New polling shows Biden still has strong support among black Democrats; another poll shows Harris, Buttigieg, Booker, and Castro did best in the second debate; Booker’s campaign staff unionizes; Hickenlooper keeps his options open; and the DNC clarifies the qualification timing for October.


Show Transcript

Note: This is the speaking script for the show, so the audio as delivered will differ very slightly from the below. This script also does not include audio clips from third-party sources, or advertisements, which may appear at various points in the show.

New polling shows Biden still has strong support among black Democrats

First up today, let’s talk about a new poll. Quinnipiac conducted the poll from August 1st through 5th, nationwide, and focused on Democrats and what they call Democratic-leaning voters. There’s a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points, but in the data we’re about to get into that’s not gonna matter too much.

Okay, so among many other questions, the poll identified black Democratic voters and asked which candidate they preferred. This continues to be a vital question for this field, as voters of color are likely to determine this election. I should also note that Latinx voters, and other groups, are also important, but were not identified in this poll. Okay, so what’s the big headline? Well, basically, Joe Biden is still overwhelmingly popular among black voters.

Because I still find the actual question to be both illuminating and kind of funny, voters were asked this question. And yes, Quinnipiac hired real humans to call people on actual phones and literally say this, verbatim.

“If the Democratic primary for president were being held today, and the candidates were: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Julián Castro, Tulsi Gabbard, Jay Inslee, John Hickenlooper, John Delaney, Pete Buttigieg, Andrew Yang, Marianne Williamson, Wayne Messam, Tim Ryan, Seth Moulton, Michael Bennet, Steve Bullock, Bill de Blasio, Mike Gravel, Joe Sestak, and Tom Steyer, for whom would you vote?”

Incidentally, part of what’s weird about that question is the order in which the candidates are presented. It’s not the order in which they announced their candidacy, because Biden goes first, but he announced late. You might then think, well, maybe they ordered it by popularity from the last poll? Well, that’s definitely not it, because it’s got O’Rourke in third place, before people like Warren who consistently do better in polls. So anyway, I could not find anything in the methodology to explain this wacky ordering, but it is definitely not random, and not alphabetical, just kind of odd.

Anyway, you’re probably wondering what people thought. Well, reading from the analysis: “Biden gets 47 percent of black Democrats, with 16 percent for Sanders, 8 percent for Warren and 1 percent for Harris.”

But I’m actually a little surprised there, because Quinnipiac is leaving out some major candidates in their summary quote, which is what made headlines. There are three major black candidates in this field. They are Booker, Harris, and Messam. Of those three, Booker got less than 1 percent, Harris got 1 percent, and Messam got 2 percent.

Of the non-black candidates who are not Biden, Sanders does lead the pack at 16 percent, then you have Warren at 8, O’Rourke at 2, and a handful of others— Buttigieg, Delaney, Hickenlooper, and Yang—at 1 percent. Now, given the margin of error of just over 4 percent, everybody down there near the bottom is playing within that margin. The only people who exceed it are Biden, Sanders, and Warren, in that order. There are also some undecided black voters, which does make the math add up to 100 percent.

So this is, yet against, a reminder that you don’t have to look like the people you’re gonna represent. Biden has had strong support from black voters throughout this race, and even his comments about working with segregationists back in the day, or that 1994 crime bill thing, don’t seem to have hurt him at all among black voters.

Let’s take a look at another subgroup here that will be vital to the Democratic primary, which is Democratic women. I’ll read these results in descending order of preference.

Biden – 31 percent

Warren – 24

Sanders – 10

Harris – 7

Buttigieg – 5

Booker, Klobuchar, and O’Rourke – 2

Castro, Messam, Williamson, and Yang – 1

So, again, Biden is out ahead, but there is less of a lead on this one, with Warren real close behind him.

I do think it’s kinda notable that Mayor Wayne Messam of Miramar, Florida, who wasn’t in the debates, gets essentially zero media coverage, but is out there campaigning is showing up with these 1 and 2 percent results in subgroups, while you have candidates who were in the debates who don’t show up at all. Like, where’s Gillibrand in all this? Where’s Gabbard? Well, wherever they are, it’s apparently behind Messam with these subgroups in this poll. Now, it’s always possible that somehow, despite their statistical correction, the Quinnipiac folks accidentally called every member of the Messam Fan Club, but still, the number of major candidates who aren’t even a blip is sort of shocking.

Okay, one last thing here, which is the OVERALL post-debate standing. Now, this is ONE POLL, but it’s a pretty good one, and it’s one that I’ve reported on before. This is who would you vote for in the primary. Again, listing in descending order of preference:

Biden – 32 percent

Warren – 21

Sanders – 14

Harris – 7

Buttigieg – 5

Booker and O’Rourke – 2

Castro, Gabbard, Klobuchar, and Yang – 1

The other FOURTEEN CANDIDATES – less than 1 percent.

So the last analysis here seems to show Harris losing her first debate bump, plus Warren and Sanders hanging in there as strong second-place candidates. And, of course, Biden is the leader in this field. Despite predictions to the contrary, we have NOT seen Biden knocked out of the number one spot. What we HAVE seen is a lot of movement among Harris, Sanders, and Warren for that second-place spot. And I have to say, Warren is doing very well right now.

Poll shows Harris, Buttigieg, Booker, and Castro did best in second debate

Okay, one more polling story—this one is much shorter, don’t worry.

A Huffington Post-slash-YouGov poll of second debate viewers was conducted from August 1st and 2nd. And while YouGov doesn’t declare a specific margin of error, there is a link in the show notes to their complex math and logic about that issue. This was an ONLINE poll rather than a phone poll. Because of that, it covered 1,000 voters overall—more than most of the phone polls we typically see. I would also GUESS the margin of error is a little larger as well.

So the headline result from this poll comes from the question, “Did the debate IMPROVE-SLASH-WORSEN your opinion of any of these candidates? Select all that apply.”

Here’s what it boiled down to: Senator Elizabeth Warren picked up a net +44 percent improvement from the most recent debate. Meaning, if you took the 50 percent of respondents who said their opinion of her improved and subtract the 6 percent who said it worsened, she was comfortably in the green with +44. That’s BIG.

Below her are Mayor Pete Buttigieg at +24, Senator Cory Booker at +20, and Julián Castro at +17. Joe Biden has just a net +2 score. I also should mention John Delaney, who is an extreme outlier with a net -30 points. He was very visible on the first night of the most recent debate, and that perhaps did not help him. It’s likely that his sparring WITH WARREN contributed to both of their scores here—Warren said of Delaney during the debate, QUOTE, “I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for president of the United States just to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for.” END ZINGER.

Okay, when you take these numbers and try to line them up with the Quinnipiac results, or other recent polls, it’s not clear that the debates really changed voters’ minds all that much. Yes, Warren crushed it in the debates, at least according to this poll, and she’s doing better overall in national polls since the debate, but not by the same amount.

And there’s one final number from this online poll that I found very telling about how much we should invest our thoughts in polls at this point anyway. Reading from the Huffington Post story by Ariel Edwards-Levy:

“Only about half of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters now say they have even a “good idea” of whom they’ll vote for, although that’s up from 38% after the first debates in June.”

Yeah. So, we’re looking at maybe half the voters here with a semi-firm choice for their candidate, so…there is still a ton of room to move.

Booker’s campaign staff unionizes

Next up, Senator Cory Booker’s staff of roughly 60 people has unionized. They joined the Teamsters Local 238. Booker has applauded the move and collective bargaining has begun, with a contract agreement expected in a few weeks.

Booker’s campaign is not alone in this field in becoming unionized. Other notable primary campaigns that did so before are Castro, Sanders, Swalwell, and Warren. And we have heard rumblings that O’Rourke would support a union if such an effort went forward.

So, this is genuinely a historic thing. Sanders went first, and that was indeed the first unionized campaign staff in American history. That we now have five total candidates in the field—well, minus Swalwell, I guess—who have had union campaigns, that’s really something to celebrate, and potentially a new dynamic for campaigns to come.

Hickenlooper keeps his options open

Meanwhile, former Colorado John Hickenlooper is hedging his bets a little. There were reports last month that his campaign staff had urged him to drop out of the presidential race and run for Senate instead. That came after a major staff shake-up in which Hickenlooper lost much of his staff…perhaps because they thought he could not win.

Well, Hickenlooper is clearly aware that the Senate option might be more practical. Reading from a CNN article by Jeff Zeleny and Alex Rogers:

“John Hickenlooper, who has struggled to break through the crowded Democratic presidential field, spoke to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer late last week about running for the Senate from Colorado, a race he has resisted joining but is keeping an open mind about, a top aide tells CNN.
"He is still in the race for president, but he hasn't closed the door to anything," said Peter Cunningham, the communications director for the former Colorado governor.
The latest conversation between Hickenlooper and Schumer took place in New York, following the CNN presidential debates in Detroit. The two have spoken repeatedly about the Senate contest, but Hickenlooper has been insistent on keeping his presidential campaign alive.
Yet Hickenlooper is also facing the reality of not making the next debate in September, according to people familiar with his campaign operation. He is well behind in the number of donors and level of polling needed to qualify, they said.”

Throughout this primary, I have emphasized how early it is, and how it’s up to candidates to choose what they want to do. I should point out, though, that we are entering a time—namely the September and October debates—when it will be effectively too late for a candidate to make a real run without some kind of X Factor like Steyer’s billionaire status, or, I don’t know, maybe if The Rock decided to run?

So we really are approaching this August 28th deadline—which is the end of the qualifying period for the next debate—and I think candidates are genuinely looking at the exits. I am frankly surprised that more of them have not already walked out.

The DNC clarifies the qualification timing for October

Okay, so you just heard me say that August 28th is the deadline for candidates to qualify for the September DNC debates. That is true, and if somebody qualifies for September, they are also qualified for October. But. What about candidates who do NOT qualify for September? What specifically is their deadline to try to get into the October debate?

Well, the DNC has clarified that. Sort of.

So, the BEGINNING of the qualifying period was June 28th, meaning that any polling that happens between that date and August 28th is valid for September. The DNC sent a memo yesterday to campaigns telling them that June 28th is STILL the start date for qualifying for October. Well, good, that makes sense, that’s what we all thought.

Then they said that the END date for October’s debate qualification would be TWO WEEKS before the October debate. Okay, cool, that’s news, and it gives more breathing room for candidates to qualify for October. All right, so when is the October debate? No date has been set. So let’s do some speculative math for a moment.

Let’s say the October falls on debate falls on, say, October 7th. That’s a Monday, and it is the first Monday in October, so it seems fairly reasonable that that’s earliest it would go. Also, keep in mind that Yom Kippur falls on October 9th, so it would fit in fairly well on a Monday/Tuesday there, or possibly later in the following week, which also has Columbus Day on Monday.

ANYWAY, point being, let’s say they pick October 7th for the debate. That would mean that candidates had until Monday, September 23rd to pick up their 130,000 donors and their four poll results of 2 percent or more. That would be a nice extension, that’s handy for some of these campaigns that are on the bubble. I think it’s extremely likely that you’d see more campaigns hit the fundraising threshold—that is well within reach for a lot of them now—but the polling remains very difficult. Still, being able to run polls through late September is a heck of a lot better than thinking you’re going to have to cut them off in late August. This is another factor that may be keeping candidates in the race, hoping that lightning strikes.

The net effect here is that the October debates will likely feature MORE candidates than September, although my educated guess is that number might be something like one or two candidates. After October, all bets are off, since we don’t know what new criteria the DNC will come up with.


Well, that is it for one more episode of the Election Ride Home. I have been your host, Chris Higgins. You can always find me on Twitter @chrishiggins. Well, it’s a gloomy day in Portland, but in the middle of a blazing summer, I’ll take it. Have you ever had to take out a tree stump? Well, I have. And I’m gonna do it again. We had to cut down a willow tree that was attempting to visit our neighbors’ yards, but the stump is in a location that cannot be accessed by the good ol’ stump grinder. So, I have done my research, and I am going out there with a drill and a chisel and trying to do this the green way. This does feel very nineteenth-century, but I think I can make it work. Wish me luck, okay? As always, thanks for listening, and I will talk to y’all tomorrow.