This is an outlier but it ain’t *that* much of an outlier. No other survey tracked by RCP has had Harris as low as five percent nationally, but she’s been in single digits all month and has dipped as low as seven percent at least once. Her trajectory since the big surge after the first debate and the exchange with Joe Biden about busing has been a straight downward-sloping line, from a high of 15.2 percent in the RCP average on July 6 to 7.4 percent now.
That is, she’s lost more than half of her support in about six weeks. She’s actually lower in the polls now than she was all spring.
Maybe it doesn’t matter. If she engineered one big surge for herself with a great debate, presumably she can do it again. The counterpoint to that, though, is that as Democratic voters become more familiar with the candidates it becomes harder to make a strong impression on them with one standout moment on television. Harris surged after the first debate because, for many Dems, that was their very first look at her. What are they going to see at the next debate that they didn’t see at the last one, when Tulsi Gabbard gutted Harris for her record as California AG, to rehabilitate their opinion of Harris?
She’s lost 12 points(!) since CNN’s June survey, more than two-thirds of her support at the time. Harris is now fourth among nonwhite voters, the group she’s hoping will propel her to the nomination, scarcely ahead of Beto O’Rourke. Remember when she sneered after the last debate that Gabbard attacked her because she’s a top-tier candidate and Gabbard isn’t? If CNN is right, not only is she no longer a top-tier candidate, it’s actually easy at the moment to imagine Gabbard passing her in national surveys, however briefly.
I confess, I don’t get it. As effective as Gabbard’s attack was, it wasn’t so devastating that it singlehandedly knocked 12 points off of Harris’s national support overnight. The ratings for the debate weren’t even that high, so how many Democratic voters even saw the exchange? Something more has caused people to lose interest. Does she need to go back to attacking Biden on racial issues? Figure out a position on health care and stick to it for more than eight seconds? I’m mystified.
This is a good poll for Grandpa Joe, who’s up seven points from the same June survey that showed Harris’s surge. Clearly some of the voters who momentarily abandoned him for her have drifted back into his column. Still, his lead seems fragile: The attacks on him have driven his favorable rating all the way down from 54/22 in January 2018 to 34/38 now, according to a new NBC poll. Media coverage of him has obsessed over his habit of misstatements and whether they prove that he’s, ahem, “lost a step,” with even some Democratic apparatchiks starting to fret about it. He hasn’t been attacked explicitly over his age yet but that’s doubtless going to come eventually from one or more of the younger candidates, as Dem voters are concerned about it. It’s too useful a weapon to leave it on the table.
In fact, if you believe YouGov’s numbers, likable ol’ Joe isn’t even the most popular Democrat in the race anymore:
The sense one gets from the smart set is that Warren’s the real favorite in the race at this point despite Biden’s polling lead. Partly that’s because she’s the only candidate in the field whose support has grown steadily in the past three months and partly it’s because the most compelling reason to nominate Biden is out of his own control. He’s the electable one, we’re told repeatedly: His wife stressed that point in unusually stark terms while campaigning yesterday in New Hampshire (“You may like another candidate better, but you have to look at who is going to win”) and Biden himself stresses it in his new campaign ad below per the polling figures highlighted near the beginning of the spot. The thing about electability, though, is that it’s only true until it isn’t. If Warren continues to climb, perceptions of Biden’s electoral strength will disappear gradually; if she ends up pulling off a win or two in the early states, what’s left of those perceptions will disappear suddenly. And remember, she has yet to share a debate stage with Biden. Via the luck of the draw, they’ve ended up in separate groups for each of the first two debates. That’ll likely change next month and Dems will finally have a chance to size them up side by side. How will that work out for Sleepy Joe?