And then there were two: New WSJ/NBC poll has Biden and Warren breaking from the pack as Harris collapses

And then there were two: New WSJ/NBC poll has Biden and Warren breaking from the pack as Harris collapses

This is a big deal if it’s part of a trend, and maybe it is. After all, it was just a week ago that Elizabeth Warren pulled 26 percent in a YouGov poll, her best total ever. Now here she is again breaking into the mid-20s with Bernie Sanders a distant third in the mid-teens.

Is this now a two-way race?

Because increasingly it feels like a two-way race.

Biden fans will find solace in the fact that he kept pace with Warren’s surge, losing just one net point to her since July. But read the fine print here. When we combine first- and second-choice totals for the candidates (and we should since the race is still heavily in flux at this early point) we find Warren at the head of the pack, not Grandpa Joe.

Who’s leading in voter enthusiasm, you ask? Right, Warren again. Back in March, just 20 percent of Democrats said they were enthusiastic about her as nominee. Today 35 percent do. The trends for Bernie and Biden are in the opposite direction, with enthusiasm for Sanders dipping from 28 to 25 percent since March and enthusiasm for Joe sliding all the way from 33 percent to 23. Dems are going to find themselves in quite a spot if Biden ekes out the nomination on “electability” grounds despite no one getting excited for him while Warren has to settle for second place despite galvanizing the base.

The divide among white voters is especially interesting since, as Liam Donovan notes, Iowa and New Hampshire are almost entirely white. Warren is surging ahead among white college grads but Biden remains in front with working-class whites. Who wins that death struggle in the early states?

Another race-related development worth nothing: Warren has now crept into second place among black Democrats. It’s a very distant second to Biden, just 13 percent compared to his 49, but if she starts taking chunks of his base he’s finished.

And speaking of finished. Although it’s not news that her polls have slipped significantly since July, the fact that she’s now down to a dismal five percent here suggests that Officer Harris has retired from the 2020 force. She’s now fifth when candidates are measured by their first- and second-choice totals behind Pete Buttigieg, and it seems perfectly plausible that she’ll have been passed by Andrew Yang the next time NBC polls the race. This poll is no outlier either: The last three surveys tracked by RCP had her at six, four, and six points. Imagine being a millionaire liberal who’s been approached by Harris for your support. What could she possibly say at this point to convince you to cut her a check instead of Warren or Biden or even Sanders? Hopefully this poll will kickstart the “Harris is a surprisingly weak, cynical, inauthentic candidate” takes in the media, because she really is all of those things and more attention should be paid to it.

One last point. There’s a running debate among politics nerds about whether Bernie is hurting Warren or Biden more by remaining in the race. You might think the answer is obvious — he’s hurting Warren because they’re both far left and some of his voters would surely be with her if he dropped out. But Bernie also appeals to older working-class white voters, the same people who gravitate to Grandpa Joe. Not all voters are ideologues. For some, if they can’t get the geriatric socialist nominated for president, they’ll take the geriatric centrist. I mention all that because this graph from NBC’s story about the poll caught my eye:

Clearly Bernie does seem to be hurting Warren more than Biden right now. Given the reports today of dissension within the ranks of Team Sanders, you wonder if some Berniebros will begin grudgingly leaning him on this fall to do the right thing and endorse Warren if there’s further separation between the two in polling.

Oh, almost forgot: Now that we have two separate post-debate polls showing Beto O’Rourke’s numbers stuck in the toilet, I think we can safely conclude that last week’s gun-confiscation stunt was a bust.

In lieu of an exit question, via Jeff Dunetz, here’s the Trump campaign’s new tribute to the mental health of the Democratic frontrunner, who’s probably not really the frontrunner anymore at this point.

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