A new Monmouth poll has everybody flipping out

First up today, there is a new Monmouth national poll that has been making a LOT of waves. People are flipping out. Why? Mainly because it seems to show Joe Biden slipping big-time, while Sanders and Warren are both looking strong. So let’s dig into this poll, and figure out which parts of it matter and why.

So first up, methodology. This was conducted by Monmouth University, which is regarded very highly. I’ve reported on their polls many times before. They surveyed 800 adults via phone, including cellphones, between August 16th and 20th. Of that overall group, they selected 298 voters who self-identified as Democrats or leaning toward voting for a Democrat. The margin of error is relatively high at plus or minus 5.7 percentage points.

With that out of the way, here’s the big shocker that has caused politics nerds to get excited. Reading from the Monmouth release which does not carry a byline:

“The poll finds a virtual three-way tie among Sanders (20%), Warren (20%), and Biden (19%) in the presidential nomination preferences of registered Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters across the country. Compared to Monmouth’s June poll, these results represent an increase in support for both Sanders (up from 14%) and Warren (up from 15%), and a significant drop for Biden (down from 32%).”

Yeah. So this poll is the first, and so far ONLY, poll I’ve seen that shows this much of a swing—this inversion where Biden is not substantially ahead of Sanders and Warren. It’s interesting in part because the remainder of the field has remained pretty stable, so it sure does look like voters are re-allocating their preferences among these three candidates. Reading again from the release:

“Biden has suffered an across the board decline in his support since June.  He lost ground with white Democrats (from 32% to 18%) and voters of color (from 33% to 19%), among voters without a college degree (from 35% to 18%) and college graduates (from 28% to 20%), with both men (from 38% to 24%) and women (from 29% to 16%), and among voters under 50 years old (from 21% to 6%) as well as voters aged 50 and over (from 42% to 33%).  Most of Biden’s lost support in these groups shifted almost equally toward Sanders and Warren.”

In a word, wow. So, before we all flip out even more, even Monmouth’s pollster Patrick Murray himself reminds us:

“It’s important to keep in mind this is just one snapshot from one poll.  But it does raise warning signs of increased churning in the Democratic nomination contest now that voters are starting to pay closer attention.”

Okay, so the LAST national Monmouth poll—the one they’re comparing against, was released way back on June 19th. And let’s think for just a moment about what has happened between June 19th and now. Well, all the debates. And, yes, the Iowa State Fair. But nobody had seen a debate in the previous poll. I suspect that does matter.

The other thing we really have to keep in mind, especially with these headline-grabbing numbers around the picks for president is how the Margin of Error actually works. At 5.7 percent in either direction, this poll could be misreading the field substantially. And if you’re trying to compare two candidates, the polling can be wrong for BOTH of them, in EITHER direction. So for instance, Biden could in fact be up at around 24 percent, while Warren and Sanders could in fact be around 15 percent. That would be essentially a total miss in both directions.

We won’t really know what the deal here is until we get some more polling, but for right now, this poll IS an outlier. The question is whether it’s showing what is to come in the next wave of polls, or whether this was just a weird sample and, you know, noise in the system. My point there is that we should reduce the amount of flipping out for the moment, and keep an eye out for additional national polls—when we see those, we can start to see whether the polling average tends to agree, which will answer some key questions. And, to be clear, those questions are: One, is Biden still the front-runner; Two, are Sanders and Warren actually tied?; and Three, why? What specific factors led to all of this? We don’t have those answers yet.

But in the meantime, there are some other notable things about this poll for the lower-polling candidates. It is actually author Marianne Williamson’s first qualifying poll for September and October—she gets 2% here for the first time I’ve ever seen in a poll that the DNC recognizes. She has already hit the fundraising target, so she now joins that field of potential October debaters if she gets three more.

It’s also good news for Booker and Yang, who already qualified but each picked up an additional percentage point in this poll above a previous qualifying result. So for Booker, he was able to knock out a previous 3% result with this new 4% result, bringing his DNC polling average up to 3.25%. Similar story with Yang—he got 3% here, which knocks out an earlier 2% result, so his polling average is up to 2.5% at least as far as the DNC is concerned.

And by the way, the same thing technically happened for Sanders and Warren, as their 20% numbers in THIS POLL each knocked out earlier 19% results that they had for qualifying. So Sanders currently has a DNC polling average of 20.5% and Warren has 20%. So…that’s pretty good evidence that they ARE basically tied.

It’s also worth mentioning that, for Biden, this is the LOWEST POLLING RESULT WE HAVE EVER SEEN in ANY poll the DNC considers for debate qualification. That’s why it seems so odd to me, and why we should take a breath and see if other polls confirm it. By the way, Biden’s overall polling average for the DNC’s upcoming debates is still a whopping 36.75%. Again, that is just counting those DNC qualifying polls.

So, overall, should we be flipping out? Probably not. We SHOULD be waiting eagerly to see what other national polls say when polling more voters.

The Cherokee Nation is headed for Congress

Next up, a story I missed last week. The Cherokee Nation has decided to exercise a right that was promised to it roughly 184 years ago in a treaty with the federal government. What’s the right? Well, they can send a representative of their nation to Congress. Or at least, the treaty says they can, so they’re giving it a shot and we’re gonna have to see what the federal government does in response.

Okay, so context time. We gotta go all the way back to 1835 for this one. Here’s part of what happened. After decades of tension and war and severe mistreatment by the US government and the Georgia state government, the US really wanted to own all the Cherokee land in the southeast. Why? Well, lots of reasons, but one of them was that gold has been discovered on those lands.

After a whole bunch of stuff went down, the US federal government signed a treaty called the Treaty of New Echota with the Cherokee Nation. It was signed in Georgia, and forced members of that nation to relocate from the southeast US to what is now part of Oklahoma. That’s a distance of 1,200 miles.

That journey was called the Trail of Tears, because thousands of Cherokee people died making the trek from one point to another. It was essentially a forced march, because the majority of Cherokee people didn’t want to make the move, didn’t approve of the treaty itself, AND had been denied key rights under the treaty. But the US Senate forced the issue, and in the 1838 the US military captured Cherokee people and forced them to march.

Despite all the death on the trail, the nation did survive. Meanwhile, the US federal government had made a series of promises in that treaty, some of which President Andrew Jackson decided to get rid of after it was signed. Overall, the US got all the Cherokee lands east of the Mississippi River. In return, the Cherokee nation got a chunk of money around $5 million dollars, that land reservation in Oklahoma, a land grant of 160 acres per Cherokee citizen who chose to remain—that’s the part Jackson crossed out AFTER it was signed, and, “a delegate in the House of Representatives of the United States whenever Congress shall make provision for the same.”

Based on that last item, Cherokee Nation leader Chuck Hoskin Jr. nominated Kimberly Teehee, who is a member of the nation and also a former Obama advisor. Her nomination will be up for approval by the Cherokee National Council later this week, and then, if that proceeds, she is headed to Washington.

It’s unclear whether Teehee would have voting rights in the House. The treaty doesn’t say. There are currently six non-voting members in the House from Washington DC and various territories like American Samoa and Guam. Those members can debate, they can sit on and vote in committees, but they cannot vote on the floor. I’ll be interested to see how the voting issue plays out, and whether the government manages to keep this part of its historic promise.

Walsh loses his radio show

Shortly after radio show host and former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh announced his primary run, his radio show’s distributor announced it would pull the plug on his show. According to Radio Ink, in a story without a byline:

“Salem Radio Network is cancelling national distribution of the Joe Walsh Show on September 26[th]. Walsh affiliates will continue to receive the program from SRN during this 30-day period, and will be given the opportunity to continue airing it from a different syndicator, to be selected by Walsh. SRN may also offer a replacement for the Walsh program to any affiliates that choose not to continue with the Walsh program.”

Walsh himself apparently got this news right before heading into a CNN interview on the show Anderson Cooper 360, which was guest-hosted last night by John Berman. Here’s a snippet from that interview, listen in and Berman speaks first:


By deadline today, I couldn’t find much more than that. Essentially, the distributor says they’re done, and I haven’t seen an official comment from Walsh beyond that CNN clip.

I can speculate, though, that the distributor may have done this because of the FCC’s Equal Time Rule. When a radio or TV host decides to run for office, that DOES raise big problems. Reading here from David Oxenford’s Broadcast Law Blog:

“Once a candidate becomes "legally qualified" (i.e. he or she has established their right to a place on the ballot by filing the necessary papers), equal opportunities rights are available to the opposing candidates. What this means is that, if the on-air broadcaster who is running for political office stays on the air, any opposing candidate can come to the station and demand equal opportunities within seven days of the date on which the on-air announcer/candidate was on the air, and the opponent would be entitled to the same amount of time in which they can broadcast a political message, to be run in the same general time period as the station employee/candidate was on the air.”

The last time we talked about this particular issue was when Mayor Pete Buttigieg did an interview on Blair Garner’s country music show, and Cumulus Media refused to air it. Now, the difference between that and the Walsh situation is twofold. First, Buttigieg was a GUEST, so his total amount of air time would have been very low. If every other candidate in the field actually went to that station within seven days, then, yeah, they might have a case. But second, the Buttigieg interview fell into an explicit exception in the rule for interviews. So there really was no case there for other candidates there.

But when the host himself is running a political talk show, there IS a valid legal concern that this rule would apply, and it could lead to truly bizarre things, like President Trump or Bill Weld getting equal time. So…I’ll keep you posted, but my guess here is that the distributor did this mainly because of the FCC rule and not as some kind of retribution.

Kennedy might run for Senate

All right, this next one is super-quick. Joe Kennedy III is currently a Congressman representing the 4th district of Massachusetts. He is also, by the way, the grandson of RFK. Anyway, the gossip today is that he may choose to run for Senate instead, potentially replacing incumbent Democrat Ed Markey in the same state.

Now, this would a primary run at first, and it’s not confirmed, but it’s looking pretty likely. One reason it may not be a big topic for this show is that that’s already a Democratic seat—changing who holds it wouldn’t have any effect on the balance of the Senate. One thing to note, though, is the generational change aspect of all this. Kennedy is currently 38 years old while Markey, the incumbent, is 73.

So, just keeping you filled in for when somebody around the water cooler says, hey, did you hear that Bobby Kennedy’s grandson might be lookin’ at the Senate? Well, he might be. But that’s all we know right now.

The thirteenth Republican House member announces his retirement

And last up today, Republican Representative Sean Duffy, who represents Wisconsin’s seventh district in the House, has announced that he will retire late next month. His retirement comes due to health problems in his family.

He is the THIRTEENTH Republican House member to announce that he will not run again for the House in 2020. This is becoming a serious theme, and Republican chances of retaking the House majority after the blue wave of 2018 are now basically zero.

Now, to be fair, two people in that group are seeking other political offices, so it’s not like everybody’s just jumping ship and calling it quits. It’s also entirely possible that Duffy, and others, could return in future election cycles when prospects are looking a bit better. Duffy has often been mentioned as a potential Senate candidate, but that Wisconsin seat won’t be on the 2020 ballot.

After Duffy’s announcement, The Cook Political Report immediately switched the status of his seat in Wisconsin’s seventh district from “Solid Republican” to “Likely Republican.” So this is not a swing district by any means, but it does cause some disruption there. Reading from the Cook Political Report story by David Wasserman:

“Under Wisconsin law, Democratic Gov[ernor] Tony Evers must schedule a special election between 92 and 122 days of declaring a vacancy. But if he waits to declare a vacancy, he could schedule a special election on April 7[th], 2020 to coincide with Wisconsin's presidential primary and a state supreme court election. It's possible that Democrats' heated presidential primary could lead to a Democratic turnout advantage and make things more interesting.”

While flipping that seat seems unlikely to me, the last link in the show notes has more from Wasserman on why it might, maybe, in a long-shot, be possible.

Well, that is it for the one-hundredth episode of the Election Ride Home. I have been your host, Chris Higgins. You can always find me on Twitter @chrishiggins. All right, one hundred shows in the can. What do you think? What would you like more or less of? Find me on Twitter, or Facebook, or Instagram—all those links are up top in the show notes—and let me know. Also, if you want to express your love or lack of love for the show with an honest rating and review on Apple Podcasts or whatever podcast thing you use, I would appreciate that. For my part, a hundred shows feels great—I think I’m getting the hang of this. And that’s good, because I hear we have an election coming up? Is that something? I should really start paying attention to that. As always, thanks for listening, and I will talk to y’all tomorrow.