OpinionOpinions | What’s new — and not — in the Democratic primary

21:01  27 august  2019
21:01  27 august  2019 Source:   washingtonpost.com

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Opinions | What’s new — and not — in the Democratic primary© Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), left, and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) following a Democratic presidential debate in Detroit on July 30.

The latest Monmouth University poll showed a new configuration in the Democratic presidential primary: Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), both at 20 percent, in a statistical tie with former vice president Joe Biden (19 percent), and followed by Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) at 8 percent and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 4 percent each. Seven more candidates get at least 1 percent.

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When you get to early-state polling, the numbers look different:

The Monmouth poll also finds that Biden has lost his small edge in the early states where Democrats will cast ballots from February through Super Tuesday. His even larger lead in the later states has vanished as well. Biden (20%), Warren (20%), Sanders (16%), and Harris (12%) are all in the top tier among voters in the early states. Biden has slipped by 6 points since June and Warren has gained 5 points over the same time span. Early state support for Sanders and Harris has not changed much. In the later states, Biden’s support has plummeted from 38% in June to 17% now, while both Warren (from 16% to 20%) and Sanders (from 13% to 23%) have made gains.

Since the eventual nominee is chosen state-by-state, with great emphasis on early states, this would suggest that Harris is on a more level playing field with the other top-tier candidates than in national polls. (This may be a function of her spending considerable time lately in Iowa and South Carolina, where her retail politicking and speeches have been very well received.)

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Let’s remember that a single poll may be an outlier, so it’s hard to see whether Biden’s lead really has collapsed. (Other polls, including the most recent Morning Consult poll that has Biden at 33 percent, don’t show it, but we’ll wait to see what follows in the next week or so.)

Moving then to the RealClearPolitics average, four candidates consistently lead the pack — Biden, Sanders, Warren and Harris, with Harris a half-step behind the other three in high single digits. Buttigieg is a level below all those at just below 5 percent in the RCP averages. Despite a good debate performance from Booker and an impressive couple of weeks for former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke after the El Paso and Dayton shootings, they remain below 3 percent in the RCP average. Below them, Andrew Yang has moved up a smidgen and everyone else barely registers.

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Meanwhile, on the issues, a single-payer Medicare-for-all system, once imagined by progressives to be a litmus test, has come under considerable criticism and seems to be losing a little steam (even more when voters learn what Medicare-for-all means), ironically at a time one of its strongest proponents, Warren, is moving up in the polls.

On July 30, the Kaiser Family Foundation poll found, “About half (51%) of the public now say they favor such a proposal compared to 56% in April 2019. On the other hand, nearly two-thirds of the public (65%) favor a public option, which would compete with private health insurance plans and be available to all Americans.” However, “net favorability towards such a plan ranges as high as +53 and as low as -18 after hearing arguments either in favor of or against a public option.”

Likewise, in the Monmouth poll, “When asked specifically about what type of health insurance system they prefer, 53% of Democratic voters say they want a system that offers an opt in to Medicare while retaining the private insurance market. Just 22% say they want to move to a system where Medicare for All replaces private insurance.”

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All of this leaves us with three questions:

  • Candidates hoping to break out of the pack with good debate performances haven’t done so, but will a single night of 10 candidates (or a smaller number in future months) make a difference?
  • Warren seems to be the one with the momentum but, given the Medicare-for-all polling and the fact that among her zillion plans she doesn’t have one for health care, could she be doing well despite Medicare-for-all rather than because she backs it?
  • If Biden does fade, where do African American voters go?

Given all of the above, it’s hard to make the case that there is a single front-runner, and even harder to figure out how this will all play out. I suppose we’ll all have to watch and find out together.

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