Election 2020

Elizabeth Warren Is Starting to Beat Bernie Sanders in the Polls

But the progressive share of the 2020 Dem field has been remarkably stable, at just 30 percent.

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It's been a bad few days for Bernie Sanders.

On Wednesday, for the first time during the 2020 presidential primary cycle, the independent socialist senator from Vermont trailed his progressive Massachusetts neighbor Sen. Elizabeth Warren in a poll—13 percent to her 19 percent, according to a June 6–11 Monmouth University survey of 370 likely voters in Nevada.

Then it happened nationally, this time in a June 9–11 YouGov poll of 513 likely voters, who preferred Warren over Bernie 16 percent to 12 percent. And Thursday, Warren again nudged out Sanders for second place, 18 percent to 17 percent, in a June 4–10 Berkeley survey of 2,131 likely voters in the delegate-rich state of California.

"Warren and Sanders are going in opposite directions," declares Jennifer Rubin's headline in the Washington Post. "Warren challenges Sanders for progressives' 2020 support," notes the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Things have gotten so bad that Bernie surrogate David Sirota is desperately beclowning himself while doing damage control on Twitter.

The turnabout is head-snapping—Sanders averaged more than 22 percent in national polls during February, Warren under 7 percent, yet here they are virtually tied at around 17 percent in three polls taken this week. Yet the competitive turbulence masks a remarkable and potentially race-shaping stability. The progressive lane in the 2020 Democratic field has been stuck at around 30 percent of the polls all year long.

Here is the combined average performance in national polls by Sanders and Warren since February:

February: 28.8 percent (Bernie ahead by 15 percentage points)

March: 29.2 percent (Bernie +17)

April: 26.0 percent (Bernie +12)

May: 25.5 percent (Bernie +9)

June: 29.0 percent (Bernie +4)

You can sprinkle in the other most progressive candidates in the field—Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, gun-grabbing impeachment advocate Rep. Eric Swalwell (R–Calif.), Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam—and still you'll never go higher than a combined 30 percent from the out-and-proud progressive camp.

Now take a look at the comparatively centrist duo of Joe Biden and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg:

February: 30.9 percent (Biden +30)

March: 32.4 percent (Biden +29)

April: 37.6 percent (Biden +24)

May: 42.0 percent (Biden +30)

June: 39.0 percent (Biden +22)

When you add in lower-performing candidates who are running explicit I'm-not-a-damned-socialist campaigns—John Hickenlooper, John Delaney, Rep. Tim Ryan (D–Ohio), Rep. Seth Moulton (D–Mass.), Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, Sen. Michael Bennet (D–Col.), and maybe, depending on how you assess such things, Beto O'Rourke and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D–Minn.)—you get a center lane that's been creeping steadily higher toward 50 percent.

All the caveats about early presidential primary polls are still relevant, and you should read Stephanie Slade's refresher course here, or just pull up random poll-related headlines from four years ago this month, such as "Jeb Bush surges to lead GOP pack in new 2016 poll." And don't even get the nerds started about the error rates of national general-election matchups this far out.

But one main reason to discount early polls is that the candidate field is not yet set—the Jeb Bush poll referenced above, for example, was prior to the grand entrance into the campaign by one Donald J. Trump. It's entirely possible that this dirty two dozen is all we're going to see in the Democratic 2020 competition.

Once the GOP roster was set in the summer of 2015, the establishment grouping of candidates—Bush, Chris Christie, Sen. Marco Rubio (R–Fla.), etc.—never combined for more than about 25 percent in national polls. Enthusiasm for the individuals within it waxed and waned, but the category as a whole was never popular. Might we be seeing a similar dynamic with the progressive cluster of 2020 Democrats?

I'm skeptical. Warren's recent poll surge appears to be growing the category—in the California poll, she and Sanders combined for 35 percent, and in the three national polls this week, 34 percent. Anecdotally, I see a lot of enthusiasm for Warren (particularly among journalists!), coming from people who would not describe themselves as democratic socialists.

And the more important point may be that Bernie et al win even by losing—the party and field continues to move in his direction, policy-wise, with Beto O'Rourke praising the Green New Deal, Sen. Cory Booker (D–N.J.) running away from his school-choice past, Sen. Kamala Harris (D–Calif.) pretending to be a criminal justice reformer, and rusty weather vane Joe Biden reversing decades' worth of abortion stances. Talking about a progressive "lane" may be a little beside the point.

Still, with the first debates right around the corner, it will be interesting to see which open ideological spaces Democrats will see opportunity in running toward.

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  1. “All the caveats about early presidential primary polls are still relevant”
    So why write about polls, when the only know fact is that they are useless?
    Write about the freedom suppressing positions of all the democratic candidates.
    Write about the freedom suppressing positions of all the republican candidates.

    1. I’d rather they point out it’s not the timing of the poll, but the sample size. 370 people? 513? Those aren’t statistically significant when dealing with a yes no variable let alone two dozen rotten eggs.

      1. That is plenty large enough sample size for a binomial variable as long as the probability of a yes (or a no) aren’t extremely close to zero or one. Also statistical significance is not what you think it is.

        1. Only true if one population and not disparate state populations.

  2. So ,will Warren have another beer once she heres this news?

  3. Kamala Harris is still my first choice. However Warren is not far behind. I’m really impressed by her strong position on impeachment. And I will never forget how awesome it was when she used science to definitively prove the main right-wing talking point about her (“She pretended to be Native American!”) was 100% false.

  4. what’s a good day in Bernie’s life look like?

    also, please run Elizabeth Warren for president. please.

    1. Not getting kicked out of the commune for refusing to contribute?

    2. Finding a quarter on the sidewalk?

    3. Not having to choose between 23 brands of deodorant?

      1. You know that Sanders doesnt wear deodorant either. That guys just seems smelly.

        1. Don’t jump to conclusions. I thought Willie Nelson was probably smelly…turns out he’s not.

    4. Unfortunately every poll point for Warren is only worth 1/1024.

    5. Traveling between his 3 houses while upping taxes on lesser people?

  5. Enough about useless polls Welch. Why don’t you get off your ass and do something important…like recording a new Fifth Column! I’m jonesing over here and need my fix.

    1. like recording a new Fifth Column! I’m jonesing over here and need my fix.

      SRSLY. They’re going to have to change their tagline to “almost monthly.”

      1. “Almost quarterly” at this rate. I remember a while back (around episode 50?) Welch arguing with Kmele about the “almost weekly” tagline with Welch saying that it should be called the “weekly” assault on the media because it is a weekly show. As per usual, Kmele pushed back against such a characterization. As per usual, Kmele was right.

  6. The word “progressive” in this article is used in strange ways. Do they or do they not support some version of the Green New Deal? Do they or do they not support some version of Medicare for All?

    If you’re inventing new ways of describing different flavors of those candidates using old words people have used in the past to describe other things, then good for you, I guess. For the rest of us . . .

    Where is support for Medicare for All in the Democratic Party as estimated by the percent of Democrats who support a candidate that advocates some flavor of that?

    It’s far above 30%, isn’t it?

    Where is support for The Green New Deal as estimated by the percent of Democrats who support a candidate that advocates some flavor of that?

    It’s far above 30%, isn’t it?

    When I add the support for all those candidates up, I get somewhere above 70%. Meanwhile, are you familiar with Biden’s position on Medicare for All? Do you think it’s substantively better than Medicare for All? Do you imagine this somehow makes Biden substantively different from or better than “progressives” on this issue? Do you imagine his position makes him better than Trump on the issue of healthcare?

    I don’t care if you want to call these people “progressives”, “mainstream”, or “socialists”–and I don’t care where they stand on any other issues. Their positions on Medicare and the Green New Deal are such that they can all go fuck themselves–voters and candidates–each and every one of them.

    1. The Overton window is on a runaway freight train heading West.

    2. Yeah, even the “moderate centrists” like Buttigieg and Beto are ready to sign the Green New Deal in blood.

      1. Exactly.

        Anybody who uses “moderate centrist” in honesty to describe that shit has a horribly distorted view of the world.

        . . . or they’re being willfully dishonest.

      2. Or they are talking it up to pander to idiots and have no intention of doing anything about it as president. I kind of think that is more likely the case with many of the candidates. Not that I’d really call any of them moderate centrists either. Some might be moderate leftists.

        1. Or they are talking it up to pander to idiots and have no intention of doing anything about it as president.

          ^ This. I’ve known lots of far-left people and they mostly tend to feel that Democrat politicians are about as sincere about socialism as Republican politicians are about limited government.

          1. Yea, I’m sure the Ds will pass on their promises to grab more power

          2. Bullshit. Back in the early days of the administration of Block Yomomma, the House democrats passed an early version of the “Green New Deal”, though it wasn’t called that yet.

            The Senate thankfully refused to pass it despite the democrats having a (slim) majority.

    3. “each and every one of them”

      Except Hilary, of course, who never supported Medicare for All or the Green New Deal.

  7. What is the problem here? This should have been expected. Sanders is of the OLD WHITE MAN’S clan, the least excepted clan there is here in the US while Warren is a member of several minorities (female, native American [her claim]. She is also much younger that Sanders.
    Now I will not say that Warren will be the winner but I will say the OLD WHITE MAN’S clan will be defeated by one of the younger members especially if that person is a minority and possibility of the LGBT community. It would be even more helpful if the partner of the candidate would be of a different ethnicity such as Chicago’s new mayor is a good example.

    1. She is also much younger that Sanders.

      She ain’t that much younger–there’s only an 8-year age difference there–but she has been a mainstream figure longer than Bernie, and clearly has a lot more energy than he does, so the contrast is more noticeable.

      1. So Bernie’s a doddering old man now, and Warren will be the same age at the end of her second term. Which reminds me, isn’t Trump getting up there too?

  8. I suspect the biggest reason for Warren’s surge and Bernie’s decline is that the media’s been running with a narrative lately that Warren has actual policy ideas on how to produce MOAR FREE SHIT, as dumb and exceptional as they are, while Bernie’s whole platform is MOAR FREE SHIT without a single idea as how to execute it.

    This is basically how Trotsky got rolled by Stalin.

    1. The only add trump would have to run against lizzie is the charlagmane the God radio interview.

    1. Is Gillibrand “Someone Else”?

  9. Warren’s getting credit for the quantity of her proposals. Fortunately for her, Dem voters aren’t scrutinizing the quality of those proposals.

    Of course Hickenlooper is at 0 percent. He’s the only one who could actually beat Trump.

  10. Elizabeth is such a great name for a head of state.

    1. Oh, I don’t know. I’d call it 1 for 2, so far.

  11. The Chron’s political reporter, who is nothing if not ready to capsize to port, reported that the crowd at the D state convention booed one of the speakers who pointed out that ‘Medicare for All’ is socialized medical care.
    They were simply willing to declare it was otherwise, because ‘socialist’ doesn’t poll well.
    There are few as willfully ignorant as those on the left.

  12. C’mon “Republican strategist” Matt Welch. If you were forced to wager 2 months pay today, at gunpoint, on any one of the Dem candidates to win the Party nom you would be crazy to go with anyone but Bernie Sanders.

    1. “you would be crazy to go with anyone but Bernie Sanders”

      Sanders has the charisma, but it’s not his turn, and never will be. That honor goes to Biden, whom I dismissed as past his prime, not having seized the opportunity to run in 2016, a race he probably would have won. But I saw Biden speaking recently on TV. Not very impressive but he did exude this Reaganesque folksyness that people may find reassuring, especially compared to Trump’s bluster and fearmongering.

  13. So stupid. Why do you think Rusty Joe was even PUT into the race by his Corporate handlers?

  14. […] “democratic socialism.” Also last week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) began eclipsing Sanders in some polls, Joe Biden and other presidential candidates stepped up their critiques of […]

  15. Trump repeatedly won Republican primaries with 30-35% of the vote, because the rest of the candidates split the vote amongst themselves. Eventually he was so far ahead in delegates that people started voting with momentum, but up to that point 2/3 of Republicans were voting for someone else. The Democrats are at great risk of this same scenario in the 2020 election. Some demagog consolidates a minority position that’s solid, and the rest of them split the vote…you end up nominating someone that 2/3 of the party voted against. It’s up to the Democrat leadership to manage the trivial candidates out of the race early so the minority demagog scenario doesn’t come true.

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