Despite the fact that Bernie Sanders’ poll numbers have continued waning for several months now, the democratic socialist Senator from Vermont is claiming a moral victory in pulling the entire Democratic field further toward his positions as the mainstream.
Speaking with Rachel Maddow on Wednesday, Bernie explained that whether he wins the nomination or not in 2020, he has succeeded in pushing his ideas as mainstream and making the field embrace them more closely than the party did in 2016. Maddow asked Bernie whether he was satisfied with the current state of the discussion within the Democratic primary:
“It is a deep sense of satisfaction… Many of the ideas that I brought forth, $15 an hour minimum wage- ‘Hey Bernie, you’re crazy, that’s too extreme.’ In a few days, the U.S. House of Representatives is going to passe $15 an hour minimum wage. ‘Bernie, public colleges, universities- tuition free, that can’t be done.’ University of Texas today announced the for families 60,000 or under free tuition and people all over the country are moving in that direction.”
Sanders recalled a debate in 2016 when he said that climate change was the biggest “national security crisis” and how “people kind of laughed,” but they’re “not laughing today.”
It’s very true that more of the Democratic contenders in 2020 sound closer to Bernie Sanders than they do to Hillary Clinton. The divide, of course, is basically Biden representing the “Clintonian” wing of the party, the more establishment center-left faction, while others, such as Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, among a handful of others, are more closely resembling Bernie’s policies in terms of their rhetoric and legislative proposals.
In that sense, Bernie can claim victory in that his voice is being echoed by many candidates in 2020 rather than being the sole proponent of stronger progressive causes as he was in 2016.
YouGov poll puts Bernie in fourth place
All of this talk is coming at a rough patch for Bernie in terms of polling support. He seems to have a floor, but that floor has eroded in recent weeks. The latest national poll, which also shows worse news for Joe Biden, puts Bernie in fourth place:
The latest Economist-YouGov poll, released Wednesday, shows Biden narrowly holding on to the top position with 22 percent. Warren came in second place garnering 17 percent, while Harris followed closely behind with 14 percent.
Sanders, who has typically come second after Biden in most polls for months, fell to fourth place with 11 percent. Meanwhile, South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who garnered five percent, also made it into the top five candidates.
No other candidates polled over two percent.
Sitting at 11 percent means Bernie’s in danger of slipping into single-digits if this trend continues. It wouldn’t seem that he could go much lower given his strong following, but it’s actually surprising he’s fallen to this level. It’s one poll, of course, but it follows the trend of others which see Bernie’s support slipping.
Most polls since the debate have shown Biden losing considerable ground with Harris benefiting. According to a post-debate Quinnipiac survey, Biden fell from 30 percent to 22 percent following his performance, while Harris more than doubled her support from seven to 20 percent. CNN’s post-debate poll delivered similar results, with Biden dropping 10 points from 32 percent and Harris rising nine percent to 17 percent.
Conducted between July 7-9, the latest Economist-YouGov poll surveyed 1,500 adults, with a margin of error at 2.6 percentage points.
Biden still holds on at the top, but the shuffling from second to fourth place is where the race has changed with Bernie being on the losing end of things. Despite his big-money haul, it doesn’t appear that 2020 is being as kind to him as 2016 was. In part, it’s because the field is larger and progressives can pick from a number of candidates as the anti-establishment option. The other part must be related to his age especially when considering a candidate who could win in 2020, then run for re-election in 2024. Bernie would be over 80 running a re-election campaign which seems implausible if only for health considerations alone.
Bernie still holds top-tier status
According to analysis from Politico, Bernie is still firmly planted in the top tier and it appears as though there are five candidates that Democratic primary voters are starting to coalesce around:
Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren raised about $100 million in the last three months combined. Together, they share a large majority of the public support.
They were already spending millions of dollars more than many lower-polling contenders have even raised. Now, in a powerful compounding effect for their campaigns, these top tier candidates are poised to plow that new money back into their field and digital operations — further reinforcing their fundraising and organizing advantages in the 23-candidate field.
It’s too early to be an inflection point, but late enough that the rest of the field needs to start worrying.
“The front-runners are pulling away, absent a blunder,” said Bob Mulholland, a Democratic National Committee member from California. “It’s like any season as you get closer, some teams are headed to the World Series or the Super Bowl … The difference between winning and losing is pretty severe.”
The consolidation of Democratic money in the primary — and the now-flattened top tier — became evident this week, after Warren, the Massachusetts senator, announced Monday that she raised a $19.1 million in the second quarter. Buttigieg raised $25 million, Biden raised $21.5 million, Sanders raised $18 million and Harris raised $12 million.
The money usually flows into campaigns that voters feel are worth investing in. In other words, at some point, they want their donations to matter and don’t want to waste money on losing campaigns. It’s been pretty clear that Biden, Harris, Warren, Sanders, and Buttigieg make up the list of top candidates that voters seem drawn to.
Bernie will stay in this mix for the foreseeable future due to his cult following among many voters and his ability to continue raising money. The turning point will be when another progressive candidate starts seriously siphoning his support, that’s when the dam will have broken and Bernie could be in trouble.