Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren now leads former Vice President Joe Biden 27% to 25% among Democratic voters and independents who lean Democratic, according to a poll released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University. The senator’s small lead falls within the margin of error (+/- 3.2 percentage points), but it is the first time any candidate other than Biden has led in the primary since Quinnipiac began polling in March.
Nathaniel Rakich, an elections analyst at FiveThirtyEight, joined Dave and Dujanovic on Wednesday to talk about Warren, who is essentially locked in a tie with Biden — now immersed in the impeachment inquiry involving President Donald Trump, Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky and Biden’s son, Hunter.
Biden’s lead over the rest of the candidates has disappeared since the previous Quinnipiac national poll in August, which showed him with 32% support against Warren at 19%.
Dave Noriega asked Rakich if Biden’s slip in the poll was due to the impeachment inquiry.
What’s behind the changing polls?
“The Ukraine controversy is too recent to really be showing up in a lot of these polls,” Rakich said. “Elizabeth Warren’s rise has been a slow and steady thing that has happened over the last several months.”
He added that Warren may have more staying power than candidates who surge in the polls because Warren’s rise is a steady increase over time and not a sudden bubble that could burst. She has some of the best favorability ratings in the Democratic field, he said.
Debbie Dujanovic says she was surprised with Warren’s rise against Biden because the Massachusetts senator came off on-air as “standoffish and cold,” but added that she spends significant one-on-one time posing for selfies with supporters at her rallies, which resonates with voters.
Rakich said he heard the opposite from people who attend her rallies: that Warren comes off as folksy and relatable.
Rakich said Warren’s selfie strategy was “smart” because a voter may see a friend’s or family member’s selfie with her on their Facebook page and consider her as among the voter’s top choices, which he said is likely more trustworthy than a slick political advertisement.
Dave asked Rakich if he knew why Biden was slipping in the polls.
He said Biden has stumbled in the debates (e.g. “record player” moment in most recent debate and “truth over facts”), but the dip really is more about Warren’s steady climb from the single digits as she consolidates more of the liberal vote. She is catching up to him more than Biden is losing supporters, he said.
“We now have a race with two candidates at the top of the field, and they’re leaving the rest of the pack behind,” said Quinnipiac University Polling Analyst Tim Malloy.
Dave asked if Utah’s only Democrat in Congress, Rep. Ben McAdams, is in trouble of losing his seat.
Rakich called him one of the most vulnerable Democratic winners of 2018 and his seat is one of the most likely to revert to a Republican in 2020. He added that there is only one other redder seat in the country held by a Democrat.
Trump is relatively unpopular in Utah’s 4th District (McAdams seat), Rakich said. He said the district went for then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney by a margin of 37 points in the 2012 presidential race. And only sided with candidate Trump by 7 points in 2016 over Hillary Clinton. That could help McAdams.
In 2018, Rep. Mia Love lost to McAdams by 694 votes out of more than 250,000 cast (0.27%).
“[McAdams] is going to be right on the frontlines in 2020,” Rakich predicted.
Dave said McAdams told him that he won’t be re-elected if he just relies on only Democratic voters. Dave added that McAdams has appeal among independents and moderate Republicans.
Show producer Andrew Hull noted another recent polling surprise among the Democratic field: Andrew Yang is now polling at 8%, or fourth place, in a September Emerson national poll.
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