Warren takes the front-runner spot in one key metric

First up today, Warren is now just barely the front-runner according to one key metric that political folks pay a lot of attention to. That’s the RealClearPolitics national polling average. As I record this, Warren has 26.6 percent of the national vote according to that average, and Biden has 26.4 percent. So, by a mere 0.2 percentage points, Warren is now officially the national front-runner according to RealClearPolitics.

So, quick refresher, RealClearPolitics, often abbreviated to RCP, is an average of polls. They take the results of trusted pollsters, throw them into a spreadsheet, and give you averages across a rolling two-week window of time. So in the polls that cover the dates from September 23rd through October 7th, RCP has Warren just slightly ahead in the NATIONAL race.

Now, at this point I think it’s most accurate to say that Biden and Warren are effectively tied, given that there’s only this tiny percentage between them. This might change, in either direction, as more polls come out, and of course, as that polling window moves on, to include more new polls and exclude older ones.

But the reason this is such a big deal is that Biden has led the RCP average forever. Or at least, forever as it applies to this primary. This is a historic change. Reading from Ed Kilgore writing in New York Magazine:

“The most-quoted source of polling averages, RealClearPolitics, has had Biden at the top of its Democratic presidential list since it began compiling such averages in December 2018 (five months before he formally entered the race).”

The other thing to remember here is that national polling isn’t everything. State-by-state the picture is different, and that state-by-state voting is actually what gets the nomination for a candidate. Reading again from New York Magazine here:

“Warren is also leading Biden in the RCP polling averages for Iowa, though Biden remains slightly ahead of the field in New Hampshire and Nevada (where Sanders is second) and more impressive in South Carolina.”

So, this ain’t over by a long shot, but it is a notable moment for the Warren campaign. You can expect in the debate next week that she will take just as much heat, if not more, from the other candidates than Biden.

I should also note that just because RCP has Warren at the top, my preferred polling average site, The Economist, still has her just over 1% behind Biden. This is because all the different polling average sites get to choose which polls they include, and how long the window of time is, and how their math model works, and all that stuff. So, I’ll let you know if Warren takes the lead in The Economist’s average as well. That actually does seem likely, given some tweets this morning from the folks who run it.

Yang makes the November debate

Next up, Andrew Yang has qualified for the November DNC debate. His fourth qualifying poll came from a Quinnipiac national poll released yesterday, which had him in fifth place overall.

With the addition of Yang, we now have EIGHT candidates slated to appear in November. Nobody else got any help in that poll in terms of debate qualification, so on to the next story.

A few details on that November debate

The DNC released a few crumbs of detail about that November debate—finally—so let’s talk through them now. The debate will take place on November 20th somewhere in Georgia. It’ll air on MSNBC and there is a second media partner, The Washington Post.

This tidbit of information is useful because we can now calculate that the qualification deadline for that debate is on November 13th—that’s one week prior, which is the timing the DNC had previously announced. Just to be clear, that timeline means candidates have until November 13th to get their polling results and their donors.

Right now, there are FOUR candidates who WILL be on the debate stage next week for that October debate, but have not yet qualified for November. Those candidates are: Castro, Gabbard, Klobuchar, and O’Rourke. All of them have the necessary donors, but none of them have the necessary polling. Klobuchar and O’Rourke each have one qualifying poll, the others have zero. They need a total of four, OR they need a stellar performance in just two early-voting states.

Okay, and we got one more snippet of news out of the DNC on this debate, and that is the very first hint of how we can watch it. You may recall that NBC hosted the very first debate in this cycle, but the November debate is hosting by MSNBC. Meaning, a cable channel, not a broadcast network. So, reading from a Politico article by Zach Montellaro:

“NBC News hosted the first debate, which aired both on NBC's broadcast network and on MSNBC. But the Nov[ember] 20[th] debate is scheduled to be aired only on cable, on live-streaming and on Radio One's network.”

So, more details as we get them, but of course, we’ve got a much more imminent debate to talk about first.

Guess which candidate spent the most on Facebook ads last week

Next up, a short note about Facebook ad spending. In the wake of all the, uh, troubles involving Facebook and the 2016 election and all that, Facebook put up a public portal that allows anyone to go and see who is buying political ads. That service is called the Facebook Ad Library, and you can easily lose an afternoon putting in search terms there and voluntarily looking at Facebook ads. Lots and lots of Facebook ads.

Anyway, I see these every day in a Ballotpedia daily email, which, by the way, I highly recommend, and there’s a link to that in the show notes. At the top of those emails, they give you a breakdown of which presidential campaigns are in the top five spending slots. And today’s breakdown is totally bananas, so I figured I would let you know.

At the top is President Donald Trump, who spent $1.4 million dollars on Facebook ads between September 30th and October 6th. Now, there is a little asterisk on that number which says it includes more than $340,000 dollars that appeared on Vice President Mike Pence’s Facebook page, but was paid for by the President.

But let me say that one more time. $1.4 million dollars in one week, on one website. That is a HECK of a lot of money. Next up was Tom Steyer, the billionaire Democrat, who spent $416,000 dollars. Then you’ve got Bernie Sanders at $193,000 dollars, Elizabeth Warren at $184,000 dollars, and Kamala Harris at nearly $137,000 dollars. In other words, add up the remaining top four and you don’t even a crack a million bucks.

The reason I mention this is, basically, if you are exposed in any way to media, this is the net effect of all that fundraising news. You’re going to see ads for all the candidates all over the place. And right now, the candidate with the deepest pockets—by far—is President Donald Trump.

Sanders has a heart health message for Americans

Next up, Senator Bernie Sanders has a message for voters: pay attention when you have cardiac symptoms. In an article for Politico, Caitlin Oprysko and Holly Otterbein quoted from a brief interview with Sanders, where he was apparently mobbed by reporters while out on a walk with his wife Jane. That’s gotta be fun.

I’m gonna play a short clip from the interview video they posted. But before the clip I’m playing there was a brief mention of one issue that the top three Democratic candidates—and, also, the oldest three Democratic candidates—have faced for a while now. They have all promised to release their medical records before voting begins, though none of them have done so yet. Sanders said yet again that yes, he will release those records when the time is right.

All right, let’s listen to this clip from Sanders. Remember, this is just one week after his heart attack and insertion of a couple of stents. He’s sounding pretty good to me. Okay, listen in:

[CLIP-SANDERS-HEART-HEALTH]

Weld writes an op-ed on foreign policy

Yesterday, the magazine Foreign Affairs published a lengthy op-ed by former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, who is one of President Trump’s primary challengers. The article is largely about foreign policy, and is a detailed critique of the current administration’s handling of foreign policy, among various other things. Let me read a snippet from the closing portion to give you a sense of how Weld writes, and what he stands for.

“[…] We need to recognize that offloading our fiscal responsibilities onto foreign creditors through trillion-dollar deficits erodes our sovereignty. Our leaders seem to think that because they can’t get a grip on the budget, imbalance doesn’t matter at all. It does, and we know it. As a governor, I balanced budgets with bipartisan support. There is no excuse for Washington’s failure to live within its means. Every normal organization and person and family has to do so. Fiscal responsibility used to be the calling card of the Republican Party. Not today.
Since World [War] II, Republicans have supported free trade. President Ronald Reagan wanted hemispheric free trade because he remembered the doleful impact of the protectionist Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930. Every governor knows that international trade helps her or his state. It results in better-paying jobs, lower prices for hard-working consumers, and increased prosperity. Trump mistakenly believes that every relationship and negotiation is a zero-sum game, and as a result he must constantly resort to threats and bullying and never behave reasonably. He does not have even a child’s understanding of the world around us. Even his understanding of the morals of the marketplace is Mafia-esque: starting a trade war is not the way to make trade policy in a complex and interdependent world.
Republicans have also been environmentalists since Lincoln founded the party. Conserving the environment is part of our DNA. In this as in so many other respects, Trump is a RINO (Republican In Name Only). The United States and the world face real choices about climate. Halting climate degradation is not a task for one country alone. I would rejoin the Paris Agreement and work with China and others to avoid causing the Arctic ice cap to melt, which would be a world catastrophe. Science, not polemics, must guide us here.
To govern is to choose, and that means choosing the right priorities, the right policies, and the right approaches. We live in a challenging and often dangerous world, and we need a grown-up in the office that Trump now occupies. I would be ready on day one.”

I highly recommend this article. It’s linked in the show notes, as are all the articles I quote from on the show. This one calls to mind the rhetoric of the Republican party that I grew up with. In other words, it hasn’t always been this way. So to hear Weld bringing the discussion back to this version of conservatism is truly refreshing.

The Washington Post launches a Congressional retirement tracker

And last up today, The Washington Post has created a handy way to visualize who is retiring from Congress in the upcoming election cycle. It’s the last link in the show notes.

Right now, we have 5 Democrats who have announced they’re retiring—meaning, they will not seek re-election. And we have 17 Republicans doing the same thing. The Post’s tracker clusters those people on a spectrum that shows how competitive their districts are. Meaning, you’ve got folks like Republican Mac Thornberry of Texas, who I reported on last week. He is retiring but is leaving a seat that has essentially zero chance of ever flipping blue. But, you also have a group of Republicans and one Democrat who are leaving seats that are potentially in play—they’re closer to that middle line, meaning maybe those districts COULD flip, given the right political circumstances.

There’s also a pair of graphs showing both Republican and Democratic Congressional retirements as of now, versus elections going back to 2006. While these graphs are a little less pretty, you come away with two clear impressions.

First, in 2018 a lot of Republicans retired. And if the trend line that we see right now is a true indicator of what will happen going forward, that’s going to happen again in 2020. So that means Republican hopes of retaking the House are pretty dim.

Second, Democrats overall have less turnover—at least, going back to 2006, which is all the data we have in these charts. And THIS YEAR, again SO FAR, they have less turnover than 2018 or 2012, both of which were their two top years for retirements. And this might be a good time for Democrats to retire, given that the party controls the chamber and may be able to hold it.

What this all seems to mean is that Republicans in the House are clearly headed for the door, while Democrats are, at least so far, mostly sticking around. We still have nearly 400 days until the actual election, so there is still plenty of room for these graphs to change.

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. You know how when your weather forecast says it’s gonna freeze, and then you do all the stuff to batten down the hatches and prepare for the freeze, and worry about whether your car will start or the outdoor cats are gonna be okay? And then you wake up and it didn’t freeze? Well, that’s what keeps happening here, but I guess it’s better than the alternative. I had a fun moment this morning when I was making coffee, though. Yesterday I had turned off the water to the outside tap that feeds the robot that then waters the arborvitae. And that whole plumbing thing is like right outside the kitchen window, like a few feet from where I make the coffee. So I’m making my coffee and there is this HORRIFYING wheezing sound. Like a clicking, weird, bad, like, oh no kind of noise. And I went out there, and the little robotic watering meter internet app thing, which I THOUGHT I had gone into the app and totally disabled, was sitting there in the 36-degree weather, in the dark, trying to open its little flap and let water through, but there was no water, so it just kept wheezing and flapping and making truly creepy noises, and the app did nothing, so I took its batteries out, and I put it out of its misery until things warm up. Sorry, irrigation robot. Your work is done for now. As always, thanks for listening, and I will talk to y’all tomorrow.