This campaign may end up being one of the more spectacular flame-outs by a “strong” candidate in modern American electoral history.
If she can’t win in her own backyard, where can she win?
A University of Massachusetts Amherst survey released Wednesday found that more than a quarter, or 28 percent, of likely Democratic voters [in New Hampshire] said they would support Biden if New Hampshire’s primary were held today.
Twenty percent, in turn, said they’d vote for U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, who won New Hampshire’s Democratic primary in 2016 and formally entered the 2020 contest on Tuesday, according to poll results.
Likely New Hampshire Democratic voters were more split on U.S. Sens. Kamala Harris, D-California, and Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, with a respective 14 percent and 9 percent saying they’d support them if the state’s primary occurred today.
Well, at least Warren is most New Hampshirites’ second choice, right? Wrong: She’s fourth in that category too behind Harris, Biden, and Cory Booker and just a point ahead of Bernie Sanders. The only category where she leads is … candidates whom you definitely *wouldn’t* support. She’s got 26 percent there, tops in the field.
Again, this is New Hampshire, right across the border. You can attribute Biden’s and Sanders’s good showing to the national name recognition they earned in previous campaigns, but that should be less of a disadvantage for Warren in a state where voters are well aware of who she is due to their proximity. As it is, she’s even trailing comparatively little-known Kamala Harris. New Hampshire Dems know Warren. They just don’t like her.
And it’s not just them. Looking back on the primary polls that have already been taken this year, Warren has performed poorly in many of them. The one exception is the Daily Kos straw poll, where she briefly led in early January after announcing her candidacy but has since fallen 10 points behind Kamala Harris and will likely slip further to third place now that Bernie Sanders has announced. She’s a non-starter in the South Carolina primary given the strength of the black vote there and she’ll have a tough time winning Iowa given how the caucuses reward grassroots organization, which favor candidates like Bernie with more enthusiastic followings. It may be New Hampshire or bust given her home-field advantage there.
Judging from this, it’s “bust.”
It goes without saying that no one was hurt more by Sanders’s entry into the race than Warren. Without him, she had a credible claim to being the staunchest economic populist in the field. With him, she’s probably relegated to “pale imitation” status by democratic socialists. As things now stand, she has no “lane” in the primary: She’s not the leading class warrior, she’s not an identity-politics candidate, she’s certainly not a centrist, she’s only one of several women running. There’s no good case for her except, I guess, among that segment of Berniebros who’ve reluctantly concluded that Sanders is too old to get elected at this point.
None of which should imply that she’s disliked within her party. On the contrary, her net favorable rating is higher than anyone’s except Harris. There’s little evidence that Democratic voters are holding the “Fauxcahontas” nonsense against her. She seems acceptable enough to them. She’s just not anyone’s first, or even second, choice.
Chart me a path for how she builds momentum and somehow edges past Sanders and Harris. She’s trying to get people’s attention by rolling out flashy policy proposals like a fat new tax on the rich and universal child care, but Bernie has a Medicare-for-all plan to trump those. If I strain I can imagine the race deadlocking among various candidates and Warren emerging as a compromise choice — she’s progressive, a woman, not super-old — but to contend for “compromise choice” status you need to win a few states and hang around the primaries for awhile. If Warren crashes in New Hampshire, she’s probably done right then and there. So what’s the strategy here?