Thursday, October 17, 2019

BTRTN 2020 Vision: Warren Soars, Blows to Bernie and Biden…and an Opening for Pete?

Tom with our BTRTN monthly feature on the 2020 Elections, with all the latest numbers and commentary.

THE LEAD

These are the main headlines for the past month of the 2020 presidential campaign, from mid-September to mid-October:

Image result for 2020 vision·        Joe Biden continues to lead in the national polls, still holding at roughly 30% of Democrats.

·        But Elizabeth Warren made a huge jump, now alone in second place and closing fast on Biden.

·        The first three “early states” – Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada – are now all very close races.  Warren is slightly ahead in Iowa, more so    in New Hampshire and Nevada is a three-way tie.

·        Biden continues to dominate South Carolina, the only early state with a strong African-American presence, his strongest demographic and his “firewall.”

·        Bernie Sanders suffered a heart attack while on the road, bringing the age of all three leading candidates into sharp focus; Sanders, while sidelined, lost some ground nationally and in Iowa.
,
·        Pete Buttigieg is rising in the polls in Iowa, and is now effectively tied with Sanders for third in that crucial state, potentially a major development if he continues to trend up.

·        It is too soon to tell if the October 15 debates will have any impact on the field either nationally or in the early states, but the view here is “not likely” as Biden, Warren and Sanders – looking well -- all had good nights.  Many others were strong as well – Klobuchar, Buttigieg, Booker and Steyer had their moments – but not enough to move the needle.


THE FIELD

The Democratic field lost only one candidate in the last month, New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio, and remains bloated at 19; the GOP field remains at four, including President Trump.


THE MONTH

The month featured major stories around each of the three Top Tier candidates.

Joe Biden found himself at the epicenter of the most damning and dangerous Trump morass of them all, the Ukraine scandal.  Unlike the Russia scandal, with its myriad of charges, bit players, and lack of a “smoking gun,” this one is crystal clear.  Trump, with a great deal of help from Rudy Giuliani, appears to have set up a shadow foreign policy with Ukraine with one goal:  dig up dirt on Joe Biden, the Democratic challenger Trump fears most.  To achieve that end, Trump dangled a White House meeting and the release of foreign aid, and thus is now the subject of an impeachment inquiry for abuse of power for personal gain.  With the smoking gun discovered, Democrats quickly coalesced behind, and quickly commenced, an impeachment inquiry.  There has never been a whiff of evidence that Biden (or his son, Hunter) committed any wrongdoing (the case was dropped), but unfortunately, he will have to endure the constant mention of his name throughout the impeachment proceedings.

It is hard to predict the impact of the Ukraine matter on his presidential race.  The polls have held up, it appears, and his performance in last night’s debate defending himself and his son seemed to play well.  But Hunter Biden’s Ukraine board role is an uncomfortable association for Biden, since it is clear the younger Biden had no particular experience to offer the board, apart from his name.

Bernie Sanders faced a blow of a different kind, a heart attack while campaigning.  For the oldest candidate in the field, this might have been (and still could be) the end of a good run, as Bernie must endure even closer scrutiny about his age and capability to withstand the rigors of the White House.  (It doesn’t help Biden, either, who, while seemingly in great health, is just two years younger than Sanders).  Bernie was already being elbowed aside by Elizabeth Warren in the progressive “lane” that he invented in challenging Hillary Clinton four years ago.  The heart attack truly added injury to insult.  Sanders’ supporters will surely stick with him, but it is hard to imagine how he will expand his support in either the short- or longer term, given Warren’s galloping pace on the road and in the polls.

Warren had been rising steadily in the polls since May, both nationally and in the “early” states.  But this past month, she jumped mightily nationally and in Iowa and New Hampshire, so much so that she became the primary target of “incoming” rather than Biden in the debate.  She took a fair amount of heat for not letting the words “yes, ‘Medicare For All’ will result in a tax increase for everyone” (that is the clip the GOP desperately wants to see, for future ads), but beyond that displayed her usual winning mix of detailed plans, personal stories, fighting passion and sincere empathy.

But there are two emerging stories that have gone largely unreported.  One is the rise of Pete Buttigieg in Iowa.  The ground reports on Pete in the Hawkeye State have been glowing for months, but none of that reported appeal has turned into poll momentum (beyond his electric introduction last spring.  Mayor Pete has been stuck on Mount Plateau ever since…until this past month, when three separate polls had him in double digits and catching up to Sanders.  If Mayor Pete – or anyone younger than 70 – is able to snag a top three spot in the Iowa caucus, that would be a significant development.

The other story is Super Tuesday.  With everyone focused on Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina, no one has been focused on the true prize.  The early states have 155 delegates at stake, but Super Tuesday has 1,255.  And the news is that, if Biden can survive the first three contests and win South Carolina (where he continues to lead by a mile), he is well positioned for a delegate haul on Super Tuesday. Among the 14 states which comprise that mega-date are many that are better-suited to his core demographic appeal:  southern and western moderates and African-Americans.  The slate includes Texas, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Utah and Arkansas, as well as Minnesota. 

Among these Super Tuesday states, Biden leads in Texas by +10, and in North Carolina by +16 (he is tied in deep blue California and Massachusetts).  More importantly, Biden’s campaign is well aware of Super Tuesday’s potential, and, unlike other candidates, is building out his organization there already.

Fundraising for the quarter did not match the rankings.  Warren and Sanders led with $25 million each, Buttigieg hauled in another $19 million, and Biden managed $16 million.  Biden has never been a good fundraiser and does not have much of a network, so his middling numbers are not terribly surprising.  But the others are machines and at some point this could be a major factor, especially in building that ground game.


THE NUMBERS

The national numbers have basically held for almost everyone, except Warren, who jumped six points.  Biden held at 28% and Harris dropped again, and, if trends continue, she might join the Yang/O’Rourke/Booker triumvirate on the fringes of the stage.

When you break the numbers down a little further, in the last half of the month (essentially October polls to date), fielded after Bernie’s heart attack – Warren actually rose to 26%, and Bernie was at 15%.  Warren is clearly soaring now.

Average of National Polls for the Month at Mid-Month
Cand.
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Chng from last month
Biden
29
29
31
37
34
30
30
28
28
0
Warren
7
7
6
8
10
13
15
17
23
6
Sanders
17
23
23
18
17
16
16
17
16
-1
Buttigieg
0
0
3
7
7
6
5
5
6
1
Harris
11
11
9
8
7
11
10
7
5
-2
Yang
1
0
1
1
1
1
2
3
3
0
O'Rourke
7
6
8
5
4
3
3
3
2
-1
Booker
4
5
4
3
2
2
2
2
2
0
Klobuch.
2
4
2
2
1
1
1
1
1
0
Gabbard
1
1
1
1
0
1
1
1
1
0
Castro
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
1
0
Williams.
0
0
0
0
0
0
1
1
1
0
Steyer
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
0
1
1
1
0
Bennet
n/a
n/a
n/a
1
1
0
0
1
1
0
Bullock
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
0
1
1
1
0
-1
Delaney
0
0
1
0
0
0
1
0
0
0
Ryan
n/a
n/a
n/a
1
0
0
0
0
0
0
Sestak
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
n/a
0
0
0
0
0
Messam
n/a
n/a
n/a
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
Other/NA
20
13
10
7
15
14
10
11
9
n/a

There is a similar story in Iowa, with Warren on the rise.  But Warren has caught Biden there (even marginally ahead), as he slipped a bit after months in the 25% range.  And Sanders fell as well, and now is basically even with Buttigieg.   This race is wide open.

Iowa Polls
Candidates
Jan/Feb/Mar
Apr/May/Jun
Jul/Aug
Sep/Oct
Warren
10
10
17
23
Biden
27
25
26
21
Sanders
21
18
16
14
Buttigieg
6
12
7
12
Harris
12
6
12
5
Klobuchar
3
4
3
4
Steyer
n/a
n/a
3
3
Booker
4
3
2
2
Gabbard
0
1
1
2
O'Rourke
5
4
1
2
Yang
0
1
1
2
Ryan
n/a
n/a
0
1
Williamson
0
0
0
1
Bennet
n/a
1
1
0
Castro
1
1
2
0
Delaney
1
2
1
0
Messam
0
0
0
0

Warren has taken the lead flat-out in New Hampshire, a neighboring state to her Massachusetts and basically a must-win for her (also true for Bernie, another neighbor).  Biden and Sanders are hanging in there, for now, and Mayor Pete has a nice base if he can get a boost with a good showing in Iowa.  Harris has faded here as well, squandering a good start.

There are no recent polls in Nevada, so there is no read there on the Biden Ukraine news, the Sanders heart attack or the Warren rise.  South Carolina does have October polls, and none of those happenings have made a dent here:  this is Biden country, and truly his firewall.

Average of NH Polls

Nevada Polls

Avg. of South Carolina Polls
Cand.
Jul/
Aug (5)
Sep (6)
Oct (2)

Cand.
Gra.
8/16
Sep   (3)

Cand.
J/A (4)
Sep (4)
Oct (3)
Warren
16
22
29

Biden
29
25
24

Biden
43
40
39
Biden
22
24
24

Sanders
23
10
22

Warren
11
15
13
Sanders
17
19
20

Warren
12
15
18

Sanders
14
14
12
Buttig.
9
8
8

Harris
11
9
5

Harris
9
6
5
Harris
11
6
5

Buttigieg
6
5
4

Steyer
0
2
4
Yang
2
3
3

Steyer
1
6
3

Booker
4
2
4
Steyer
2
1
3

Yang
3
2
2

Buttigieg
8
4
2
Gabb.
2
4
2

Booker
3
3
2





Booker
1
2
2










Klob.
2
2
2












WHO IS THE NUMBER TWO CHOICE?

While Sanders’ supporters are among the most loyal, it is perhaps instructive to see where they might go if he were to drop out at some point.  The conventional wisdom, of course, is that they will go to his ideological soulmate, Warren.  But facts are a pesky thing, and the data shows otherwise.

According to Morning Consult, the latest “second choice” polling data indicates that the second choice among Sanders’ supporters is split evenly between Biden (29%) and Warren (28%) with Harris a poor third (6%).  Those who simply add up Warren and Sanders and assume the sum of the two would crush Biden might want to re-think that basic assumption.

WHO CAN BEAT TRUMP?

This is the core measure of “electability” and thus far has been the calling card of Joe Biden’s campaign (“I can beat Trump”).  Biden combines exceptional head-to-head polling numbers with a simple path to 270 – taking back the Midwest – and on these pillars lays his claim to electability.

But this month, Biden’s advantage in the head-to-head narrowed.  While he still impressively clobbers Trump in such polling, both Sanders and Warren are showing more strength on this measure. 


Average of National Polls
Trump Vs:
Sep
Oct
Biden
Biden +10
Biden +9
Sanders
Sanders +5
Sanders +7
Warren
Warren +4
Warren +7

Biden’s electability factors holds on a state-by-state basis as well, as demonstrated by a number of recent (October) polls.  But Warren and Sanders are also, by and large, consistently ahead of Trump in swing states:

Head-to-Head October State Polls Dems Versus Trump
State Poll
Biden
Warren
Sanders
Maine
Biden +12
Warren +10
Sanders +10
North Carolina
Biden +4
Trump +1
Sanders +1
North Carolina
Biden +5
Warren +3
Sanders +3
Wisconsin
Biden +9
Warren +4
Sanders +5
Average
Biden +8
Warren +4
Sanders +6


THE GOP RACE

Is there a GOP race?  Not really.   There have been eight national polls since Labor Day of the full GOP field, and for those hoping that the GOP will find a credible foe for Trump, better face a reality check.  On average those polls have Trump at 88% and the other three candidates – Weld, Walsh and Sanford – each at 2%. 


THE FULL FIELD

Here are the entire Democratic and Republican fields as of today.

Democratic Candidates
Age
Announce.  Date
Credentials
Latest national polls     (9/16 - 10/15)
Joe Biden
76
4/25/2019
Ex-VP and Ex-Senator, Delaware
28%
Bernie Sanders
77
2/19/2019
Senator, Vermont
23%
Elizabeth Warren
69
12/31/2018
Senator, Massachusetts
16%
Kamala Harris
54
1/18/2019
Senator, California
6%
Pete Buttigieg
36
1/22/2019
Mayor, South Bend, Indiana
5%
Beto O'Rourke
46
3/14/2019
Ex-Representative, Texas
3%
Andrew Yang
43
11/6/2017
Entrepreneur
2%
Cory Booker
49
2/1/2019
Senator, New Jersey
2%
Amy Klobuchar
58
2/10/2019
Senator, Minnesota
1%
Julian Castro
44
1/10/2019
Ex-Secretary, HUD
1%
Tulsi Gabbard
37
1/11/2019
Representative, Hawaii
1%
Steve Bullock
52
5/14/2019
Governor, Montana
1%
Marianne Williamson
66
1/28/2019
Self-help author
1%
Tom Steyer
62
7/9/2019
Billionaire hedge fund manager
1%
Michael Bennet
54
5/2/2019
Senator, Colorado
0%
John Delaney
55
7/28/2017
Representative, Maryland
0%
Tim Ryan
45
4/4/2019
Representative, Ohio
0%
Wayne Messam
44
3/28/2019
Mayor, Miramar, Florida
0%
Joe Sestak
67
6/23/2019
Ex-Representative, Pennsylvania
0%





Republican Candidates
Age
Announce. Date
Credentials
Latest national polls     (9/16 - 10/15)
Donald Trump
73
6/18/2019
President
87%
William Weld
74
4/15/2019
Ex-Governor, Massachusetts
2%
Joe Walsh
57
8/25/2019
Ex-Representative, Illinois
2%
Mark Sanford
59
9/8/2019
Ex-Governor, Rep, South Carolina
2%


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