Warren Levels Up

Elizabeth Warren is officially up a level. It’s not at the expense of Joe Biden. She’s also not ahead of him yet. Like usual, the narrative to bury him is premature. But make no mistake, she got a pile of good poll results this week.

She’s distinctly ahead of Sanders nationally now. There are eight national surveys in the current Real Clear Politics average. Warren leads in 6. The two where Bernie leads are inside the margin of error. The Economist weighted average has her 5 points ahead of him (21/16).

He didn’t drop. She gained. Of those eight polls, Sanders is up an average of one point in each from the most recent previous survey. He’s up in 5, down in 3.

Biden is down an average of a single point in those same 8 polls. Up twice, down three times, even three times. You’ll hear he’s collapsing, but the numbers say otherwise. He’s been in the upper 20s, low 30s nationally for months. That’s still where Biden resides, if to the lower part of the range.

Warren has a structural advantage on him in Iowa, and New Hampshire is a toss-up, so you can wonder whether his electability argument will survive to South Carolina, but that was a topic we covered weeks ago. If Sanders and Biden haven’t moved, where is the bump coming from?

The second tier. I’m not counting Andrew Yang and Tulsi Gabbard as part of this tier. Their poll numbers are right in there, but their supporter bases are distinct. Many fewer people are considering them, but a higher percentage of voters looking at them prefer them.

I am counting Buttigieg, Harris, O’Rourke, Booker, Klobuchar, Castro. As noted on the other day, I think Castro is a dead candidacy walking. But he still belongs as part of this group for measurement purposes.

Anyway, over the four recent national polls where Warren is between 23 and 27%, that group is down an average of 5 points. This is how you can distinguish between the polls that think she’s almost even with Biden and those who don’t think it’s close.

Within that pack of candidates, Harris has suffered the most. She’s down 4 points on average in the surveys Warren is doing well in. Buttigieg is exactly even.

The others didn’t have that many points to give up. Though it’s got to be demoralizing for their donors and campaign teams that they’re further behind the lead group now than at any other time in the race. As a point of comparison:

Emerson, Mid February:

Harris 15%

Booker 9%

Warren 9%

Klobuchar 5%

Quinnipiac, Late March:

O’Rourke 12%

Harris 8%

Warren 4%

I’m cherry-picking a little, but you get the point. In late winter, Warren was in the middle of the second tier, trailing Sanders and the uncommitted Biden by a ton. Both Kamala and Beto had drawn more polling interest. Booker and Warren were relative peers.

The period where candidates have announced, but nobody has voted yet is often called the Silent Primary. Donald Trump dominated this part in 2015, but he did so from the outside, not by rolling up all of the support for a bunch of promising senators.

Had Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, or any of the others been able to do what Warren has, it’s quite possible one could have defeated Trump. He got his footing in part because the opposition was fragmented.

Many candidates have appeared out of nowhere to win Iowa and then make a run at the nomination. But they were not this strong nationally this early. While Warren is well situated in the Hawkeye State, her national numbers are pretty similar.

Barack Obama was a clear challenger to Hillary Clinton from the beginning of the 2008 cycle. She was the favorite for sure, but he entered the polls far stronger than Warren did. At the moment, I can’t think of any candidate in either party who has improved their standing during the Silent Primary as much as she has.

It’s far more customary to have a candidate like Rick Perry enter the fray very high in polls and collapse, than someone build themselves up as Warren has. At the time I’m typing this, PredictIt has her at 52% to win the nomination.

I think this is too high. I’d take the field. Warren hasn’t faced a stream of negative ads. Nobody has dropped oppo research on her. Trump has mostly stayed away. But damn. This was as impressive a six month campaign run as we’ve seen. As Mayor Pete said the other day “she’s really good.”

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