It’s getting hard to keep up with all of them. If you want to dump all early-early polls in the trash on grounds that Jeb Bush was a solid contender in GOP polling at this stage in late 2014, fair enough. They’re not strong predictors of whom the eventual nominee will be. But I think they have some value with respect to Warren specifically — not in terms of gauging her chances of winning, maybe, but in proving that she really has been damaged by her bizarre DNA stunt, and not merely with Republicans. A new poll of Iowa Democrats from David Binder Research:
Klobuchar (from nearby Minnesota) and Beto! are up, Biden and Warren are down. Warren was also down five points since October in the CNN poll that was published on Friday. And she’s underperforming in this new one from Democracy for America, a progressive PAC that pushed hard to get her to primary Hillary in 2016:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), meanwhile, has seen her stock slide among the group‘s members, according to the poll released Tuesday and obtained first by POLITICO. The Massachusetts senator, whose success in similar polling four years ago propelled DFA to help organize a massive but ultimately unsuccessful effort to draft her into the 2016 presidential campaign — was running fourth…
Leading the field was Sanders, with 36 percent support. He was followed by Biden at 15 percent and O’Rourke at 12 percent. Warren and Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), received 8 percent and 7 percent, respectively. No other potential candidate received more than 4 percent.
How much of this underperformance is due to the weird saga of her Native American ancestry and how much is due to other factors? The fact that multiple polls show her sliding in polling within just a few months suggests it’s related. But I’m intrigued that Warren’s decline has coincided with Beto O’Rourke’s momentary rise, as they’re not ideological twins. Warren is a solid economic progressive; Beto’s philosophy is murkier, as lefties are increasingly noticing. (“The thing I fear most about Beto is that he’s like Emmanuel Macron: super charismatic, runs a great campaign, really good at organizing and really good at speeches, but then on policy he’s going to surround himself with Wall Street bankers because he doesn’t have really strong ideas.”) The young charismatic guy with mushy liberal principles isn’t an obvious replacement for the older woman senator known for leftist economic populism.
But maybe the Warren boomlet of 2016 was misdiagnosed. Her economic policies supplied what leftists were seeking as an antidote to Clinton, but other less staunchly dogmatic liberals might have been drawn to her because she was, or would have been, the comparatively charismatic insurgent outsider battling for the soul of the party with Hillary. That appeal is gone now. The soul of the party will be a battle among many candidates and by no means will she be the most charismatic player on the field. Beto seems to have gobbled up the latter group, for now. Instead of asking why Warren’s pulling only five percent of the vote or so, we might ask why she’s pulling five percent at all. She can’t do economic populism like Bernie can, can’t do cultural progressivism like Harris can, can’t do inspiration like O’Rourke can. Her best hope might be as a compromise candidate. She can do all of those things serviceably well by lefty standards; if the field deadlocks, maybe she’s a way out that’s agreeable to all sides.
One more poll: A survey by She the People, a group of minority women political organizers, finds that 71.1 percent place Kamala Harris in their top three for president. Next highest is O’Rourke at just 38.3 percent. Warren is fifth at 22.3. (Bernie is seventh(!) behind Stacey Abrams, who might not even run.) Team Beto can view that glass as half full or half empty as it prefers. Half full: The Democratic nominee will need the enthusiasm of women and minority voters and he’s already built more than Joe Biden, former VP to the first black president of the United States. He’s even ahead of Cory Booker, one of the two black candidates soon to be in the race. Half empty: Harris is on nearly twice as many people’s shortlists as Beto is. Gonna be hard to beat her among this group. And in a field splintered among 10 candidates or more, one who can bank lots of votes among minority women may be unbeatable.