“It’s a long race,” yadda yadda, but I don’t know how anyone can disagree with this after the last few days of polling:
Until Biden announced on April 25, he’d been polling in the mid- to high 20s. After his announcement, his numbers in the three national polls taken surged considerably. He hit 36 percent in Morning Consult, good for a 14-point lead on Bernie Sanders. He touched 38 percent in Quinnipiac, 27 points head of Sanders. Then he reached 39 percent in CNN, a 24-point advantage on Bernie.
“Could he cross the 40-percent mark?” wondered data nerds. They can stop wondering. He can and he has, per Harvard/Harris:
Forty-four percent of Democratic voters surveyed said they are most likely to vote for Biden in the 2020 Democratic primaries. Sanders comes in second place at 14 percent, while Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) places third with just 9 percent, the poll found.
The survey results show a surge for Biden since he launched his presidential campaign last week. A Harvard CAPS/Harris survey from March pegged his support in the primary field at 35 percent, though at the time, he hadn’t yet entered the race…
When it comes to who voters think has the best chance of beating President Trump in the 2020 general election, Biden still has a significant lead, with 40 percent of respondents saying so. Sanders comes in after the former vice president at 13 percent.
The sample was small which means the margin of error was large, but even if Biden’s strength is being overestimated here this would still be in line with the polls from earlier this week placing him in the high 30s with roughly three times Sanders’s support. In fact, I wonder if Bernie’s persistent weakness lately isn’t a bigger story than the Biden bounce. You can explain Biden’s surge in terms of universal name recognition, loads of residual goodwill from the Obama years, and a surprisingly smooth and effective launch. He’ll hit turbulence eventually. Bernie sinking into the mid-teens in poll after poll is harder to explain, though. He’s well-known from 2016, has famously ardent fans, and has been anointed the avatar of the democratic socialist movement whose moment has allegedly arrived. Turns out all of that is good for about 13 percent with Biden in the race. Even if you ceded all of Elizabeth Warren’s support to him, he looks to be a 25-30 percent candidate. But of course not all of Warren’s support would go to Bernie if she dropped out tomorrow. And considering that she actually led him by a point in the Quinnipiac poll I mentioned, her fans are just as entitled to wonder how well she’d be doing if he was the one who dropped out.
To put all of that another way, the Biden/Bernie clash has been touted as a death match between neoliberal centrism and progressivism, the immovable object versus the irresistible force. Biden looks like he might have enough support to resemble an immovable (or at least not easily movable) object. But in what plane of reality does Sanders seem like he’s riding an irresistible force? He’s polling considerably worse than he did three years ago, in some surveys with less than a third of the support he enjoyed at the time. If Berniemania really is a thing, why isn’t there stronger evidence of it now that the field is more or less set? Bernie fans have spent the past few years insisting that Trump did as well as he did in 2016 only because he had the great good luck to run head-to-head against a candidate as feeble as Hillary Clinton. But Trump wasn’t the only populist phenom with that good luck, now was he?
Here’s a different set of numbers from YouGov:
Sanders is the only candidate there who’s declined over the past week. That’s a small sample too — note that O’Rourke and Booker have declined over the span of two weeks whereas Bernie’s actually gained a point — but it’s ominous for him that Warren is suddenly up five and almost even with him. She may be benefiting from an “anti-Biden” sentiment among left-leaning voters who dislike Uncle Joe for whatever reason and were inspired by his announcement to shop around for someone who can beat him. According to Bernie fans, that someone is Sanders. According to the Democratic electorate, it might not be. Give the rest of the field six more months to catch up to Bernie in name recognition and then ask yourself, judging by the numbers here, what reason there is to think he’ll still be the consensus second choice of primary voters instead of Warren or Harris or even Buttigieg.
In lieu of an exit question, go read WaPo’s account of Bernie’s 1988 visit/honeymoon in — where else? — the Soviet Union. WaPo also dug up some quotes from his trip the following year to — where else? — Cuba. A taste:
“Under Castro, enormous progress has been made in improving the lives of poor people,” Sanders said before leaving, while noting “enormous deficiencies” in democratic rights. While he failed in his goal to meet Fidel Castro, he returned home with even greater praise than he had for the Soviet Union.
“I did not see a hungry child. I did not see any homeless people,” Sanders told the Burlington Free Press. While Cuba was “not a perfect society,” he said the country “not only has free health care but very high-quality health care . . . The revolution there is far deeper and more profound than I understood it to be. It really is a revolution in terms of values.”
If he didn’t have a potential general election to worry about in 2020, is there any doubt he’d be all-in on Maduro in the standoff with Juan Guaido?