Three new national polls: The Democratic primary is a two-man race

This has been sort of true since mid-December, when Bernie Sanders began putting a little distance between him and Elizabeth Warren in the race for second place. But even as recently as eight days ago, Warren was within two and a half points of him in RCP’s national poll of polls.

Today, thanks to new surveys from CNN, Monmouth, and Morning Consult, he leads her by 7.2 points. He’s the only candidate in the race besides Joe Biden who’s north of 20 percent. Warren, who touched 26.8 percent at her zenith in October, has now fallen to nearly half that share at 14.7.

I … can’t help but feel that last week’s hubbub over what Bernie may or may not have said to her about a woman nominee’s chances against Trump hasn’t worked out for her the way she’s planned. My read on it was that it would backfire by convincing fencesitting progressives that Warren was underhanded, sandbagging Sanders in the home stretch to Iowa with an unprovable allegation that she hadn’t mentioned once over the past year. How’s that read looking right now?

The big news comes from CNN, which has Bernie taking an outright lead. That’s the first time Biden has trailed any candidate in any national poll since mid-November:

Note the trendline over the past several months. Steadily down for Joe, steadily up for Bernie. And that’s not all:

Sanders has made gains nearly across the board, clearly pulling away from Warren among liberals (33% back Sanders, while 19% support Warren in the new poll), a group where the two had been running closely through much of the fall. Sanders has also pulled about even with Biden among voters of color (30% for Sanders, 27% for Biden).

Again, we find liberals tilting towards Sanders in the wake of the sexism dispute between them. And that trend among black voters is devastating potentially for Biden if it’s borne out in other polling. Black Democrats are supposed to be his firewall against Bernie, just as they were for Hillary in the 2016 primary. If Sanders is making a dent in that bloc then South Carolina might not be as sure a thing for Grandpa Joe as he thinks, especially if Bernie wins Iowa and New Hampshire first.

Monmouth has better news for Biden trend-wise, but here too he and Sanders stand apart from the rest of the pack:

Warren and Sanders started out even in August, then she suddenly pulled away from him, and since then lefties have been steadily migrating back into his camp. She’s closer to Mike Bloomberg in the race than she is to Bernie now. Monmouth tracked the net favorability of each candidate over a span of several months and found that both Biden (+57 then, +52 now) and Bernie (+47 then, +48 now) have held basically steady since November. Warren? She went from +70(!) to … +46 now. That’s some drop.

One more, this time from Morning Consult. Again, Biden has the lead. And again, there’s a clear number two:

How confident are we right now that Warren outpolls Bloomberg on Super Tuesday, especially if she finishes third in Iowa and New Hampshire? Will she even be in the race on Super Tuesday if that happens, with Berniebros screaming at her to get out and help consolidate the left behind Sanders at a big moment?

On the other hand, the eternal question about national polling must be asked again in light of today’s results: Uh, why should anyone care? We don’t have a national primary, we have state primaries. In Iowa right now Warren is less than a point behind Sanders for second place and less than five points behind Biden for the lead. She’s only slightly further behind in New Hampshire, and of course the outcome in NH is partially dependent on the outcome in IA. If she wins Iowa, she’s in business.

The thing is, publicity about the national polling could influence late deciders in both states. If Democrats nationally are settling on a Biden vs. Sanders race, that might sway some lefties in Iowa who are on the fence between Bernie and Warren. Or it could anticipate a trend we’re about to see in Iowa and New Hampshire. If Democrats nationally increasingly like what they see from Bernie and dislike what they see from Warren then go figure that voters in the early states might break the same way.

Two more numbers for you, apropos of nothing. Monmouth finds just 41 percent say Trump should be reelected versus 57 percent say it’s time for a new president. Not an insurmountable number for the GOP, but it’s mind-bending that anyone could start in a hole like that given the sort of economy Trump’s enjoyed for three years. Second, CNN asked people the question allegedly debated by Sanders and Warren in their now famous private conversation in 2018: Can a woman nominee beat Trump? Just nine percent of men said no — versus 20 percent of women who said so. Imagine if women end up being the deciding factor in Bernie’s favor in the battle for the left.

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