It would be ridiculous to imagine running-mate pairings this early for Democrats in the 2020 presidential race.

So let’s be ridiculous. My subconscious is advising: Yep, it’s absurd, but just conjure Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg on the stump together a year from now, in whatever order: They exude intelligence, and no candidates are better at explaining complicated policy ideas in a persuasive way.

Whoa, whoa, whoa! We’re almost a year away from the convention, and both have yet to show that they can actually win over voters. That’s the acid test.

Still, Warren and Buttigieg have thrived in the campaign so far, and they shone in the first night of the Democratic debates this week. While they are quite different on policy — Warren is far to the left of Buttigieg in worldview — they each are outsiders with silver tongues and massive intellects, and each would embody the change that the electorate seems to yearn for.

Warren would be the first woman president or vice president. Buttigieg would be the first openly gay person in either office, as well as the youngest president. (As vice president, Buttigieg would be edged out by John Breckinridge, who was barely 36 when he took office in 1857. This is not a useful precedent for Buttigieg, because Breckinridge then betrayed the country by joining the Confederacy).

As I’ve written, I started out skeptical of Warren, because of the belief that she had parlayed possible Native-American ancestry into a career benefit, because of concern that she shot from the hip, and out of wariness that her only big issue was financial reform.

Oops: I was wrong on all three counts. Boston Globe reporting has disproved the first allegation; she has been more prudent about firing from the hip; and she has emerged as the gold standard for outlining a broad range of thoughtful policies.

That said, she has occasionally offered up pyrite as well.

I worry that telling more than 150 million Americans that they will soon lose their private medical insurance could turn health care, which should be a winner for Democrats, into a winner for Republicans.

Likewise, it seems to me reasonable that if we want a secure border, it should remain a misdemeanor to cross without permission — just as it’s a misdemeanor to trespass on private property.

Warren’s drive to decriminalize border crossings would play into President Trump’s false criticism that Democrats want open borders.

As for Buttigieg, I likewise misjudged him.

A small-city mayor in his 30s?

Seriously? I was very doubtful.

But he won credibility with raw political skills, not to mention by raising more money in the second quarter than any other Democrat, including Biden.

Buttigieg is also a masterful speaker, injecting nuance and thoughtfulness even into sound bites.

He speaks not only Maltese and Norwegian, but also religion. Buttigieg is particularly deft at citing Scripture to highlight the hypocrisy of Trump and the G.O.P.

“So-called conservative Christian senators right now in the Senate are blocking a bill to raise the minimum wage,” Buttigieg noted Tuesday, “when Scripture says that whoever oppresses the poor taunts their maker.”

Buttigieg’s website is sketchy on policy, and his position on immigration is evolving.

But in an off-the-record conversation, I found him more knowledgeable about issues than some other candidates I’ve spoken with.

Could he win a general election? Gallup found that 76 percent of voters reported that they would be willing to vote for a gay candidate, and 71 percent for one under 40.

Clearly, he would lose some voters on both counts, but then again, even fewer Americans (63 percent) said that they’d be willing to vote for a candidate over 70 (as Trump, Biden, Sanders and Warren all are).

One reason for skepticism about this entire column: Both Warren and Buttigieg are unproven among national voters, and there’s a risk that their cerebral qualities will antagonize some voters.

Warren has not been particularly popular even in her home state, liberal Massachusetts, and the RealClearPolitics polling average shows her only 2.4 points ahead of Trump in head-to-head polls, compared with 4.5 points ahead for Bernie Sanders and 8.1 points ahead for Biden.

Buttigieg does even worse, running only a hair ahead of Trump in head-to-head polling; it’s fair to object that pairing two middling performers is not an optimal strategy.

Yet while Biden is seen in many quarters as the safest Democratic candidate, I’m wary.

This is a moment when only 37 percent of Americans say that the country is on the right track, yet Biden represents continuity of the politics of the last few decades — missing the opportunity for a change candidate.

This entire reverie is, of course, ridiculous, and Buttigieg and Warren still must demonstrate an ability to win over actual voters.

But for brilliance, eloquence and the ability to embody change, they would constitute a historic partnership.

— Nicholas Kristof has been a columnist for The New York Times since 2001.