Despite some of the shock polling last week showing Sen. Elizabeth Warren making serious headway in her quest to unseat Joe Biden from the top of the polling stack, the former vice president continues to hold a coalition of the right Democratic primary voters needed for long-term, stable support.
According to an analysis of Biden’s poll numbers, he continues to hold the support of key constituencies in the Democratic primary which are more inclined to forgive his verbal gaffes so long as he remains, in their view, the most viable way to defeat President Trump:
“Joe Biden isn’t the frontrunner because he’s first in the polls, it’s because of who he’s polling well with,” Ford O’Connell, a veteran campaign strategist and adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management, told INSIDER in a Wednesday interview.
“Biden has the majority of support with African Americans, particularly African-American women and seniors. The reason why that matters is because those two groups traditionally turn out the most in Democratic primaries,” he added.
Older voters, in particular, are less likely to see Biden’s gaffes as a major impediment to his candidacy, and will likely continue to support him as long as he is the most viable candidate to take on President Donald Trump.
According to a FiveThirtyEight analysis from earlier this month citing recent polling from Gallup and YouGov/HuffPost, older voters’ support for Biden is primarily motivated by wanting to get Trump out of office by any means possible, whereas younger voters prioritize nominating a candidate who aligns with their policy positions.
It’s still the same campaign dynamics that continue to prop Joe Biden up in this primary and keep him firmly planted at the front of the pack. Biden’s floor of support is solid and filled with voters who are less inclined to buy into the attacks against him. Contrast that support with other candidates who have large swaths of younger voters in their column who are more likely to be torn between several candidates, and it’s clear why Biden’s numbers remain steady.
Plus, voters care about Biden’s heart, not his head, according to one Democratic strategist:
Michael Gordon, a Democratic strategist and principal at a strategic communications firm Group Gordon, characterized some of Biden’s recent gaffes as “somewhere between mind-boggling and shocking” in an interview with INSIDER — but also said he didn’t see them “having a significant impact on the race.”
“Voters tend to focus on whether they liked the person, what they stand for, and the substance of the issues,” Gordon added. “With the proliferation of the Internet, people are more informed than they used to be. When it comes to Biden, people might think his head is out to lunch but they know his heart is in the right place.”
So long as voters continue to believe Biden’s heart is in the right place on issues that matter, the verbal gaffes will continue to be fodder for his campaign opponents and good content for cable news discussions, but they won’t move the needle in terms of chipping away at his poll numbers. Not yet, anyway.
In fact, just days ago, amid a slew of good polling numbers for Elizabeth Warren, Morning Consult released their compilation of polling which attempts to gauge voter sentiment across several early primary states. The results were still very positive for Biden:
Our latest early primary state tracker is updated:
Based on 741 interviews with potential Democratic primary voters in IA, NH, SC, and NV:https://t.co/19xcvc2eMC
— Morning Consult (@MorningConsult) August 13, 2019
Those numbers from Morning Consult tend to reflect a broader view of the race for Biden, and one which continues to show that while some candidates have advanced and declined, the race has continued to stay rather steady in terms of the Biden, Sanders, Warren trio of leaders at the top of the board.
Warren is having her time in the spotlight, just as Sen. Kamala Harris did after the first Democratic debate. The question for Warren is whether her support will grow or decline. Political Polls on twitter put together some numbers which illustrate the debate bumps quite nicely over the past few months:
The highest point of top candidates:
Biden 41.4 (in May) *
Sanders 24.0 (Mar)*
Warren 18.5 (Aug)
Harris 15.2 (Jul) **
Buttigieg 8.4 (May)
O'Rourke 9.5 (Mar/Apr)*
Booker 6.0 (Feb)*
Klobuchar 3.7 (Mar)*
*Presidential bid bump
**Debate performance bump
— Political Polls (@PpollingNumbers) August 16, 2019
Harris saw her highest numbers in July, following the June debate, while Warren has seen her highest numbers in August, following the July debate. With August being an empty debate month, the next time we’ll see the field on stage will be September 12 for the third Democratic debate.
September will effectively restart the campaign for every candidate on stage. The field will be smaller and the stakes will be high in front of a national broadcast audience on ABC.
Biden’s got a connection with the right voters so long as he can continue to maintain it and the September debate will be another test of that theory.