As Warren Fades, Is It Down to Bernie vs. Biden?

Pity the poor progressive Democrat trying to choose a candidate in this primary season.

Marianne Williamson speaks their language, but they know in their hearts that she'll never be president. Andrew Yang wants a massive new welfare program, and that's always good, but Yang can't even get respect from MSNBC, much less a majority of delegates. Kamala Harris is mean to criminals and other living things, so she's out. Tulsi Gabbard is mean to Hillary Clinton (PBUH), so she's out, too. There are a bunch of white guys from red states that progressives have barely even heard of, and clearly aren't to be trusted. There are three really rich white guys -- well, one of them is black, but he worked for a hedge fund -- or four if you include Joe Biden and his newfound millions. But progressives haven't really been comfortable with a white guy since Clinton, who was born a poor black child or something.

So if you're a concerned progressive (is there any other kind?) you're pretty much left with Pete Buttigieg, Bernie Sanders, or Elizabeth Warren. You fear that Mayor Pete can't win the nomination, because of his very real problem with black voters. So now you're down to Sanders and Warren.

Warren hits all the right buttons: She's female, she may or may not be some kind of minority, she wants to tax the bejeebus out of rich people, and she supports Medicare for All. And at a mere 70 years old, she's in the middle age bracket of your party's potential nominees. What's not to love?

Well... there's that secret fear, that nagging itch, that in her tone and composure Liz Warren might be a little too much like Hillary Clinton to beat Trump. And you can't have that -- not again!

That leaves Bernie.

The hypothetical thought process I just took you through might explain something POLITICO's Ryan Lizza noticed earlier this morning:

And a quick look at the RCP national poll averages confirms it:

Warren's support peaked in the first week of October, when the commentariat was all aflutter that a progressive woman-of-perhaps-some-color had eclipsed boring old Biden in the polls, even if only barely. That's the same time Sanders saw his support dip to six-month lows.

But something remarkable has happened in the last six weeks or so. Warren's early October high has worn off, while Sanders has steadily crept back up in the polls. The result is that the two are in a virtual heat for second place.

Looking a little deeper at the RCP figures, Sanders and Warren were in a similar tie for most of the summer. They're right back where they started, with one vital difference. Harris's support has damn near evaporated. In July, she and Sanders and Warren were tied for a distant second, but that's all over now. Buttigieg, the progressives' other great intersectional hope, still can't crack double digits even as Harris fades from contention.

The net result of all this motion is that while Sanders and Warren are back to a dead heat with one another, their combined support -- representing the Democrats' far-left wing -- looks as high or higher than it's ever been.

Lizza wonders if this could be a three-man race, now that Mike Bloomberg is in. But as Tom Steyer's non-starter of a campaign has shown, money can't buy you love from the primary electorate. So if progressive Dems are serious about nominating one of their own, they're going to have to get serious and commit to either Sanders or Warren. If current polling and my gut feeling that Warren seems a little too Hillary Redux, then it's got to be Sanders.

Bernie versus Biden... could it really be that simple already, out of a field of 20-plus contenders? Stay tuned...