The Democratic race for the presidential nomination may be at a turning point as a surging Elizabeth Warren blew by both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders in California to take an 8-point lead in the latest tracking poll from the state.
This poll is not an outlier. Warren also took the lead in Iowa in the Des Moines Register poll. It appears that Democrats are beginning to shake off worries about “electability” and are embracing the far-left “soak the rich” agenda of the Warren/Sanders wing of the party.
The California poll is something of a shocker.
The Massachusetts lawmaker was the top choice of 29 percent of the Democratic voters and minority party or independent voters eligible to vote in California’s primary surveyed by Political Data Inc. on behalf of Capitol Weekly.
California Sen. Kamala Harris (D) was the only other candidate with double-digit support, at 11 percent.
Meanwhile, Biden continues his modified “Rose Garden” front-runner strategy, saying little and allowing the other candidates to fight it out. But these polls in California and Iowa demonstrate that Biden is losing ground and may have to come out swinging at Warren soon.
For the moment, Biden is trying to keep above the fray. He won’t even try to make his case to be president.
Speaking in Iowa, former Vice President Joe Biden was confronted by a reporter who wanted to know why Iowans, with their current low unemployment rate, should shift from voting strongly for President Trump in 2016 to voting for Biden in 2020. When she asked Biden to make his case for why he should be elected, he answered, “I’m not going to.”
This enlightening exchange with a reporter shows Biden trying hard to avoid specifics and keep to generalizations in his campaign:
Reporter: Well, In Iowa, the unemployment rate is 2.5%; people say they are employed in Iowa and their small businesses are growing; Iowa picked Trump by —
Biden: They were employed before he got elected.
Reporter: The president won by 10 percentage points in Iowa.
Biden: I’m not suggesting that he didn’t win by 10 percentage points; what I’m suggesting is he’s not the reason for that employment rate being down.
Reporter: But why should people want to make a change, though?
Biden: Well, that’s up to them to decide.
Reporter: Why should they?
Biden: It’s for them to decide.
Reporter: Well, make your case.
Biden: I’m not going to.
So where do Democrats go? Warren will do well on both coasts, but so will any of the 20 other candidates in the race. The key will be who can beat Trump in the heartland, where despite a tidal wave of negative coverage over the past 2 1/2 years, the president still enjoys strong support.
Elizabeth Warren is not that candidate.
But nearly half of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters believe that Biden is best positioned to beat Trump. Barely 1 in 10 think that of Warren.
If history is any indication, there’s every reason to suspect the partisan divide heading into 2020 will get worse. After all, that 86% gap just means we have 14% more to go.
All of this is a big problem for Elizabeth Warren.
As David Leonhardt noted in the New York Times this week, Warren has struggled to win blue collar workers (you remember: the ones that gave Trump his narrow wins in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania?) in her own state of Massachusetts since 2012. She underperformed even her fellow down ballot Democrats in the last election. Voters on both sides of the aisle in these swing states are tuned in and eager to vote, but Biden out performs her in a head to head with Donald Trump in Wisconsin by 9 points, for instance.
So the Democrats’ dilemma is clear: vote their left-wing hearts and make Warren the nominee or embrace reality and nominate Biden. Given the ideological makeup of the average Democratic voter, Warren has the inside track. But don’t underestimate the searing desire of Democrats to beat Trump. For many primary voters, it may be the key factor in determining their vote.