Maybe it’s a bum sample. After all, only once in the past six weeks of polling has she been as high as second nationally. But there’s at least a chance that it’s the start of a belated (too belated) trend: This is the first national poll conducted after last Wednesday’s debate, when she gutted Mike Bloomberg onstage before one of the largest audiences for a primary debate in U.S. history. The enthusiasm for her afterward produced a huge fundraising windfall. It’s not inconceivable that she’s suddenly back in the game and on the rise as an option for Not Bernie voters.
Which is probably good news for Sanders, actually. (Everything’s good news for Sanders right now, it seems.) Warren’s not taking his voters, who worship him; she’s probably taking voters from the likes of Buttigieg and Klobuchar. That is, she’s contributing to the muddle in the middle, hoping to become the quasi-centrist alternative to Bernie. More candidates dividing the centrist vote means an easier path to victory for Sanders, the candidate who’s consolidated progressives.
But just the possibility that Warren has a little momentum stirring is interesting, especially with another debate set for tomorrow night. Even with her recent donations surge, she can’t compete with Bernie or Bloomberg financially. If she wants to make a game-changing impression on a vast audience of Democrats, it’s on TV at the debate or bust. She’s destined to flambé Bloomberg again since that worked so well for her last week but there’s real suspense at this point as to whether she’ll come hard at Bernie too. It’s the last possible minute to hit him hard, but she’s effective while attacking. If she wants to distinguish herself amid a throng of centrist alternatives, laying Sanders out is the only way left.