The Polls Speak

Greetings, it’s time for a post-debate quick peek at the polls. Sure, it’s a little early, but that’s the whole fun. Plus, I’m comfy drawing a few conclusions already. Here they are:

Buttigieg didn’t get a bounce. But his narrative shifted. It’s *all* about Iowa for him.

Real Clear Politics lists five surveys taken after the debate. His numbers: 6. 6. 6. 6. 6. That’s not a boost. His overall average is 6.3. He’s about a point ahead of Kamala Harris. None of this is new. Mayor Pete has picked up a point, maybe a point and a half nationally over the past few weeks. He’s got less support than he had in late April/early May. Repeat. This is not a surge.

What about Iowa? USA Today has him within striking distance of the lead. At 13%. This is good for him. No question. But an Emerson survey partially taken before, partially after, has him at 16%. Another data point from CBS/YouGov entirely pre-debate is at 14%. The proximal event for him in Iowa was his recent bus tour, not the debate.

For the entire campaign, he’s run ahead of his national numbers in Iowa. He was as high as 14% there in the spring. Unlike the national polling, he’s as strong as he ever was there. Buttigieg is within single digits of the lead in Iowa. He’s got money and time to make up the difference.

This is a real path for him. Just don’t expect anything other than a great result in Iowa, followed by a very good one in New Hampshire to change his national standing. The good thing for him is that’s good enough.

Biden’s position has improved the most. Warren is at least temporarily stalled.

His consistency is striking. His inability to capitalize on opportunity, combined with the resilience of his supporters, leaves his numbers in a pretty narrow band. As such, when his competitors are doing well, he looks in jeopardy. When they stall, his advantages become apparent again.

Pre-debate, Warren pulled even, or ahead of Biden nationally. She already led in Iowa and New Hampshire. She’s raised more money and has way more cash on hand, while also not being as dependent on larger donors. Warren performed better in each of the first three debate rounds. She’s got a stronger campaign team. She’s a better campaigner.

The betting markets responded by driving her to a 50% shot of getting nominated, while Biden dropped to the low 20s. It’s not like she’s suddenly collapsed or he’s surged, but a week later he’s looking much better.

There’s now a 6 point gap favoring Biden in the RCP average. He’s pulled even with her in Iowa. In both cases, this is more her dropping than him rising. Again, it’s not an earthquake. He gains a point, she loses three, and all of a sudden it looks different. In many cases, these shifts are within the margin of error.

Still, Biden leads in the six most recent national surveys RCP lists. Two of Warren’s better pollsters (Quinnipiac, and the Economist) are due to post soon, so the gap will likely narrow, but her trend line has moved.

Another interesting data point is a recent SurveyUSA poll in California. Biden leads Warren 33-18. In mid-September he led her by 11. In mid-August by 4. Unlike the national and Iowa numbers, this is more Biden gaining than Warren losing. More specifically, it appears he’s picked up the voters Kamala Harris has lost.

Elsewhere, Warren was more of a beneficiary of Kamala’s decline. It’s a good reminder these trends aren’t absolutes. In places like Iowa, Harris lost upscale, frequently white, voters to Warren. In California, she lost African American votes to Biden.

A collapsing Biden is necessary for the hopes of several also-ran contenders. It’s helpful as a media narrative. None of that means it’s actually happening. Far from it. He’s as strong as he’s been in weeks. With his name recognition, defined brand, and seemingly loyal supporters, he may not need money to compete in February and March.

Remember, Donald Trump was financially outgunned by several of his opponents in 2016. And Corey Lewandowski was nobody’s idea of a campaign management genius.

It’s too soon to tell about Bernie.

Positives: AOC endorsement. Up to 16.2% in the RCP average. Trailing Warren by much less than a week ago. Clearly not falling apart. Health concerns at least temporarily taken care of.

Negatives: Still nowhere near Biden. Warren still leading him with liberal voters and very competitive with younger voters. Iowa numbers are bad, he’s fourth in the most recent two surveys.

He’s been within a couple points of 15% nationally for a long time. Sometimes it looks like he’s sliding and isn’t. Sometimes it seems like he’s rising and isn’t. Until we see more, he’s right where he was.

This doesn’t mean Bernie is an afterthought. His voters skew much younger. Just because his surveys average 15% very regularly doesn’t mean he’s actually at that number each time. He’s frequently closer to 20% or 10%. Depending on who turns out where, he can still finish higher than people are expecting. Or lower and fade away.

But we’re not likely to have much more to go on until people start actually voting.

No good news for the lower tiers.

Amy Klobuchar got a 3% result in an Iowa poll that both gets her closer to qualifying for the next debate and is a disappointing number in the state that represents her only path forward.

And that’s it. No other news. None of the other candidates got any sort of bump from the debate. Until something changes, we really only have four candidates to talk about.

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