Biden continued to lead CNN’s power rankings in January 2020, when the network said he was “as close to the nomination as anyone has been this cycle.” After failing to even crack the top three in Iowa and New Hampshire, and with former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg lurking, the former VP is now about as far from the nomination as anyone this cycle. Adulation from expert pundits has spelled death for many a campaign.

Nevertheless, they persisted. Pundits now tout Klobuchar’s third-place finish in New Hampshire as evidence the Minnesota senator’s underfunded, understaffed campaign will be competitive in Nevada, South Carolina, and on Super Tuesday, just three weeks from now. Buttigieg’s strong showing in the first two primary contests—in predominately white states—gives him the illusion of viability, despite “Mayor Beast’s” inability to record statistically significant levels of support among minority voters.

This has led to some absurd analysis reminiscent of the media’s wishful thinking about Donald Trump in the 2016 Republican primary and general election. “What if Buttigieg, Klobuchar, and Biden were a single candidate?” the pundits ask, nonsensically. Recent polling suggests Sanders would win head-to-head matchups against every remaining Democratic rival.