For all the talk of “anxiety” among some Democrats over whether Joe Biden can hang on as the establishment choice, he sure seems to be getting a boost right now regardless of whether voters are uncertain of his prospects next year or not. A new CNN national poll of Democratic primary voters finds Biden with his highest lead in their poll since April, 15 points ahead of Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and 18 points ahead of Sen. Bernie Sanders.
This poll is the type of good news that Biden’s campaign needs right now to quell the talk of more candidates jumping in to “rescue” the primary away from more-liberal options like Warren or Sanders. Biden’s regaining support in every demographic group, according to CNN:
Biden has the support of 34% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters, his best showing in CNN polling since just after his campaign’s formal launch on April 25.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont are about even for second, with 19% and 16%, respectively. Behind them, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg and Sen. Kamala Harris of California each have 6% support, with Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke each at 3%.
Granted, this is a national poll, and other recent polls in early primary and caucus states, such as the Suffolk University poll from Iowa show a much tighter race. National polls, however, tend to drive voter sentiment since they get a lot of reporting. One week, Biden is struggling and barely hanging on to the “front runner” spot, then next week he’s sitting with a double-digit lead which means some casual observers are left with the impression that Biden’s not doing as bad as some media pundits are claiming.
CNN notes that Warren and Sanders largely stayed the same since their last poll, but Biden has seen his support grow across many voting blocs:
Biden has seen big spikes in support among moderate and conservative Democrats (43% support him now, up from 29% in the September poll), racial and ethnic minorities (from 28% among all nonwhites in September to 42% now) and older voters (up 13 points since September among those 45 and older) that outpace those among younger potential Democratic voters (up 5 points among those younger than 45).
A coalition of moderates, older voters, and minorities are the ticket to Biden’s chances next year in the primary. If he can turn out certain groups in large numbers, he can keep his head above water and generally outlast some of his opponents. Other candidates might destroy him in certain segments, but Biden’s broad appeal can overcome that if you believe this data.
One good poll for Biden won’t be enough to reverse the prevailing fear among some Democratic voters that despite their options of 20+ candidates, the field is becoming narrowed too quickly and the ongoing worry is that the eventual nominee won’t be able to defeat President Trump and connect with voters.
Chew on these comments from Maryland congressman John Delaney, per the Washington Post:
The party set a high threshold for grass-roots donors that candidates had to meet to make it on the debate stages, an incentive system that he said rewards far-left views.
Moderate candidates lose out if the DNC process trumps the traditional vetting role that voters in Iowa and New Hampshire have long played, he said.
Biden, he said, hasn’t offered enough new ideas for younger Democrats to embrace him. And Sanders and Warren, he said, are too far to the left to win.
“You need to run on things that half the country agrees with you,” he said.
So if Biden doesn’t offer anything to young voters, which apparently is a problem, but Bernie and Warren do offer something to young voters, but they’re “too liberal” to win in the general election, then how does that circle get squared? Does Delaney think the field needs more than 20+ options to choose from?
At this point, it really seems like some Democrats are just getting irrationally nervous over the state of the primary. Believe it or not, a good number of voters haven’t yet tuned in to the primary or would even be able to tell you who’s running. That’s both good and bad in the sense that it means every candidate has time to hone a message, but it also means some of them won’t make it to Iowa despite their potential appeal.
Here’s a message to everyone: Calm down.
We see this every year from both parties and growing anxiety as the primary field becomes narrowed. Party figures start to get antsy over their options and worry about the primary process, which always tilts to the left or right, depending on the party, and then comes back to the middle for the general election. If you want to see a nervous party establishment and politicians taking shots at their field of candidates, just look at Donald Trump’s Republican primary battles in 2016, for example.
The generalizations about each candidate are likely being taken to the extreme. Does Biden have an issue with younger voters? Maybe, but it’s the middle of a primary season and younger voters prefer other candidates right now. That’ll change as the field narrows. Is Elizabeth Warren too liberal for a general election? Maybe, but she’s not dumb or ignorant to the fact that candidates play one message during a primary, and another message during the general election. No candidate is “perfect” in every way, they’re all flawed, but they adapt and figure out how to connect with voters despite their flaws. That’s the art of politics.
October is often a turbulent month for campaigning, even during the year preceding the election year. The infighting phase during the primary is always messy, and it always has been. Until a party unites behind a candidate and a message, there will always be some unease about the process.
Besides, fear not. Hillary’s got her bags packed and her coat on just waiting for that phone call if the party establishment isn’t happy in a couple of months.