How Warren has been doing in the polls

First up today, a look at how Senator Elizabeth Warren has been doing in the polls. This one got lost last week in the shuffle, but it is an ongoing story that really needs to be covered. So, here we go, top story.

The big picture here is that, if you look at essentially any polling, there is a persistent rise for Warren. Now, there are lots of ways to look at polling, and we’ve discussed some of those on the show at great length. But the simplest and perhaps biggest of the two are national polls and state-by-state polls, the latter focusing on the earliest voting states.

If the question we’re trying to answer is, who might win the primary…well, in that case the state-by-state numbers are probably more important. But if we’re trying to ask who does the public THINK might win the primary, or perhaps, who would the public at large support in the primary, that’s where national numbers come in.

And the national numbers are clear. Today, looking at The Economist’s national poll average, which includes data through September 29th as I record this, Warren is at 21% nationally. That puts her behind Biden who has 27%, but puts her ahead of Sanders who has 16%. The only other candidates who even get a percentage printed in The Economist’s graph are Buttigieg at 7% and Harris at 6%. Okay, so those are national numbers, and they also show the trend over time since the beginning of this year. I encourage you to go look at those trends, because those wavy lines tell a bunch of stories. But I can summarize a few of them by saying, Warren is clearly on the rise RIGHT NOW and has been since around March. Biden has been declining since June. And Sanders has also declined since around April. I can’t predict that those trends will continue, but if we look at the data so far, that’s definitely what has happened.

So, long story short, Warren is six points behind Biden and rising, she’s five points ahead of Sanders, and both of her top rivals are declining in the polls right now. If you go back to the source data, which The Economist helpfully provides, you see that in many of these national polls, Warren and Biden are either tied or relatively close. They even swap places in some polls, with Warren ahead or behind. Now, the varying margins of error mean that Warren and Biden are headed for a tie. And with Biden’s numbers dipping and Warren’s increasing, well, past that tie, Warren could become the front-runner.

Now, yet another way to look at the numbers is the betting markets. Yes, it is for some reason legal to bet on who will be the president of the US, or even the nominee, or lots of other stuff. By the way, one of my favorite podcasts of all time was based on that premise explicitly. Shout-out here to Election Profit Makers, which covered all of this back in 2016. Anyway, what are the betting odds right now? Well, Warren is massively ahead with a 50% shot at the nomination, according to the markets. Behind her at 20% is Biden, and then Yang at 10%, Sanders at 9%, Buttigieg at 7%, and then everybody else. The other notable move there is that the betting markets have gone UP for Warren lately, in a way that seems to respond to that consistent upward movement in her polling.

Okay, so the next big thing is the state-by-state polls. Reading here from an article in New York Magazine by Eric Levitz:

“…[I]n the early voting states — where each campaign’s resources have been concentrated — the picture looks much dimmer for the former vice-president. At the start of July, Biden’s average support in Iowa was 26 percent; today, it’s just 20. Warren now leads the field in the Hawkeye State by nearly three points in [the RealClearPolitics] polling average. And surveys from New Hampshire tell a similar story: As of mid-July, Biden was leading Warren there by an average of 22 points; now, he leads by an average of three. And [a] Monmouth University poll released this week has Warren ahead of him by two.”

And if you keep digging into those state-by-state averages, you see a mixed story, but one that is certainly encouraging for Warren especially in the EARLIEST states. So in Iowa, the first caucus, she’s got the lead. I looked through the RealClearPolitics state-by-state averages for Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, California, Texas, and Massachusetts. The long and short of it is, she leads in Iowa but nowhere else. Now, she is VERY competitive in most of those, and the structure of the Democratic primary is that you get a portion of the delegates from any given state as long as you can get at least 15% of the vote in that state. So given that, you can build a solid mathematical case that Warren and Biden are going to come out of the early voting states with fairly similar delegate numbers. Of course, we do still have five months to go, and this would be the season for something dramatic to happen.

Okay, so the last metric that I think is worth examining around Warren is this idea of first and second choice. Meaning, at this stage in the race a TON of voters are open to multiple candidates. Yes, I know, I’ve heard from many of you who are key supporters of just one, and that’s great, but there are a LOT of people out there who have a top pick and then a list of other people who would be just fine by them. And if you add up the first and second choices in many of these contests—most notably a California survey by the LA Times—Warren is often leading those. In that California survey, she actually leads in first place, AND second place choice, AND, of course, she leads when you add those two numbers together. This kind of showing seems to suggest that she is acceptable to a bunch of voters, just in case she ends up being one of the few options presented.

I have linked a bunch of pieces about Warren’s polling in the show notes at the top, and they’re worth a read if you’re curious about the state of the race from the polling perspective.

It looks likely that soon, Biden will not be the clear front-runner he has been so far, but that he’ll have serious competition among this top tier of candidates. And right now, although Sanders is also VERY MUCH in this mix and probably about to announce a great fundraising quarter, Warren is Biden’s most serious challenger according to the polling data I’ve seen.

The October DNC debate will be on one night only

Next up, we have some more information on the October debate. Hard to believe October begins tomorrow, and then the debate itself is precisely two weeks later.

So here’s what we know. The DNC emailed the relevant campaigns on Friday. In an article for Politico, Zach Montellaro published some of that email. Reading here from that:

“To address several inquiries we have received we are writing to let you know that, pending a final decision after the certification deadline, it is the intention of the DNC and our media partners to hold the October debate over one night on Tuesday October 15th.”

Politico reached out for a comment, and the DNC confirmed the memo. So, that’s that.

In a CNN story by Kyle Blaine, a DNC official gave this statement on background:

“Our goal has always been to expand viewership, and we also believe that one night worked well for this last debate.”

Meaning, hey, it sure was simpler to deal with one night in September, let’s go ahead and do that in October. Now, TECHNICALLY they have not said this means everybody is on stage AT THE SAME TIME. In theory, you could end up with two sets of six, but I think that would be messier than just putting twelve people all in a row. But, just putting that out there, I haven’t the DNC explicitly say that the candidates will appear TOGETHER onstage on that one night.

So. That’s what we know, that debate day is Tuesday, October 15th, mark your calendars.

The precarious position of lower-polling candidates

In an article for New York Magazine, Gabriel Debenedetti made the case that many of the lowest-polling candidates will have to drop out soon. And specifically, it’s not just because today marks the end of Q3, which is major fundraising moment, but because of how the impeachment stuff last week has dominated media coverage and will likely continue to do so. Reading from the article:

“By Tuesday, when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi formally announced the move, it was clear to aides of most of the 18 at-least-semi-serious remaining Democratic campaigns that, with the country’s attention squarely on Capitol Hill and the White House, they’d suddenly fallen further off the national radar than ever before. By Thursday, that attention was even more intensely focused, and a handful of campaign operatives began ringing internal alarm bells so loudly that their candidates had no choice but to start reckoning with the painful reality that no one cares about them right now. By the end of the week, in campaign offices scattered across the country, senior-level operatives finally sat down in small groups to discuss what the path forward now looks like for their campaigns — or, in some cases, whether they have realistic ones at all. A senior aide to one campaign described his team’s Friday gathering as “a ‘we’re [bleeped], what do we do?’ meeting.””

And yes, I bleeped that word.

So, look, the three factors here are fundraising, media coverage, and polling. Arguably there’s a fourth factor which is the debates, but honestly all of these factors are intrinsically tied. If you’re not getting media coverage, you’re probably not getting much in the way of polling. Same with fundraising—it’s difficult to raise money if nobody is talking about what you’re doing. And then if you don’t have that polling or that fundraising, you’re not on the debate stage because those are the two things you need to meet the requirements…and that further drives the vicious circle. Reading again from the article:

““The media, prior to this, was already making it a three-to-five person race, and now there’s a solar eclipse of a story that will make it really, really difficult to drive any message,” says Glen Caplin, who was a senior advisor to Kirsten Gillibrand’s campaign. “The entire conversation now is going to be driven around Trump and impeachment, and it’s going to be a real challenge for candidates in the bottom five to get coverage, and even those in the top five to drive it on any given day.”
A senior aide to one candidate still in the race put it a little less delicately: “It sucks, actually. Impeachment’s gonna kill anyone who’s not a senator or in the top five. We’re [bleeped].””

And again, yes, with the bleeping.

So here’s the good news. I happen to run a podcast about this election. And I’m still interested in the entire field. So. If you’re one of these campaign staffers talking to New York Magazine about how your candidate can’t get any media coverage, you know how to get on this show. You get your candidate on a Skype call with me. We will talk about the issues and you will reach the smartest and most engaged listeners you could ever hope to have. So, just saying, call me. Tweet at me. My DMs are open.

Booker makes his fundraising goal

Early this morning, Senator Cory Booker announced on Twitter that his campaign had indeed brought in the $1.7 million dollars it was looking for. In fact, the goal was actually met on Sunday night. That came just in time, as today was his campaign manager’s self-imposed deadline.

Reading from Booker’s tweet:

“I have some incredible news, team. Last night at 8:16 p.m., we reached our $1.7 million [dollar] goal. I’m so grateful that at the most critical moment of this campaign, thousands of people in all 50 states came together to give us the boost we needed.
You put us back on a trajectory where we know we can be competitive. There’s a viable path forward, and I’m staying in this race because I know we can win it.”

So it remains to be seen how this story lines up with the previous one. Booker put out his call for money right before the big news last week, and he did manage to keep raising money throughout the whole mess. So maybe…just MAYBE…there is a path for people who aren’t in the pantheon of the top five. Having said that, he IS a Senator, and that’s one of the other types of candidate that the anonymous staffer felt could remain viable.

Oh, and one more note on Booker—on Sunday, he DID cross the 165,000 donor threshold, so if he gets two more qualifying polls, he will appear in the November DNC debate. He’s already locked in for October.

Gabbard changes her position on impeachment

Next up, Representative Tulsi Gabbard was the sole candidate in the Democratic primary field who opposed impeachment as of the last time I did a roundup.

That has now changed. In a statement released by her Congressional office on Friday, Gabbard said she now supports impeachment, but basically wants it to be quick. I think a lot of us share that desire.

Reading here from the statement:

““If we allow the President to abuse his or her power, then our society will rot from top to bottom. We will turn into a banana republic, where people in positions of power—from the president all the way down to the traffic cop—will feel it's okay to abuse their power with no consequences.
“This is not the kind of country that any of us want to see.
“So it is unfortunate, but necessary, that I speak in support of the inquiry into the President’s alleged abuse of power in relation to his interactions with Ukraine’s leaders. This inquiry must be swift, thorough, and narrowly-focused. It cannot be turned into a long, protracted partisan circus that will further divide our country and undermine our democracy.””

Yet another Texas Republican announces his retirement from the House

Last up today, yet another Texas Republican has announced he will not run again for his House seat in 2020. This is a SERIOUS theme now, people, as we now have SIX Republicans from that state alone who are sitting it out for one reason or another. That’s out of a total group of 23 House Republicans from that state. So roughly a quarter of them are out.

The latest is Mac Thornberry. He has been serving for THIRTEEN TERMS. Now, this seat is NOT competitive at all, so it’s not gonna flip anything, but it is remarkable that such a long-serving GOP politician is leaving.

Reading from his tweet announcing the news:

“It has been a great honor to serve the people of the 13th District of Texas as their congressman for the last 25 years. They have given me opportunities to serve the nation in ways I could have never imagined, including as Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
We are reminded, however, that "for everything there is a season," and I believe that the time has come for a change. Therefore, this is my last term in the U.S. House of Representatives.”

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. Okay, we’re back to what I hope is a semi-normal week for the show. You can count on hearing more policy stuff this week, and of course, sorry, it’ll be money time quite soon. I do want to remind you about a Twitter account run by the Washington Post that gives us a look at past polling, day by day. Looking at their tweet this morning, they noted that on this day in 2008, Clinton led the primary field by 18 points. So, you know, this stuff can really change. And by the way, at the same time, the Republican leading that pack was Giuliani by more than 5 points. Grains of salt indeed. As always, thanks for listening, and I will talk to y’all tomorrow.