As the field of Democratic presidential nominees is winnowed, three front-runners have emerged and two of them seem to have benefited most from the demise of the also-ran, tier-3 nominee-seekers. (Related: Social Justice: Democrats to Choose Nominee from Group of Old White People)
Now that Harris, Buttigieg, O’Rourke and the other collection of also-rans have dipped into single-digits – or never left there – where are their supporters going? Warren and Biden, with a little going to Sanders.
Former Vice President Joe Biden’s polling numbers have been surprisingly resilient in the face of his frequent misstatement of fact, forgetfulness and otherwise gaffe-tastic performances. He has now twice rebounded from the mid-twenties to over 30%. Biden appears to just push voters into the “undecided” column with his faux-pas, then get them back once his missteps disappear from the news cycle.
Biden’s slow slide continued as Elizabeth Warren became the “new hotness” in June. Those supporters have stuck with Warren ever since. Then Kamala Harris let the gaffe-meister have it in the July debate pushing him into the mid-20s for the first time. Harris failed to cement her victory, largely due to an ineffective campaign/PR strategy, and Biden regained 100% of that lost support within a month.
Biden’s multiple ‘failures to communicate’ in August again pushed him into the mid-20s until the media was able to bury his mistakes under a hail of other news. As of today, he’s back in the low-30’s. During that dip, Sanders seemed to again pick up some support only to lose it once Biden’s gaffes were effectively pushed out of the news cycle. Sander’s current poll support sits one point below where it was this time last month.
As Kamala started her long slow ride to obscurity, Warren picked up more than 3 points going from 13.5 to 17.1. Biden regained his low-30 range of support and Sanders picked up just over 1 point. The last two weeks illustrate better where support is coming from and where it’s going.
Biden is again on the rise, Warren is continuing to rise, Sanders is sitting still and everyone else is on the decline. Next week’s debates could have a significant impact.
If Biden misfires at the debate, the initial bump will likely go to Sanders as it has during Biden’s previous failures. But Sanders has so far been unable to hold on to those that temporarily flee Biden’s orbit. Warren has also struggled to capture those voters who are unsure if crazy Uncle Joe can keep it together long enough to survive a 5-minute television interview, much less a difficult campaign against a popular incumbent president.
The biggest change in voter sentiment will likely come only if Warren hits Biden head-on and appears to outmatch him. It would show Democratic Party voters and donors that Biden isn’t the strongest candidate on the stage and that they should consider the female Senator from Massachusetts instead. On the other hand, if Warren swings hard and misses, it could end her run and cement Biden as the DNC nominee.
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