Heading into the second Democratic debate, an event which CNN pitched as a “rematch” between Sen. Kamala Harris and former vice president Joe Biden, the expectations for Harris were almost insurmountably high. Following her performance at the first debate where she got the better of Biden as far as most viewers were concerned, the second debate was being watched with anticipation of where the battle would head next.
From the onset of the debate, Harris was not as sharp on her game as she was the first round, or perhaps just not as sharp in the clutch moments when she needed to be. As a result, her numbers, which were dwindling before the debate, have continued to slide.
Harris Loses 11 Points in Favorability
According to new numbers from Morning Consult, the outcome of the debate is fairly clear when it comes to how Democratic primary voters are judging candidate performances. Harris is on the losing end for most debate watchers when it comes to favorability and their choice for the Democratic nominee:
According to Morning Consult’s Aug. 1-4 primary tracking data, the share of Democratic primary voters who said Harris was their first choice fell 3 percentage points from the week before the debates, to 9 percent. That was accompanied by an 11-point drop in her net favorability, with 52 percent of Democratic primary voters now expressing favorable views and 22 percent expressing unfavorable views.
It’s hard to tell whether Harris’ falling support is due to her own performance or due to the attacks she received from Biden as well as Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard. Biden’s jabs at Harris were honed to attacking her years as California’s Attorney General, but not delivered with the same precision and eloquence as the attacks of Gabbard who went down a litany of criticisms Harris has endured as a prosecutor and AG.
Warren Gains From Post-Debate Numbers
If Harris can be considered a “loser” after the debate, given her declining numbers, then which candidate benefitted the most? Biden neither “won” nor “lost” in that his numbers have remained steady. The only candidate who managed to lift their numbers is Sen. Elizabeth Warren:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren easily prevailed in last week’s primary debates in Detroit, according to a new poll out Tuesday.
Three out of 10 respondents dubbed Warren the winner for her debate performance last week, a POLITICO/Morning Consult poll of registered Democratic primary voters found.
Warren also received the highest percentage of “excellent” ratings from voters on her debate performance, with 44 percent of primary voters giving her top marks. Sanders came in second, with 32 percent giving him an “excellent” rating, followed by Biden, who 27 percent said put on an “excellent” performance.
Sanders needed a good showing and voters, at least according to the Morning Consult numbers, seem to agree that he helped himself in Detroit. The same goes for Biden who simply needed to show some ability to repel attacks on his lengthy political record and get back on offense against President Trump and his primary opponents.
De Blasio The Biggest Loser
Harris suffered in the eyes of viewers, but not to the extent that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio did, as Morning Consult also found:
Voters were least impressed with the performance of Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York, with just over a quarter — 26 percent — of voters calling his performance “poor.” This could be in part because of de Blasio’s willingness during the debate to criticize former President Barack Obama’s record on deportations, despite Tuesday’s poll finding that Obama enjoys a 94 percent favorability rating among Democratic primary voters.
In attacking Biden, many candidates on stage were careful to avoid attacking President Obama directly or indirectly. The one exception was immigration, where the number of deportations under the Obama administration drew criticism from several candidates including de Blasio, Booker, and Harris, among others. De Blasio, however, kept going back to the issue trying to force Biden to either denounce his former boss or stand by the numbers. That decision probably hurt De Blasio in hindsight, though this will likely be his last debate and his lack of support indicated that he had no chance of getting close to the nomination regardless of his debate performance.
Biden Continues Mild Dominance
Dominance in the sense that his numbers have a floor, around thirty percent, which seems to be fairly solid for him. His numbers in the past week and a half have ranged from 26 percent to 36 percent support among Democratic primary voters, with an average of 32.3 according to RealClearPolitics.
The post-debate numbers from Morning Consult put him back in the low thirties at 33 percent, a number which seems to be the default level of support he holds regardless of events surrounding the campaign.
If you add up support from Warren, averaged at 14 percent, and Sanders, averaged at 16.7 percent, you hit 30 percent of the Democratic primary electorate. Progressive voters remain split which is why Biden seems to keep a semi-distant lead from the rest of the pack. Until some consolidation occurs, Biden’s thirty percent support is all he needs to remain the front runner.