Yikes: Two new polls show Biden sliding to ... third place

I’m being a little selective in singling out those two polls when there are others out today that are more encouraging for him.

Okay, I’m being a lot selective.

But whatever. Manufacturing half-assed BS narratives is the stuff of which political media is made. Let’s go all-in on the “Uncle Joe is tanking” one.

That’s from Change Research, which had the race Biden 24, Sanders 22, Warren 22 a few days *before* the first debate. Which is … not what most other pollsters were seeing. Biden led by at least 10 in most pre-debate surveys and in many by upwards of 20.

But is it really that implausible that he’s taken a big enough hit from his poor performance last week that he’s dipped to third place? A different poll, this one of Iowa, sees the same decline:

You can almost feel the media pulsing with anticipation of writing a “Biden is the new Jeb” hot take.

CNN’s national poll a few days ago had him just five points ahead of Harris. Is it possible that the continued bad press from the debate this week has gradually pushed more Democrats from his camp to hers? Sure, why not? Although we should be careful about assuming that a voter whom Biden lost is a voter whom Harris has gained. FiveThirtyEight’s own pre- and post-debate polling shows that Harris was indeed the single largest beneficiary of Biden defectors after the debate, but all told roughly two-thirds of those defectors went to candidates other than her. That is, the takeaway from that debate for “soft” Biden supporters may have been less that Harris is great than that Joe has lost a step and it’s time to look elsewhere.

Anyway, that settles it: Biden is now a third-place candidate. Isn’t he? Not yet, says WaPo:

Uncle Joe’s hanging steady at around 30 percent? And … Bernie, who’s had a terrible round of polling lately, is suddenly up above 20 percent while Harris is still flagging at 11? That seems not so plausible either.

Maybe YouGov can solve this conundrum for us. This seems plausible: Biden 21, Warren 18, Harris 13, Sanders 10. It’s hard to believe one good debate vaulted Harris past Warren instantly, as the latter had been rising for months. But it seems perfectly believable that, between Harris’s big night and Warren having gradually supplanted Sanders as the progressive favorite, the top three are now Biden, Warren, and Harris in that order but crowded close enough together that the next debate will probably decide who the frontrunner is. Just too many soft Uncle Joe supporters out there clinging to him for reasons of basic familiarity to have much faith in him right now.

One more tidbit for you, from yet another poll released today: Reuters finds that Biden’s support among black voters has been cut in half, dropping from 40 percent or so before the debate to roughly 20 percent now. As Dave Weigel said yesterday, a single-digit lead among black voters isn’t nearly enough for that group to be a “firewall” for Biden against Harris. He needs landslide margins among black voters to hedge against the margins Harris will enjoy among younger voters. If the two remain at rough parity among black Democrats, he’s done.