sweat at all.
KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.