Let me toss an idea at you and, if you don’t like it, you can give it right back: The Harris/Gabbard debate exchange on Wednesday is to 2020 what the Rubio/Christie debate exchange was to 2016. In both cases a longshot candidate torpedoed a promising top-tier candidate with real coalition-building potential, paving the way for the frontrunner to secure the nomination.
Nah, doesn’t quite work, I think. For one thing, it’s way too early still. Christie blew up Rubio on the eve of the New Hampshire primary, when the stakes were as high as could be, whereas right now we’re still six months away from the first votes being cast. Harris has time to regroup. And it wasn’t so much Christie who nuked Rubio, really, as Rubio who nuked Rubio. Christie called him out for using canned talking points — and Rubio walked right into the attack by reverting again to canned talking points. It was basically self-sabotage.
The Gabbard/Harris exchange, by contrast, was a true attack. Tulsi filleted her.
Maybe it’s time for Officer Harris to find a new beat.
Post-debate Morning Consult Dem WH poll (conducted 8/1)
— Steve Kornacki (@SteveKornacki) August 2, 2019
Follow the last link and you’ll find that every candidate is still within one or two points of where they stood on July 25th — except for Kamala, who’s declined three points to 10 percent. After her big show at the first debate, when she got the better of Biden on busing, she bounced out to 15 percent in the RCP poll of polls. Today she’s down to 11 percent on average and even lower than that in the Morning Consult data above, whereas Joe Biden is aloft with roughly one-third of the overall vote, in line with where he’s been since he got into the race. Harris is slowly headed in the wrong direction.
In fact, a Twitter pal suggested today that Grandpa Joe is starting to look a bit like Mitt Romney 2012. No one loves him and he’s going to take shots in debates, but in the end he may end up as the nominee by default, the “safe choice” who’s broadly acceptable to pretty much everyone. There may be something to that.
Although there’s a now-versus-then difference there too. It’s often forgotten that the 2012 GOP primary saw several flavors of the month, including Herman Cain, zoom past Romney in the polls during the early stages only to fall back to earth. Biden hasn’t experienced anything like that yet. He saw his lead decline after the first debate but now it’s increased again to pre-debate levels. In that sense he might be more like Trump 2016, a guy who takes a bit of damage periodically but shakes it off, and never ends up relinquishing his advantage.
Maybe the biggest news in the new poll, though, are the dogs that didn’t bark. Cory Booker had a strong night on Wednesday taking it to Biden — and has nothing whatsoever to show for it, if you believe Morning Consult. Pete Buttigieg, allegedly a top-tier candidate, remains mired in the five percent range after months of hype (although I suppose any candidate with this sort of dough in the bank can’t be written off). And despite making a splash online and earning praise from the chatterati on both sides for her performance on Tuesday, America’s sweetheart, Marianne Williamson, is still creeping along with just one percent of the vote. Dem primary voters have a much more robust immunity to celebrity kooks than Republican ones do, apparently. At least until Oprah gets in.
In lieu of an exit question, here’s another blast from Marianne’s past. You’ll be hearing about it from the rest of the field if/when she does start to gain traction in polling.