Home Safe Home?

Elizabeth Warren is good shape. Betting markets think she’s the most likely nominee. More Democratic voters are considering her than any other candidate. She’s in the top three in every national survey from August or September that Real Clear Politics lists.

Warren posted strong second quarter fundraising numbers without doing any big donor events. She performed well in both sanctioned debates, plus the CNN town hall on climate change. Her ground team is widely considered the best of any candidate.

The mainstream media is treating her well. She has the most clearly positive polling trend of any candidate. Bernie Sanders turned 78 yesterday. Joe Biden reminds commentators and voters of his age with every other utterance. Warren looks like a spring chicken by comparison, and tends to run on stage during her events to reinforce it.

She’d be the most liberal/progressive nominee since 1972, maybe ever. But that’s where a lot of the Democratic electorate is right now. Even a third of Biden supporters are considering Warren. So are forty percent of Sanders supporters. The math says she can consolidate enough of the party to get nominated. No statistical contortions required.

Is there a catch?

Yeah. One. As of a couple months ago, Warren was facing a serious home field disadvantage. Candidates are normally far stronger at home. Beto O’Rourke is doing 8x as well in Texas (18%) as nationally (2.3%.) He’s got more room for improvement than many, but every candidate in the race has more support at home.

Except Warren. When we last took a look, she was at 10% in the most current Massachusetts poll, trailing Biden by 10 points. A previous survey, taken before she moved into the upper tier, had her trailing both Biden and Sanders by a wide margin.

Beto aside, sometimes a candidate needs to prove they’re competitive nationwide to pull enough support at home. Kamala Harris polls better in California when she’s doing better overall. But her baseline at home is still at least double her national floor.

It’s highly unusual for an upper-tier candidate to trail by a wide margin at home. I can’t think of any precedent in a primary contest. Donald Trump lost New York by a huge margin in the general election. He was competing in a very blue state against someone who was easily elected twice there as a senator. And he crushed John Kasich and Ted Cruz in the primary.

Warren is making noticeable progress now. The same Boston Globe poll that had her trailing Biden 22/10, now shows her almost even at 26/24. Sanders trails her by 16 points instead of 4.

The improvement shows up across the region. In neighboring New Hampshire, the latest survey from CBS/YouGov has her at 27%, just ahead of Biden and Sanders. She’s up 9 points from when they polled in mid-July. It’s her strongest showing across the Massachusetts border. Her first lead since a Suffolk survey in April that look like an outlier.

A new national poll from ABC/Washington Post has good regional news. She registered at 28% in the Northeast, well ahead of her 17% national average. If she keeps making progress, by the time Massachusetts votes on March 3, she may be safe at home. No candidate has ever won a nomination after losing a primary in their home state. Don’t think she wants to try being the exception.

There’s still a gap here. Biden is technically still ahead. Warren has her best number in the entire Northeast region, which includes areas like New York that are outside of New England. Her next best number is in neighboring New Hampshire. She’s worst in Massachusetts. That’s backwards from what you’d expect.

It means she’s stronger with Manhattan liberals and Brooklyn progressives than the average Democrat in Worcester, MA. There’s a sizable Catholic vote in Massachusetts, activated in presidential contests by JFK three generations ago. This favors Biden.

In New Hampshire, she has to deal with him, and the Vermonter Sanders. It’s less of a disaster than before. But assuming the South isn’t going to be a strength, Warren’s greatest impediment to the nomination is still in her own backyard. She’s got work to do.

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