It’s Just One Poll™, with Sanders still leading her comfortably in the poll average — but not nearly as comfortably as he did three months ago. On March 20, a month before Biden’s entry into the race, Bernie reached his high-water mark to date in the RCP poll average of 24 percent. Warren stood at 6.6 percent at the time. A month later, Biden announced and Sanders immediately began to slide. Warren, however, did not; she’s been inching upward slowly ever since. Today Bernie notches 17.3 percent in the average versus Warren’s 9.2 percent, but that gap is misleading in that it fails to show how well she’s done in the most recent surveys. She reachedf double digits in each of the last three national polls taken, good for third place behind Biden and Bernie and sometimes only a few points behind the latter. Yesterday’s Quinnipiac poll put her at 15 percent, her best showing of any poll taken so far and just four points fewer than Sanders.
Today brings a new poll with a new high for her and a new milestone: Second place.
NEW 2020 Dem. poll from The Economist/YouGov: Warren pulls ahead of Sanders & into 2nd place (w/in margin of error). This wk & change vs last wk:
Biden: 26% (-1)
Warren: 16 (+5)
Sanders: 12 (-4)
Buttigieg: 8 (-1)
Harris: 6 (-1)
O'Rourke: 3 (+1)
Typical caveat re: watch the avgs
— G. Elliott Morris (@gelliottmorris) June 12, 2019
She’s also in second place, just five points behind Biden, when Democratic voters are asked whom they’re considering voting for. And according to Morris, who dug into the data, Warren’s actually in first place among Democratic voters in terms of net favorability. The Warren surge appears to be real.
In fact, literally as I was writing those words, a new poll of Nevada started making the rounds on political Twitter:
Monmouth Nevada poll
*Counts toward debate qualifying*
— Steve Kornacki (@SteveKornacki) June 12, 2019
At least one Bernie advisor is nervous about this trend. Speechwriter David Sirota pointed out on Twitter today that the Quinnipiac poll yesterday was the fourth in a row in which Sanders had gained ground, which is true and nice but which also contradicts the trend in the RCP average, as Nate Silver reminded him. Bernie obviously hasn’t collapsed but he’s getting squeezed on both sides right now, with Biden gobbling up some of the centrists who were formerly Sanders-curious and Warren winning over some of his progressive base. Which, I assume, explains his decision to deliver a speech today defending his belief in democratic socialism. He’s trying to remind the left while they’re being romanced by Warren that he, not she, is the genuine article and he’s trying to convince the center while they’re being romanced by Biden that they’re more likely to get the programs they like from Bernie’s platform than from Uncle Joe’s.
Warren, by the way, has apparently taken to openly laughing at Sanders for going all-in on embracing the socialist label:
Making Elizabeth Warren laugh can be tricky. Throwing her off her talking points is almost impossible. Both happened when she heard that her 2020 opponent Bernie Sanders is scheduled to deliver a “major address” today titled, according to his campaign, “How Democratic Socialism Is the Only Way to Defeat Oligarchy and Authoritarianism.”
The Massachusetts senator shook her head. It was Sunday evening, and we were standing in the backyard of a house on the poorer side of town here. Warren had just explained how her proposed 2 percent tax on every dollar over $50 million—“Two cents!” she likes to shout—would provide enough cash to fund universal child care for every child up to age 5 and universal pre-K for every child over 3. The plan, Warren said, as she has many times, will also raise wages for teachers and child-care workers, with enough money left over to wipe out almost all existing student debt. Warren refers to her agenda as “broad structural change.” It includes proposals such as securing voting rights for people of color and students, ending partisan gerrymandering, and amending the Constitution to stop the free flow of money in politics enabled by the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision. Warren believes the “bold structural change” she’s calling for is what’s needed, and that there’s a difference between that and Sanders’s vision of democratic socialism.
For the past year Warren has been at pains to reassure people that she’s a capitalist, albeit one with a *lot* of reforms in mind. Her theory of the election seems to be that an avowed socialist probably can’t get elected, particularly with Trump and the GOP drilling down on socialism’s flaws. She’ll get called a socialist anyway if she’s the nominee but she’ll at least have a track record of public statements denying the accusation. Bernie will have to wear it, believing that the stigma of “socialism” has worn sufficiently thin that he can win a national election identifying that way. He’s more of a gambler than she is.
It makes strategic sense for her to scoff at him too. The belief that a socialist can’t win a national election may end up as a self-fulfilling prophesy:
That graph is Biden’s ace in the hole. More than anything, Dems this year want someone who can beat Trump; ideology is a secondary consideration. That’s good news for Bernie inasmuch as his own fringier ideology isn’t as much of a bar to the nomination as it used to be. But if Democratic voters become convinced that socialism is a poisonous electoral liability, not just an ideological liability? He’s done. They’re not gambling. Not this year, at least, when they’re laser-focused on ousting Trump.
Exit question via Timothy Carney: For all the hype about Warren as the candidate of Big Ideas, how many of those ideas are … actually hers?