What the post-debate polling says

First up today, now that we are more than four days out from the September DNC debate, we are starting to get decent data about how debate-watchers perceived the event. You may recall that on my Friday wrap-up of the debate, my big point was that I thought nothing really changed in the big picture, with the minor exception of a few lower-polling candidates getting small increases.

Okay, so right after the debate there were various flash polls and instant-response things, but I’ve been waiting for an actual poll with serious grownup methodology. And now FiveThirtyEight has partnered with Ipsos to provide a snapshot of voters before and after the debate. This includes people who did and DID NOT watch, which is kind of interesting, and they used an online Ipsos platform to do the polling—this was NOT a traditional phone poll, which let them do a much larger sample. The margin of error is kind of complex—link in the show notes—but to make it simpler let’s call it a little under 2 percent, plus or minus, for the group of “likely Democratic primary voters,” which is the group we really care about right now.

The main thing to talk about is the number of people considering voting for a given candidate. In the poll, the headline here is, “Who gained (and lost) support,” and it shows the change in a graph from before the debate to after it. It also pointed out that respondents could pick multiple candidates, so this response should be fairly generous. It’s asking if you MIGHT consider voting for ANY of these folks. Pick as many as you like. Given that the question was asked both before and after the debates, the results seem notable.

First up, the tiny bumps. Here’s a list of lower-polling candidates who gained just a tad. O’Rourke got a 0.5% bump, Yang got 0.8%, Booker got 1%, Klobuchar got 1.3%, and Buttigieg got 1.5%. Of the losses, Harris lost 2.5%, Sanders lost 1.6% percent, Castro lost 1.1%, and Biden lost 0.8%.

Okay, so I just read you a bunch of numbers that are almost all below the margin of error of this poll. The only one that really escapes it is Harris losing 2.5%, which is about a tenth of her overall support. But there is one candidate I haven’t mentioned yet, and that’s Warren, who gained 2.4%—she was the only candidate in the top three to gain any points. But the points she gained are barely outside the margin of error, and don’t change her status as being in second place behind Biden, but ahead of Sanders in third.

So you have to start asking, what does that all add up to? I would argue, again, nothing. In the broad layout of where these people stand, the debate appears to have been a non-factor. Or at best a tiny realignment near the bottom.

There are also numbers in the poll about favorability ratings—essentially, how you FEEL about a given candidate, regardless of whether you plan to vote for them—and there were some changes there outside of the margin, with the best pickups for Buttigieg, Klobuchar, O’Rourke, Warren, and Booker in that order. Links in the show notes for a bunch more analysis of all that great debate polling and that stuff about favorability.

The oldest candidates promise to release medical records

This next one’s a super-quick item. The three oldest Democratic presidential candidates remaining in the field, who also happen to be at the top of the polls, have each promised to release their medical records prior to the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses.

For the record, Sanders is the oldest in the field at age 78, Biden is 76, and Warren is 70. In a report for CNN, each campaign independently said that they’ll release the records at some point prior to any voting occurring.

When asked about his medical records after the recent debate, Biden said he would release them, and also offered to wrestle with the reporter who asked.

Yang’s scores post-debate donations

As I reported on Friday, Andrew Yang expanded his Universal Basic Income program via a contest announced at the DNC debate in his opening remarks. This drew a mixed reaction within the room. But his campaign had some interesting results from that effort. Now, the first thing to note here is that this UBI expansion will presumably cost at least $1.2 million [CORRECTION: $120,000] dollars over the course of one year, plus whatever cost the contest administration might incur, so there is a future expense to offset there.

But still, reading from an article in Politico by Alex Thompson:

“Andrew Yang’s surprising debate gambit — giving away $120,000 [dollars] to 10 families over a year to highlight his universal basic income proposal — helped the outsider candidate raise $1 million [dollars] in the 72 hours since the debate and collect more than 450,000 email addresses from people who entered the online raffle, the presidential campaign told POLITICO.
The campaign said that over 90 percent of the email addresses are new, a huge expansion of the candidate's email list. He also gained more Twitter followers over the course of the debate than any other candidate.”

Now, why does this matter specifically? Well, the Politico article handily includes that as well, without me having to dig through the FEC fundraising database. Yang raised $2.8 million dollars in the entire second quarter of this year. So for him to raise $1 million dollars in 72 hours of the THIRD quarter implies that his third quarter performance will be significantly stronger than Q2. Now, that HAS to be the case for any candidate to remain viable at this stage, but still, it’s a positive indicator for Yang.

In an amusing twist, when I was writing this report, the Politico article itself had ads in the right-hand column for Yang’s giveaway, encouraging me to go click to enter. The ads were provided by Google. Unfortunately, because I’m reporting on all this stuff, I cannot enter the contest. After a few minutes, the ad did re-load and turned into an ad for deeply discounted McDonald’s food in Portland. So, good job, Google.

Buttigieg’s new plan for disaster preparedness

This morning, Mayor Pete Buttigieg released a plan titled, “Resilient Communities: A New Disaster Preparedness Approach.” It’s essentially a targeted expansion of his climate change plan, and after a long preamble about recent hurricanes and floods, Buttigieg writes the three key points his new plan encompasses:

“(1) Improve coordination between and among communities and federal agencies to help people in need.
(2) Create a culture of resilience, by fortifying our infrastructure right now and encouraging smart adaptations that will save money and lives when catastrophe strikes.
(3) Improve immediate disaster relief for after a disaster hits.”

In the rest of the plan, Buttigieg proposes creating a “Disaster Commission” to study the issue and make recommendations. The idea there is that, right now, there are a bunch of federal, state, and local organizations that are semi-coordinated. He would have this commission look at all of them and try to figure out how to make them work together better. He would also create permanent disaster relief funding, under the assumption that disasters will continue to happen, so we might as well budget for them. He suggests one option would be block grants within the Department of Housing and Urban Development, but admits it is, “one good proposal but not the only possibility.”

In the next section, he talks at great length about beefing up local efforts to organize around disaster preparedness within communities. This is close to my heart, as Portland is sitting around waiting for a mega-earthquake that may or may not hit at any moment, and we have this big system of volunteers who are organized to provide help when that happens. Buttigieg would help fund those, plus would fund individual efforts to create micro-preparedness. In other words, providing some money for folks who want to install things like solar panels WITH LOCAL POWER STORAGE, in case they want to keep that reserve just in case the grid goes down. In addition to that, he has a section on improving disaster-related insurance, which, if you’re ever been through trying to make an insurance claim related to a flood or a storm, uh, it could use improvement.

In the final section, Buttigieg proposes defending the FEMA budget, adding some technology improvements to FEMA’s toolkit, and upgrading 911 emergency service. He then provides 30 footnotes, some of which are pointers to existing legislation that he would like to see passed.

There is no overall section on cost or funding for this plan, though there are scattered mentions of what certain pieces would cost. But I have to say, the key argument that Buttigieg makes is that disasters create tremendous economic burdens—we’ve already seen that—and we know these happen regularly. So he suggests actually planning to pay for that in advance. The other part of his point is that a commission should study the issue first, and then make recommendations based on what they find. This does seem logical given that we might not have all the data we need right now to provide a dollar figure.

Harris slow-jams the news

Look, I’m gonna admit right up front, this segment is just for fun. But, sometimes you need a dash of fun.

Last night, Senator Kamala Harris went on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, and joined in on his classic segment Slow Jam the News. I’m just gonna play you a short segment here, and believe me, there is way more where this came from in the YouTube link in the show notes. Listen in, and yes, every time a candidate does this, I will include a snippet on the podcast:


Details on the October DNC debate

Last up today, now that the September debate is behind us, let’s talk about October. The DNC has announced some details. Of course, the dates we already knew—those are October 15thand probably 16th—but now we have a definitive location. The debate will be held at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. Also, there are TWO media co-sponsors for this debate: both CNN andThe New York Times.

At the moment, we know the moderators will include Anderson Cooper and Erin Burnett from CNN, as well as Marc Lacey of the New York Times. We don’t have any details on format or other stuff, though I would imagine those will have a LOT to do with whether this is a two-night event, and if so, how long each night’s event will be.

But we do know how we can watch.

Reading here from the DNC’s press release on how to view the debates:

“The debate will air live on CNN, CNN International, CNN en Español, and stream on CNN.com‘s homepage and NYTimes.com’s homepage. In addition, the debate will be available across mobile devices via CNN’s and The New York Times’s apps for iOS and Android, via CNNgo apps for Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, Chromecast and Android TV, SiriusXM Channels 116, 454, 795, the Westwood One Radio Network and National Public Radio. Our broadcast partners are fully committed to providing accessible communications for deaf and disabled audiences as well.”

Now, we’ve seen this radio inclusion before, but this is the first time in this primary season that NPR will get in on the act as a debate-night broadcast platform.

Okay, one more important note on this debate and what comes next. The DNC will hold a debate in October, November, and December—that much we know, and more than that we really don’t. We do know that the DNC has committed to a dozen debates in total, so that gives us six scheduled or completed debates in 2019, and presumably pushes the rest to 2020. But this does start running right up into actual voting. You’ll have some absentee voting start as early as January, and of course, February has the Iowa and Nevada caucuses, plus primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

My point here is that candidates are looking at a pretty stark reality right now. They have three DNC debates left on the calendar before people start voting. It’s possible—and I think likely–that the DNC will host at least one event in January, though we don’t know what the qualifying criteria will be past the October debate. It’s quite possible that they’ll set the bar so high that we’ll see a field of five or fewer candidates from November onward.

So, keep an eye on the calendar. In the show notes, I have included a nice Voxcalendar that lays out the known dates that are coming up, on a web page that is updated when new stuff comes in. That’s a good thing to bookmark, and a good reminder that the clock is ticking.

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. Just before I stepped into the recording booth today, I learned that Cokie Roberts, whose voice I’ve listened to on NPR for decades, has died at age 75. Reading a story about her from NPR this morning, one quote stuck out at me that I think is relevant to this show and why I do this. Roberts told Kentucky Educational Television in 2017 the following.

“I do feel strongly that informing the voters about what's going on, trying to explain it in ways that people can understand and putting the issues out there is a form of participation.”

As always, thanks for listening, and I will talk to y’all tomorrow.