It’s no secret that Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been struggling to gain traction in the 2020 Democratic primary. Once a favored darling of many progressive activists, Warren suffered some setbacks late last year and early in 2019 as far as campaign strategy goes. We’ve reported on her lackluster fundraising and her general troubles with building a campaign identity, but it looks like primary voters have not shut down the prospect of Warren as the 2020 Democratic nominee.
Three new polls are showing signs of life for Warren, perhaps at the expense of support for Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg:
Quinnipiac University’s national survey of the 2020 presidential race released Tuesday showed Warren as the top choice for 12 percent of the Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters asked.
That second-place finish, behind former Vice President Joe Biden, is a significant jump from Quinnipiac’s poll released March 28, which had Warren in fifth, polling at just 4 percent.
A CNN-SSRS poll released Tuesday had Warren polling at 8 percent, in third place, doubling her support from 4 percent in its poll last month.
A Morning Consult survey released Tuesday also showed Warren in third place, polling at 9 percent, 2 points higher than on March 31, and placing the senator slightly ahead of South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg (D), former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.).
All three candidates were ahead of Warren in the previous Morning Consult polls.
Part of Warren’s rise in polls may be explained by looking at the policy proposals she’s rolled out over the past month. With some candidates, like Buttigieg, for example, the Obama model of speaking broadly and presenting lofty goals and sparse details can connect well with voters.
For other candidates, however, such as Warren, sticking to defined policy initiatives that are popular among Democratic primary voters can be a way to build support based on specifics rather than rhetoric. That’s not to take anything away from Buttigieg, he has his own policy proposals and has pledged to roll out more down the line, but he’s strategically avoided being pigeonholed by avoiding support for specific legislation.
Warren Jumps to Contender Status
Back to Warren and her seeming jump into relevance again. In the Quinnipiac poll mentioned in the story, Warren jumped from fifth-place (at 4 percent) to second-place (at 12 percent) in the span of a month. Sanders is right on her tail at 11 percent followed by Buttigieg at 10 percent, so it’s not as if she’s breaking away from the pack, but she’s at least keeping up with it.
Biden will, at least for the short term, vacuum up a lot of polling support as the big name entering the race. It’s possible that some of the Buttigieg/Sanders crowd abandoned ship and jumped over to Biden since some voters like to support the perceived winner.
Bernie Loses Support?
The other question to ask is whether Bernie is losing support for some reason and Warren has been benefitting from it. There has been speculation that his support (which he reiterated) for allowing voting for all prisoners, both violent and non-violent, really struck a negative chord with some voters and may have (temporarily?) turned them off.
Many voters tend to, in some form, support voting rights for some non-violent offenders. They may even go so far as to allow certain prisoners convicted of certain felonies to vote. However, even Bernie’s 2020 opponents are taking swipes at his general view that everyone, regardless of the heinousness of their crime, should retain their voting rights while in prison. Sen. Cory Booker wasted no time when asked about the topic:
“So, if Bernie Sanders wants to get involved in a conversation about whether Dylann Roof and the (Boston) Marathon bomber should have the right to vote, my focus is liberating black and brown people and low-income people from prison,” Booker said, recalling mass attacks in recent years. Roof killed nine black churchgoers in South Carolina in 2015; the Boston Marathon bombing killed three people and injured hundreds others in 2013.
The New Jersey Democrat added: “My focus is tearing down the system of mass incarceration, so that we don’t even have to have the debate about people’s voting rights, because they’re not going to prison in the first place. People that don’t belong there are there, and I’m going to stop that as president.”
It’s also important to note that not everyone thinks Bernie’s position is a bad move. Some analysts are calling it smart politics since it will help him retain a good chunk of very progressive voters in the Democratic primary:
As long as Sanders is able to remain the de facto candidate preferred by the left wing of the party, he’ll have a constituency that will keep him if not at the top of the polls, then very much in the game.
While his policy view on incarcerated citizens voting is shared by only 22% of Democratic primary voters, anyone who can stay the top choice of 22% of Democratic primary voters has considerable sway in a crowded Democratic field that features 20 declared candidates.
Does this explain some of Warren’s polling improvements? It’s possible. It’s also possible that voters are actually beginning to settle back into some of the prior lanes and default candidates they supported several months ago. Buttigieg became lightning hot in a few short days back in March, but now voters have had time to consider his candidacy and weigh his chances of defeating Donald Trump. Maybe Warren is picking up some Buttigieg bandwagoners.
If you liked Warren six months ago, maybe you dabbled in Bernie or Buttigieg or Beto, but recently realized why you liked her based on some of the recent policy discussions or her CNN Town Hall event in April.
Either way, Warren has been gaining ground while Bernie has lost a little support in recent weeks. This is a trend we’ll be watching closely.