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Politico/Morning Consult poll: Nomination requires a majority of delegates, says ... a plurality of Democrats

It’s the question of the cycle, isn’t it? Which candidate can get Democrats get a majority of delegates? It’s a trick question, sort of, one which Joe Biden manages to avoid this morning on NBC’s Today. Savannah Guthrie asks the new quasi-frontrunner whether he feels “confident” that he can close the deal before Milwaukee. Biden never quite answers Guthrie:

It’s possible to get there, but it’s not going to be easy for either Biden or Bernie Sanders. They have to win 1,991 pledged delegates for a first-ballot win, and the latest pledged delegate count puts them both over 500, with 2,785 left to delegate. If they split those evenly, Biden would finish with 1959 and Sanders with 1904. Those delegates won’t split evenly, of course, but they also might split in other directions, too. Early voting means some dormant candidates might still draw off enough delegates to make a close race impossible to close out without a brokered convention.

Still, at least for the moment there’s a decent shot for both men to get to 1991, especially with Elizabeth Warren now out of the picture. That’s what will make a nomination legitimate, according to a new poll of Democratic voters from Politico/Morning Consult. By a 49/27 margin, Democrats want the nomination to only go to someone with an outright majority of delegates regardless of which round of voting is required to get there.

By the way, 49/27 is … ahem … a plurality:

As Democrats face the possibility that their national convention will open this summer without one of its presidential candidates having won a majority of delegates, half of Democratic voters think the eventual nominee should be required to reach that threshold.

That’s according to the latest POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, which found 49 percent of voters at odds with the stance of one of the frontrunners, Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has warned against the party’s superdelegates overriding “the will of the voters” at a contested convention.

Just over a quarter of Democratic voters, 27 percent, agree with Sanders’ position that a candidate should not necessarily need to clear the 1,991-delegate threshold to secure the nomination.

Talk of a contested convention creeps into nearly every presidential nominating cycle at some point, though it hasn’t happened in the modern primary era. But Tuesday’s slate of more than a dozen primaries — which, when all votes are accounted for, will have parceled out a third of all pledged delegates — initially did little to dispatch worries about the prospect of a contested convention.

If it comes down to it, though, Biden can afford to wait for a second ballot to get his majority. The superdelegates enter into the balloting at that point, raising the threshold for a majority to 2,376 delegates, but almost all of those would presumably go to the party-stalwart Biden. Sanders has to win on the first round of balloting, or else he’s toast and he knows it. That’s why Sanders is insisting that the delegate leader on the first ballot should get the nomination on that basis alone. The fact that only 27% of his fellow Democrats believe that makes that argument an even bigger long shot in Milwaukee’s rules committee.

Team Biden might like that topline number from the Morning Consult poll, but Democrats might want to pay particular attention to the other data within it. Skip over the horse-race material and look at the issues responses, and it paints a bleak picture for whomever wins the nomination, regardless of method. The top three issues for voters are the economy, security, and health care, and Democrats aren’t scoring well on most of those:

  • Trust on economy: Republicans in Congress 45/38
  • Jobs: GOP 44/39
  • Immigration: GOP 44/41
  • National security: GOP 47/37
  • Gun policy: Tie at 41

Democrats lead on health care 47/36, but they’ve also had more than a year in the House to lead on solutions and haven’t done anything with it. Unless the coronavirus tanks the US economy, Democrats are going to look empty-handed in November and lacking a good argument for changing directions.