Joe Biden remains the so-called front-runner in the various recent polls at 26 percent of the vote – and he has slipped from a 35 percent lead after the first Democratic Party debate. That is not necessarily good news for the former Vice President.
The significance of recent surveys is not just Biden’s numbers but the shift in numbers for other candidates – especially those in double digits. The relative upward improvement of both Senator Elizabeth Warren and Senator Kamala Harris has been widely reported but still underappreciated.
According to the Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, Biden’s 26 percent lead is followed by Warren at 19% and Harris and Senator Bernie Sanders tied at 13 percent. Those four account for 71 percent of the responses. That is significant.
Mayor Pete Buttigieg garners 7 percent with former Congressman – and former superstar – Beto O’Rourke tied with businessman Andrew Yang at two percent. The remaining 16 or so candidates are at one percent or below – so low that none of them will be on the stage for the next debate at the end of July unless the Democratic National Committee changes the rules. This means that virtually all of them will be officially or effectively out of the race before Labor Day.
One thing we have not seen in polling is the voters second choice. In a multi-candidate race, that is an EXTREMELY important bit of information. Even with polling data, we can see a dark-hole effect in the race between Warren and Sanders. Most of Sanders probably terminal drop in the polls has been to the benefit of Warren. She was naturally Sanders supporters’ second choice – now first choice.
If you look at the three candidates giving Biden the greatest challenge – Warren, Harris and Sanders – they represent the progressive wing of the Democratic Party AND they cumulatively have 45 percent of the vote – with another 11 percent held by progressives Buttigieg, Yang and O’Rourke. Concentrate that into one candidate, and that person easily overtakes Biden – and that does not count the distribution of the remaining 18 percent of the vote currently held by the hopeless wannabes.
Where does that vote go?
Since only two or three of them represent more moderate – more accurately, less left-wing – positions, it is safe to assume that the numbers would break in favor of a Biden challenger.
If that sole challenger is Harris, Biden is in even deeper trouble. He currently holds 46 percent of the black vote. If Harris is seen as a serious potential candidate – and potential President – Biden’s support from the black community will most certainly decline in the primaries. One needs to recall that Hillary Clinton was holding onto the black vote until Barack Obama won the Ohio primary – which resulted in a seismic shift in the black vote to the black candidate.
If the sole challenger to Biden winds up to be Warren, Biden could hold much of his black support. For a few reasons, Warren is drawing only 8 percent of the black vote – the lowest of any of the four leading candidates who have reached double digits. But unless Biden can remarkably improve his black vote, it is hard to see how he would hold on against a flow of progressive votes going to his yet-to-be-determined progressive competitor – Warren, in this case.
Biden currently has a perceived advantage, but that is only if you do not look below the surface. His situation is like a long-distance runner who starts out at top speed to get to the front – but is sure to run out of energy before the race is over.
So, there ‘tis.