Hoo boy: Bernie Sanders trails Elizabeth Warren by more than 20 points in poll of MoveOn members

Is this a big deal? It feels like a big deal, but I’m not confident enough in my knowledge of the fine ideological distinctions between various lefty groups to gauge how big. My sense of the average MoveOn member is that they’re firmly left of the average Democrat but not quite so far left as Bernie’s core DSA base. That is, I think with MoveOn you get a mix of far-left progressives and left-leaning liberals, overall a group that’s closer to Bernieville than a Joe Biden voter will be but not quite ready for Full Communism.

Which is, come to think of it, very fertile ground for Elizabeth Warren’s “socialism lite” candidacy.

Her lead here looks like Joe Biden’s lead among the general Democratic electorate.

Bernie Sanders, the great progressive hope, is in danger of being passed by Joe Biden in a poll of activist-minded lefties. What?

He’s not even the top second choice of MoveOn members. Nor is he the second-place second choice. Nor the third. He’s fourth, behind Warren, Kamala Harris, and Pete Buttigieg. W-w-what?

There’s no good news for him in the early states either. The closest he gets to first place among MoveOn voters is in Nevada, where he’s nearly 18 points off of Warren’s pace.

Berniebros will doubtless note that this poll isn’t scientific and claim that MoveOn is notoriously a collection of neoliberal cucks whose commitment to letting workers own the means of production has always been suspect. Even so, this is a blockbuster for Warren given how much she’s improved since the last MoveOn poll in December. She was at … 6.4 percent at the time, good for fifth place. “MoveOn-types should regard her warmly,” I wrote in December, marveling at how poorly she was doing. She’s a progressive, she’s got a lot of (bad) plans — at a minimum she should be competitive for first place with this group. Since then, she’s gained 30 points at the expense of an enormous field that includes multiple senators and a former two-term VP.

In hindsight, maybe my assumption that the average MoveOn member follows politics more closely than the average Democrats was wrong, or at least overstated. It could be that Warren’s policy-palooza rollout of the last few months has been a revelation to many of these people, who may have scarcely noticed her before as a Senate backbencher. Look back to the December poll, in fact, and you’ll find that the leader at the time was, ah, Beto O’Rourke, who’s slipped from 15.6 percent at the time to just 1.8 percent(!) today. The optimistic read on that for Team Warren is that, now that lefties have gotten a good look at her, she’s taken off and there’s no going back. The pessimistic read is that MoveOn-types may be faddish about whom they support and have moved from Beto to Warren simply because she’s had the most positive media buzz lately. If that buzz moves on to Pete Buttigieg, say, MoveOn-ers may move with it.

But I don’t know. Daily Kos takes straw polls regularly of its own readership and they’re seeing the same Warren surge that MoveOn is. The last result, published two weeks ago: Warren 34, Sanders 25, Biden 12, Buttigieg 10. Now you know why Bernie resorted to that desperate mega-pander yesterday promising total forgiveness of all student-loan debt. One-upping Warren on her policy proposals by promising even steeper giveaways may be the only way to claw back some of the votes he’s lost to her. If he can turn the left’s mini-primary into a referendum on who’s the purest progressive ideologue — which is Bernie’s entire pitch, let’s face it — then he’s competitive. If he can’t then he’s an also-ran.