The most recent national polling data for the Democratic nomination for president shows former Vice President Joe Biden comfortably leading the field by 11 points with Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren finishing second.
But Biden’s lead is based on basically one selling point: “I can beat Trump.” Indeed, in head-to-head polls with Trump, Biden has a comfortable lead.
But while Biden has been basking in his frontrunner status, Warren has been busy. In a way, she is running an old-fashioned, issues-oriented campaign, releasing a blizzard of policy papers and positions on everything from climate change to Native American rights.
It appears to be working — at least, in Iowa.
Elizabeth Warren’s early investment in Iowa is paying off.
A new Iowa Starting Line-Change Research poll shows the senator opening up a commanding lead in the Iowa Caucus. Warren was the top pick of 28% of likely Iowa Caucus-goers in the poll, an 11-point lead over the nearest competitor. Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders were both tied for second with 17% each. Pete Buttigieg came in fourth at 13% and Kamala Harris has the backing of 8%.
Both Cory Booker and Beto O’Rourke garnered 3% of caucus-goers’ support, while Steve Bullock, Tulsi Gabbard, Amy Klobuchar and Tom Steyer got on the board at 2%. Julian Castro, Michael Bennet and Andrew Yang rounded out the field at 1%, while everyone else had less than that.
Critically, Warren appears to be convincing more and more Democrats that she is just as capable of defeating Donald Trump as Biden.
In a new Economist/YouGov poll, 65% of Democratic voters said Biden would “probably beat Donald Trump” — unchanged from June. But the number saying the same thing about Warren jumped 14 points since then, to 57%, the highest of any other candidate.
In the overall race, Biden led Warren by just 1 point among Democrats in a match-up with Trump. That’s after being 16 points ahead of her in June, according to the poll.
Warren’s boost in the primary dovetails her improving head-to-head poll numbers against Trump. A Fox News survey this week found her leading Trump by 7 points nationally, after the same poll found them statistically tied in June. It also coincides with rival campaigns and party strategists beginning to explicitly challenge the notion that Biden is electable.
It isn’t only “electability” that is driving Warren’s success in Iowa. She has a massive investment in the caucus state, building a statewide organization that even Biden has been unable to match. She has also decided to trim her sails and downplay some of her more radical, populist proposals.
But with almost six months to go before the Iowa caucuses, most people aren’t tuning in to what’s going on in the Democratic race for president. The depth of Biden’s strength across the entire breadth of the Democratic electorate is impressive and he has a history of being able to appeal to Americans across class lines.
Biden will have to show Democrats his campaign is more than “I can win,” or he’ll end up exactly like Hillary Clinton, whose “first woman” strategy failed in spectacular fashion. A candidate needs more than an appeal to history or electability. Trump’s “America first” mantra still resonates with a sizable portion of Americans, which is why Biden, Warren, or any other Democrat will have an uphill climb to convince people to vote against him.