The Dems' Socialist moment arrives: Sanders moves out to dominating WaPo/ABC poll lead too

It turns out that yesterday’s NBC/WSJ poll was no outlier, and that the Socialist moment might well and truly be on Democrats. In today’s Washington Post/ABC national poll, not only has Bernie Sanders taken the lead in the Democratic primary, he gets twice as much support as his closest rival, Joe Biden, at 32/16. The real fight at the moment is for first runner-up, and it’s not with the stars of Iowa and New Hampshire, either:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), on the strength of his performances in Iowa and New Hampshire, has surged nationally and now holds a sizable lead over all of his rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll.

Former vice president Joe Biden, who led Sanders in a Post-ABC national poll in January, has seen a sharp drop in his support after finishing fourth in the Iowa caucuses and fifth in the New Hampshire primary. Biden is now in a battle for second place with former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

Former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg, who won the state-delegate-count battle in the Iowa caucuses and came a close second to Sanders in New Hampshire, is in single digits nationally, roughly even with Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), whose surprise third-place finish in New Hampshire further scrambled the Democratic contest.

First, let’s remember that where this poll stood just one month ago. Joe Biden had the 32% share of the Democratic primary voters, with Sanders at 23% and Warren coming in third at 12%. Bloomberg, Buttigieg, and Klobuchar were all in single digits, and the latter two still are. If the trends suggest anything, it’s that Bloomberg has succeeded in eating into Biden’s support, while some of that support has also fled to Sanders.

The more surprising information comes from the crosstabs on the primary choice among Democrats and leaners. Sanders leads among the “liberal” contingent (39/19 over Warren) as expected, but now Sanders is winning the “moderate/conservative” contingent as well, 28/21 over Biden. Bloomberg, by the way, is the only other candidate to score double digits with the moderate/conservative demo (17%); Klobuchar only gets 8% and Buttigieg 7%. That does not bode well for their Super Tuesday chances, although both might still have time in Nevada and South Carolina to develop some momentum.

Speaking of South Carolina, Biden’s still considering it his firewall thanks to the large African-American vote there. This poll shows Biden still leading in that demo, but only barely — 31/28 over Sanders, with Mike “Stop and Frisk” Bloomberg in third place with 15%. Klobuchar and Buttigieg practically disappear in this demo, scoring under the margin of error; Tom Steyer scores better than both put together at 5%.

In fact, the African-American demo is almost the only one Sanders doesn’t win outright; the only other example is voters over 50, which Bloomberg wins 23/20 over Biden with Sanders third at 14%. Men (32/19 over Biden), women (33/16 over Warren), college graduate (24/16) and non-graduate (38/16), income below 50K (39/17) or above it (27/15), Sanders wins them all.

That’s just among Democrats, though. What happens if Democrats name a socialist to the top of the ticket? It’s going to be a problem:

If he were to become the nominee, about half of all Americans say it makes no difference in their vote that Sanders is a socialist, including about 7 in 10 Democrats. But nearly 4 in 10 adults say that fact makes them more likely to oppose him, including 37 percent of independents and 79 percent of Republicans. Just under 1 in 10 adults say it makes them more likely to support him. Views of Sanders’s identification as a democratic socialist are slightly less negative.

Sanders wins the head-to-head with Trump in this poll among all registered voters, 51/45, and that includes 50/45 among independents. Where those votes come from matters greatly, however. Sanders beats Trump among urban voters 61/34, but he only ties Trump in the suburbs 49/49. (So does Biden, for that matter.) Democrats will need a better gap in the suburbs to beat Trump in the Electoral College, and a heavy dose of Bernie’s socialism in the campaign will likely erode that. Bloomberg (50/47), Buttigieg (49/47), and Klobuchar (48/47) do slightly better among suburban voters than Sanders does, but the differences are minimal, and no one does better than Sanders or Biden among urban voters.

Actually, at least geographically, Democrats might still want to rethink their abandonment of Biden. He scores best among rural voters, by the way, being the only Democrat to get to 40% with them (Sanders gets to 35%). Biden, Sanders, and Bloomberg all get majorities in mythical head-to-head contests against Trump, but Biden looks like the one candidate who could make that work in the Electoral College.

Don’t count out Trump, either. Ignore the head-to-heads for now and look at his numbers on the economy. He gets a 52/40 approval rating, 56/38 among independents, and Trump’s in positive territory in most non-partisan demos. Women (45/47), 18-29YOs (40/48), post-grads (44/52) are the main exceptions, but even in urban areas his disapproval on the economy is surprisingly shallow (44/51). In the end, more people vote their pocketbook than their taste, and if Democrats put up an outright socialist who wants to dismantle an economy that’s working for most people, they’re going to lose. And lose big, perhaps all the way down the ballot.

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David Strom 6:40 PM | February 29, 2024